International week is over; no wait, it isn’t. Thankfully there was other better news that took the Daily Heil‘s mind off the football otherwise we would no doubt have been subjected to their right-wing rhetoric bemoaning how the Poles weren’t satisfied with coming over here and taking our jobs, they now had to nick the weather as well. I might begin to sound like a bit of an old fart – nothing new – but it reminded me of the 1974 World Cup encounter between the West German hosts and Poland. What is it with Poland, World Cup matches and rain? The FA were quite philosophical about the whole matter, noting that stadia roofs are left open the world over. In other words, there but for the Grace of God go I.
Olivier Giroud rained on Santi Cazorla’s parade with a very late equaliser for France against Spain. It is always nice to see an Arsenal player do well for his country, a process which helps maintain momentum or build confidence where it might otherwise be lacking. Even better is when they only play three minutes and still manage to do well. Deschamps may have helped in the knacking of Diaby but a pat on the back for saving Giroud. Per Mertesacker scored for Germany, a rare event. Even rarer was the capitulation in the second half which saw them throw away a four goal lead. They can’t even blame Phil Dowd for that one. Still, he can at least look his teammates in the eye and nod wisely when they remember St James Park. Obviously he has to look down on them to look them in the eye but you get the drift.
Vermaelen, Koscielny and Djourou came through unscathed and whilst the latter is not quite as important as the former duo, it only takes one injury at international level to cause problems for the rest of the squad. Whilst we have strength in depth, when those deemed to be reserves fall prey to knocks, knacks, strains and gaah’s, the squad system is pushed to its limit. I know that there is a growing feeling that Djourou is a waste of space, personally I disagree. There is a perception that players just walk into a team having not played for months and produce their best form. Rarely does it work like that, all players take time to work their way back into match sharpness but some of that may be dissipated if the Under-21 reserves system works properly.
I am not quite sure why Djourou brings these feelings to the fore; after all, he is exactly what is demanded of an Arsenal reserve these days being a full international who plays for his country on a regular basis. Part of it is, in my view, down to the stepped contract he has, last year’s upgrade meant he fell foul of the resentment which is still prevalent over most of the squads’ deals. There is something contrary, almost scapegoating in the choice of Djourou in criticism and that situation is not likely to improve with this morning’s Daily Mirror story that Napoli are interested in his services. That won’t necessarily bother people but I should imagine the thought that he earns £50k per week, will send them into apoplexies. The trouble is that no-one can prove either way that this is his salary. Do you know? I don’t.
We know how football works; an agent will tell the press a higher salary to hike up the deal – and this story has all the hallmarks of an agent-led piece – but there is the downside that the number sticks in the mind of the supporter, generating a base from which criticism will build. It’s a one-way world in which players are damned if they do have a good deal, damned if they don’t. I doubt that matters to Djourou; it is my own view that he will leave in any case since playing in the reserves is not the sum ambition he has displayed nor is sitting on the bench every Saturday.
Elsewhere, Arsenal are playing Chelsea in a behind closed doors fixture so that Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna and Emmanuel Frimpong can get closer to a time for action. Business as usual tomorrow with preparations for the weekend coming to the fore although Oxlade-Chamberlain will presumably have a day off following England’s exertions this afternoon.