The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he never existed. Rupert Murdoch isn’t that subtle; his media machine heralds its existence so loudly that the builders gave up restoring the walls of Jericho.
And Sky – along with BT – are the devils, according to Arsène.
Fixtures vex the manager, as the have frequently in the past. Playing three games in seven days is, he claimed, “cruel”. Not as cruel as his solution which switching Brighton vs Newcastle to Monday night. It was a bad enough journey back for the Barcodes after a 4pm Sunday kick-off. So much for solidarity with the fans. But why attack the fixture which has the longest gap between games?
It’s straight out of the Mesut Özil school of ‘let me show you round my £10m mansion and £300k’s worth of cars’. Frank McLintock never took you around his four-bed detached after the 1971 double, did he? So why the interest in a virtual tour now? Unless the German thought he could smoke out some prospective buyers…
He’ll probably ask Arsenal to buy his house from him when he leaves next summer, just to make the move easier.
Had Arsène declared playing Thursday in Barysaw and then Sunday lunchtime against Brighton was “cruel”, I’d say he was on the right track. Why not a Sunday night game just for the hell of it? The congestion is the result of failure to attain the minimum standard in the Premier League; Wenger set the benchmark himself and he, along with the squad, failed miserably to achieve it. The consequence is this horror show of fixtures.
I am, however, going to stick my neck out and declare that it shouldn’t be an issue; these are both matches we must look at as winnable with defeat unthinkable.
R ‘n’ R Baby
He’s made his intentions clear. The team will be experienced and the bench young. Having rested most of the first XI against Doncaster, he has the option to rotate tomorrow night once again. But let’s not forget that after Sunday, most players face two games in a fortnight. The rest comes then. Those who don’t travel can be given a few days off to rest, recuperate and generally enjoy themselves.
However, by rotating the squad, it doesn’t mean a League Cup side. I don’t hold truck with us taking the group stage of the Europa League lightly. We can when we’ve reached twelve points; that will see us through, probably in first place as well. The advantage comes later in the fixture list; Belgrade at home, rendered meaningless, is the game before the trip to the Etihad. Köln is after the North London Derby. I know which two fixtures I’d want to be resting the XI for.
Therein is a flaw of Arsène’s in recent years but in fairness to him, a number of his peers struggle with the concept as well. Rotation at Arsenal tends to be a swathe of the side rather than judicious resting of one or two players on a regular basis. Some of that is down to the horrendous injury lists but others is down to prioritising fourth or the folly of chasing a Champions League dream, ahead of the domestic cups.
There was and is a middle way, particularly with the squad we have now. Having youngsters on the bench is one answer, playing them in the favoured position another. Wenger may chose Maitland-Niles over Bellerin tomorrow; Giroud over Lacazette almost certainly, with Wilshere, in for Ramsey; it’s a quality of player we’ve not possessed in the past.
Mesut Özil remains a question mark, with Martin Keown grabbing a biro and drawing it very firmly, leaving an indentation on the pages underneath. The German is an easy target but I thought Keown’s jibe about Özil’s commitment a bit of a cheap shot.
Sections of the media will love it and his languid style lends itself to the question. I’ve joked previously about his injury being convenient or Cesc-esque but honestly, I can’t see the German deliberately not trying because it weakens his negotiating position to have a poor season. The only result of that is to drive his wages down when he’s looking to double them at least.
It doesn’t make sense for that but then little in football does.