Thoughts today return to Hillsborough with the release of papers pertaining to the dreadful events of 15th April 1989; I hope that the families find some closure and are able to at last get to the truth, cutting through the lies which The Establishment have smeared since that day. A lot of expectation has been placed on this event and as Michael Mansfield QC, pertinently observed, the hope must be that everything is released or that the Commission knows what documents are missing and will be prepared to identify them, along with the authorities who still refuse to face up to their own culpability in the tragic death of 96 Liverpool supporters.
Football meanwhile brings its focus back to the clubs following the international break. No reported injuries for other Arsenal players beyond Diaby and Walcott yet and the Schadenfreude over Robin van Persie’s injury may have to wait with Louis van Gaal observing that his substitution of the former Medical Room tennant, was purely precautionary.
For Arsenal matters turn to Southampton. The manager will have the players back tomorrow for training although I am sure that the aforementioned duo have already been to the club for assessment, Walcott was at London Colney when he withdrew from the England squad so surely it cannot have been that hard for him to pop to the doctor and confess to a case of the squitters.
One man who had a productive break was Santi Cazorla. Scoring on Friday, his trip to Georgia saw the Spaniards continue their run of wins in qualifying matches which began in 2007. It is astonishing that they have not dropped a point in these fixtures since the Euro2008 preliminaries, 23 games I think. The Spaniard provided a novel interview whilst he was away, declining a gilt-edged opportunity to decry the club or initiate a public flirting with Real or Barcelona. Worryingly he is using the same English tutor as Cesc; have Arsenal checked his DNA? Cazorla seemed happy about being at Arsenal,
I love the style of the team. Wenger’s philosophy is to control the game and I like to be on the ball. Furthermore, the boss has put me in a position, second striker, with all the freedom I want to have.
You would of course, expect the Spaniard to be feeling good being at a new club and the like but we have seen before that players find adjusting to new circumstances and surroundings, difficult. Vladimir Petrov immediately springs to mind but Jose Antonio Reyes is not too far behind. The interesting aspect came with confirmation that the Arteta experiment seems a permanent move. Cazorla observed,
Wenger wants him now as a defensive pivote and he’s doing if very well. He gives real balance and he can win the ball back and play it out because with the ball he’s spectacular
There has been a clamour for a nominated defensive midfielder and there is no doubt that the club looked at that solution during the summer. However, dropping Arteta back to his original position was not on the cards, particularly given his influence on the midfield last season. Yet in hindsight it seems an obvious solution to the Song problem. Arguably, Arteta is performing the role that Song did to a lesser degree, more disciplined in his movement that the Cameroonian international. Given how far Song had travelled from that night by the banks of The Thames, it is not hard to see that he will become a similar player to Arteta by the time he reaches the same maturity.
But he is gone and like Cazorla, we look to a positive future. The mercurial midfielder enthused about Oxlade-Chamberlain, his lack of fear and confidence that comes from that lack of fear. Whilst there is an element of positive talk about squad members, Cazorla seems genuinely taken aback by the youngster’s abilities. They were not so much on display against Ukraine last night but there is no doubt his talent will blossom over the coming years. A lot of expectation is falling on his shoulder which is only natural and with Jack Wilshere, there is a mouth-watering prospect of the fulcrum of the national team having a proper footballing schooling, knowing not only how to pass but when to do so because that is the Arsenal way.
Elsewhere, excitement built that Uefa’s FFP regulations are going to be strictly enforced with 23 clubs being sanctioned for failure to clear overdue creditors. I suppose that witholding prize money is a step forward but it is not exactly punishing the clubs. It’s a bit like telling a child off and stopping their pocket money until they have tidied their bedrooms. Uefa are not permanently retaining the cash, they will pay it once the debts are cleared. In the sense that their aim is to bring football clubs into the commercial era – arguably they are by not paying their dues in a timely manner – is laudable but to claim this is Uefa baring their teeth is a step too far; let’s hope these teeth are fangs rather than dentures.
And more to the pount, the list of clubs was not full of ‘A-Listers’; they might be big clubs in their countries but major players in Europe is pushing definitions. CF Malaga were one of those on the wall of shame; as if matters were not bad enough, reports are emerging that David Beckham is considering joining a consortium to buy the club. Still with the number of ex-pats on the Costa del Sol, he should feel right at home.
That’s it, can’t be arse(nal)ed with reports about Drogba signing or Walcott to Juventus.