I genuinely don’t know where to begin. There are so many ways to point to what is wrong with the modern game that I’m ‘spoiled’ for choice. I’d rather not be but I’m sure generations before me watched in varying degrees of horror at football’s evolution.
Cynicism tells me this is the bottom of the barrel but if I’m honest, the 70s and 80s sank lower. So much about today’s game – the stadia, the technical quality – is far superior to those days yet those things make it worse, quashing the atmosphere and quelling the players’ passion for football.
On Monday night, football sank to a new low in its’ pit of despair. No matter the evil which seeped onto the terraces half-a-century ago, nothing previously plumbed the depths of punters paying to watch the players in the tunnel. Two-hundred-odd quid a ticket; Spurs (unsurprisingly) are doing the same at the new swamp. I won’t feign surprise if I find Arsenal had looked into it.
But should I be Infuriated? Baffled? Resigned to the continuing sorry state of affairs? All three at once?
Arsène spoke to the media this morning and the focus is on Alexis Sanchez. As well as welcoming back the Chilean, Laurent Koscielny returns and we’ll some semblance of a proper back three, along with Sead Kolasinac’s debut on the left; players in their proper positions. How quaint.
Arsène wouldn’t be drawn on whether Alexis will start although we all know he will. Not only is he fit again, last season’s clusterf*ck at Anfield is surely enough to persuade even the most stubborn of men that leaving him on the bench is folly. Or hubris. Or both.
Give Us A Sign(ing)
There was no update on either his, Mesut Özil or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s futures. No meetings were broadcast nor were the minutes published. No bids were admitted to and Wenger remains optimistic that all three will extend their stays at the Emirates beyond the end of the current season.
Except no-one asks about the German’s future and I’m not really sure why. Maybe they are all too busy down the NZD Casino? I didn’t think he played well at Stoke but that’s an opinion. Would I sell him for £70m? Of course, but then I’d take that for Alexis as well so there’s no difference there. Would I prefer he stayed? Yes, and I’d prefer he dug us out more of the holes we routinely put ourselves in.
There’s something weird around Arsenal at present. Criticism is deemed to be a show of wanting the player gone; it’s become binary between liking a player and wanting him sold. The middle ground of a luxury player finding form one week and dipping the next is no longer allowed in any critique of performance.
Wenger refused be drawn on whether bids had found their way into Highbury House. He is, however, “aware” of every bid received, as any manager should be. Tomorrow’s headlines are about how he refused to rule out selling the Chilean and how the squad is being prepared for his departure.
I Don’t Want To Be A-Loan
One man not leaving to the chagrin of many is Jack Wilshere. Wenger defended the midfielder’s reaction to the halfwit challenge made on him during this week’s Under-23 match. It was a “human reaction” and frankly, I’d have been more concerned if Jack had just brushed it off with a laugh.
One thing I am going to comment on is Wenger’s refusal to rule out selling Shkodran Mustafi. We don’t have the luxury of depth at the back where the experience of a World Cup winner can be excised in one fell swoop. Whereas Arsène is adamant about Alexis, his answer on the German was underwhelming,
on if he expects to sell Mustafi before the end of the window…
It’s difficult for me to speak about any individual cases because we are now in the final seven days of the transfer market. It’s always very difficult to predict what will happen there. You have to make quick and sharp decisions, and you cannot plan that and come out in the press conference with how you will respond to any solicitation
That to me suggests we are working on a deal to bring in another centre back and if it happens, Mustafi can join Internazionale. Virgil Van Dijk, anyone?
One man who isn’t leaving the club is Joel Campbell. Or at least he isn’t on loan. The headline below isn’t hype; the story below genuinely follows that line of reporting.
Campbell, returning to Arsenal after suffering an injury in the this summer’s Gold Cup, doesn’t want to go on loan for the sixth time. Let that sink in. Six times. I don’t blame him for not wanting to go on loan but perhaps he needs to look at his wage demands as much as the club needs to look at fees.
Money, That’s What They Want
But jesus wept, six loan spells and we haven’t sold him yet? I’m not being funny but when does it become obvious to all concerned that he isn’t going to cut the mustard at Arsenal? OK, so a couple of those loan spells covered off his wait for a work permit but four since? Madness.
It’s easy to criticise Arsenal for not dropping fees to get shot of ‘deadwood’. But let’s be honest, I question the players greed in not lowering their expectations as much. At what point does money become an issue for them. Yes, I understand they don’t want to sell themselves short but there are a few players who seem to think that Arsenal’s wage structure is mirrored further down the league pyramid.
Either that or they genuinely think their performances merit inclusion in a top seven side. Small hint: they don’t.
Campbell was linked with moves away in the previous two summers. They fell through with wages among the issues. The question fringe players have to ask is whether it’s better to be a non-playing squad member at Arsenal or to take a paycut of £15-20k per week and be a first team player at another club. It’s an indictment of human greed that many opt to remain at the club, refusing to take a step down to get a leg up.
And sad, as well.