Watford pitch up at the Emirates, facing a different Arsenal beast from last weekend. It’s the same players but a refreshed mental approach. How long that will last is another matter.
A quick butchers through the team news suggests not too many changes are possible to the line-up which won in Milan. Aubameyang in for Welbeck is the obvious change and Maitland-Niles for Kolasinac is a ‘protectionist’ move, but beyond that is there any need to shuffle the pack? Yes, we’ve got the second leg on Thursday but that’s four days away; surely it isn’t a problem now?
I’d like to see Jack continue in the No. 10 role, with Ozil and Mkhitaryan in the attacking roles. It was a positive night, with good performances and of course, the much-needed win. The balance of the side was better than in recent months and we need to build up some momentum because the first leg results indicate the quarter-finals will contain some strong teams.
That’s thinking for another day; it’s Watford this afternoon and we in footballing parlance, we owe them. Quite a lot. Last season, this season, the late 1980s; there’s a bit of history for the game before we recall the stupidity of Deeney’s cojones. Football is littered with gobsh*tes making stupid comments post-match, only for those words to haunt them within the same season.
Wenger refused to rise to the bait. He’s long enough in the tooth to know better, even if he admits the current situation is causing him sleepless nights. If that is so, walking away is the healthiest option for him. There’s no sign of that happening so his future is in the hands of Enos and Junior. How much the former believes in him is the overriding question.
It’s all leaks feeding speculation and on matchday, a bit irrelevant. No change until the summer, we know that.
I Don’t Mind, You Don’t Matter
By now, you’ve read the interview with Per Mertesacker relieving his career. It’s interesting to see his reactions to the pressure and there are plenty of other (in)famous players who disappeared into the toilets pre-kick-off, already a bundle of nerves before stepping onto the pitch.
The brief passage about Robert Enke resonates when you think of the reaction to the tragic death of Davide Astori; completely different causes of death but while football continues to address the physical demands and impact on players health, mental health remains a taboo. Mertesacker more or less confirmed that with his comments about sports psychology at Werder.
It’s telling that he feels the need to comment on the privilege of his profession. Our attitudes towards players are blithe, with our passions over-ruling good sense in the heat of the moment. Abusing individuals on social media, in the stadium; in the heat of the moment, human decency flies out of the window and that’s no excuse.
But beyond that, electronically or in the street? No wonder players don’t want to interact with supporters. Even tracking down a young supporter and making their day is taken as a moment to enjoy. Instead, Hector Bellerin is criticised for making it public.
Ask yourself this next time you moan they are aloof or not worth the money: why do you think they care what you think? You don’t pay their wages anymore; look at the club accounts for that one. The FFP rules don’t state anything about matchday revenues being tied to extra wages spend but they do mention commercial revenues. Think about that for a moment.
To Cut a Long Story Short
What is apparent, even to the least interested of readers, is that Mertesacker taking over at the academy is a good move. There is a wealth of experience to pass on to the young players, particularly in the struggles of his teenage years where he suffered similar tribulations which marred Steven Gerrard’s early years as a professional.
It’s not the only farewell. This afternoon, it’s farewell to Motty, the viewers’ mate and wearer of the finest sheepskins this side of Delboy. A BBC tradition and one whose voice described many of football’s finest moments in my lifetime. A well-earned retirement for one of the voices of British football from my youth.
I think I’m right in saying that it’s only Martin Tyler from the 1970s Sunday afternoons who remains an active commentator now. Possibly Alan Parry, who started off on Radio 2 although I think he came along in the 80s. Not sure.
Motty makes it into my top five commentators down the years, albeit behind Peter Jones – the Guv’nor without question – Bryon Butler, Brian Moore, and Barry Davies, probably in that order. Today’s generation could learn plenty from those stalwarts.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.