Morning all, the Easter Weekend is upon and balmy sunshine bathes over the back garden as many prepare to test the new Government car parks, otherwise known as motorways, on their way to wherever. Something to keep the journey flowing is the Good Friday Gathering, this morning’s playlist which can also be found in the right sidebar. Welcome to the weekend.
With today being a bank holiday in the UK, Arsène’s press conference was brought forward to yesterday which has thrown me entirely, especially with the trip to Hull being on Sunday. It’s just typical of Sky’s detrimental impact on football; it’s always about them, never stopping to spare a thought for the poor blogger who has an extra day to fill in the schedule. And that’s before we even consider their swapping of fixtures to suit the schedule of Chelsea with ne’er a care about the financial impact on Arsenal supporters. Quite why they are choosing this weekend’s FA Cup final rehearsal…ah, trying to steal the thunder of those channels which can show the final live on TV. They took a punt on the fixture living up to its pre semi-final potential and to hell with the consequences. Arsène took aim at the broadcaster earlier in the week and before pulling the trigger, turned the gun downwards and shot himself in the foot by admitting Arsenal had never requested a change of fixtures to suit their own needs rather than that of the TV channel. Will they do so next season or suffer the slings and arrows of not doing so? It does set a dangerous precedent for the future; Sky have done it once, got away with it, we should expect similar next season and beyond.
Arsène though had moved on, preparing to welcome back Mesut Özil to first team action, aware of the impact the German international can have on the few remaining games this season. With Everton facing a tricky home match with Manchester United, there has been a swift proclamation that fourth is all but signed and sealed. Hull won’t mind such arrogance, they intend to take a psychological advantage to Wembley by beating Arsenal at home for the first time in 99 years. Yes, avoid defeat tomorrow and Arsenal will make it a century before Hull have emerged victorious in this fixture. Unless of course, next season’s trip to the KC Stadium takes place before the end of this year in which case we are eighteen months or so away from reaching the 100 year mark but that’s still a lot closer than me making a point. It sounds impressive until your realise that Sunday is only the seventh league and cup meeting between the two clubs in that time, Arsenal didn’t visit Hull for 73 years during that time. Still, a ton is a ton and worthy of being trotted out to fill out a paragraph in a post.
Despite being the club’s record signing, Özil can be divisive. Probably “Because he is the record signing” would be a better start to that sentence but the difference reflects perceptions. Arriving as the shutters were being pulled down on the transfer window, a bright start met those expectations but the worms turned quite quickly, a procession of pundits accusing him of letting the supporters and the side down. The bills had to be paid somehow I suppose and the ease with which bitterness can surface in the media from an ex-professional never ceases to amaze, especially when you recollect that most pundits were rank under-achievers in their playing days. The media feed off the extremes and cajole a view into the mainstream, gently scooping more with the voracious appetite for opinions.
The German international has struggled with the physical demands of the English games, the mental pressures as well. Arsène observed that Özil found it hard to adapt from a mentality where Real Madrid going two goals ahead meant the game was over. I am not so sure that doesn’t happen here as well but undoubtedly there is more of a fight shown against the big clubs in this country, mainly because when they lose it is a surprise yet not unusual. Ordinarily all of the top four in any season will suffer a poor result or two against a team lower down the table; it’s always been the case in the top flight here, always will be. Perhaps that unpredictability is part of the attraction of the game around the world?
Arsenal have a world-class player in their midst and for Özil coming to terms with that status, being the biggest fish in this pond, brings pressure. Adapting to a new life, new working environment, culture, language, etc., takes time and his displays haven’t actually been disappointing. He has followed the path of Bergkamp and Pires in taking time to adapt to the English game but Wenger is certain that next season he will be in the running for Player of the Season. He’s likely to have Aaron Ramsey for company using that logic. But a lot of the problem for Özil is not his performances but supporter expectations. They were sky high on his signature and there was an attempt to change the narrative of how this changed the summer. It didn’t but he certainly gave the season more confidence and added impetus as the team recovered from the opening day defeat against Aston Villa.
In Özil’s case, the desire for him to run rife through Premier League midfields and defences comes on the back of a poor summer when it came to strengthening the squad; there was no-one else of attacking note signed leaving Özil as the knight on a white charger. It’s a hell of an expectation to walk into. It’s a case that the player will be fine, he will produce the goods; many of us have seen false idols arrive with a blaze of publicity and expectation, only for them to fall at the first hurdle. I don’t think I have seen many at Arsenal with the technical ability of Özil at Arsenal. Bergkamp, Pires; there’s a bit of a gap to the next level when you think of those players. Özil is in their company, we know it, next season will see it. And given that the last nine years have always been about next season, we’re well-versed in the waiting game.