The “Mini-Beast from the East”. That used to describe a Bolshevik midfield tyro who held the world of football agog with his fearful tackling. Now it just makes Danny Welbeck’s dive tomorrow’s chip paper.
We’re missing a voiceover in the Arsenal world at the moment. “Day 2 of the international break finds Arsène weeping quietly in the diary room…”
There’s not much going on. The players had a few days break before shipping off to their national squads. L’il Jackie W will be tapped up by all and sundry; “What’s going on, J? We’ll put a word in for you if you want to come to Anfield/Goodison Park/Turf Moor (*delete as appropriate).”
What his mood is, goodness alone knows. Reports suggest Mohammed Elneny is to be offered a new contract – “Oh, so he gets a pay rise but not me?” – as Arsenal look to settle a number of issues within the squad. There’s always an elephant in the room and it’s always Arsène’s contract. No sign of any refusals to renew until the players know his future; perhaps they believe his time is up.
Ordinarily, managers have a shelf life at a club certainly in the modern game. Nostalgia’s sepia tones produce memories of managers in jobs for years. But even back in the day, most clubs changed bosses every 3 – 5 years as they sought success.
We’re the exception now, but not for much longer. And when the new coach arrives, they may have a season or two longer in the job than normal just for being the ‘one after Arsène’, with all the baggage that brings.
Sorting out the squad will be the biggest task. About the only aspect which doesn’t need signings is the forward line, so cue the rumours out of Spain that we’ve been talking to Robert Lewandowski.
Back to Reality
The defence is a worry after so many years of neglect. Over and again we’ve been crying into our beer because we need a centre-back. Over and again we’ve signed one for the future despite the requirement being in the here and now. Remember the days when we went into a season with three central defenders and by Christmas, Bacary Sagna had made 26 appearances in the centre? Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
But it’s not all been bad so far this season, has it? We’ve had some highs, haven’t we? We have…haven’t we? You get the feeling that if the season is a rollercoaster, we’ve been on the downward part of the tracks with a slight upturn against Milan.
Is there a higher peak or will the remainder of the season just gently glide to a standstill so that we can form an orderly queue for next time around?
If there is to be a peak, I’m not sure we’re going to provide it. The implosion happening in the space between Jose Mourinho’s ears is making for compelling viewing. Manchester United’s recent history was taken apart on Friday and yesterday he chided his players. A sign the dressing room has lost the manager, perhaps?
Anyone lost for a present to buy him might find a white jacket with long sleeves goes down well. But that chimes in with the thought managers have a shelf life. Mourinho more than anyone encapsulates the notion; his longest appointment is three years. It’s because, primarily, his style of management has limitations. And he seems to sit at his desk all day looking at the big red button which says, “Do not press”, taking all his mental strength not to press.
End This Foolish Game
The same could be said for Gianni Infantino. He’s taking Brian Glanville’s excoriation of Blatter to a new level. Is there a way to stop Infantino having ideas every day? The latest is to have an expanded World Club Cup every fourth summer when there isn’t a World Cup, Confederations Cup, or Continental Championship.
Which is great if you love wall-to-wall football, not so much if you’re a player involved at that level. The clubs (surprisingly) are up in arms about it but more because it’s FIFA’s idea so they get to keep most of the money. Twenty-four teams in a recipe for disaster.
No announcement yet on how the qualification process will take place but I’m guessing the most popular teams from around the globe will miraculously make it, or be invited if they don’t. Still, it won’t be Arsenal’s problem; such lofty heights are and probably always will be, beyond our grasp.