Well it wasn’t exactly inspiring, was it? Arsène updated the team news ahead of Sunday’s trip to Anfield and left us pretty much none the wiser. OK, a little wiser but if you were looking for clues about who would be involved, reading the official briefing would have left you disappointed. There were a lot of hmm’s, maybe’s, might do’s and possibly’s in there.
Essentially, three days off have left Arsène with his options only slightly improved and some will argue, a bit worse.
Theo Walcott might travel but only to sit on the bench, Nacho Monreal is possibly not as knacked as he was but isn’t going to offer a great deal more than we have in the returning Calum Chambers whilst Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is leaving brows furrowed until after Saturday’s training session.
Chin up, David Ospina and Tomas Rosicky are back in full training and set for a full return to the, well, bench.
The rest – Ramsey, Koscielny, Arteta and Wilshere – have not yet become so desperate that they will visit any old quack for some horse or whatever animal is fashionable now, placenta to rubbed on their aching joints and muscles. They really should spare a thought for the vets who lost a profitable little sideline in selling the afterbirth to quack medicine.
Mind you, it’s not as mad as those who claim to fry up their children’s placenta for meal, served no doubt with fava beans and a nice Chianti.
Photos of Jack Wilshere working out in the gym have not quite had the same impact of Mathieu Debuchy doing the same, mainly because of the protective boot clamped around the midfielders ankle. Waiting for the injured players to return is like watching the reels drop in at Supercasino; his wheels are spinning and everyone – bar Jack Wilshere – is supposedly back before January’s window closes.
Wenger has to decide whether this is the jackpot dropping in or more than one signing is needed in the next six weeks. This morning’s papers are reporting that Pedro is to be the subject of a £26m bid from Arsenal and Benedikt Howedes will join for £15m. The minor inconvenience of both being required by their respective employers for the squad as Barcelona and Schalke are still in the Champions League is overlooked.
There’s not much change from the £20m budget Arsène reportedly has if both of those targets land, is there?
As the speculation begins – did it ever stop – the players readying themselves for a hectic spell of matches. Or is it?
A lot is made of the Christmas and New Year period but is the Premier League so much more demanding over the next fortnight? Five games in two weeks is roughly one every three days. Or to put in to some context, exactly the same number of games we played between 13th and 27th September.
Had we not been knocked out of the League Cup, exactly the same number of games in the past fortnight as well. My point is that as physically demanding as the period is, it’s frankly nothing unique.
Of course if you come from a country where there is a winter or Christmas break, yes it is a culture shock but the reality is that there is no more truth in this being the toughest part of the season than any other. It’s as false an assumption now as the ludicrous claims that Neymar didn’t want to join Manchester City because of the muddy pitches. Barcelona, Manchester; Manchester, Barcelona? I know where I would be heading and it isn’t to North West England.
The notion of a busy Christmas spell comes from decades ago. In 1932/33, Arsenal played matches on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, December 27th and New Years Eve. Four games in a week, three in four days and they were crowned Champions that season.
It was another era, football was nothing like the game it is today beyond the basics. We like to hold on to such traditions but as with most we cherish, it harks back to a different time.
So was Liverpool’s dominance of English football. The same holds true of Arsenal and every club who held sway over the top flight, they have found their fall from grace difficult to bear. Jason Burt in this Telegraph article took aim and his boot hit its target. Some will argue that mocking both the Merseysiders and Tottenham is almost tempting fate. So is breathing at times. All the time, in fact.
We have all seen the ‘big club will fall from grace‘ routine when Arsène’s future is mentioned. If the only argument for not changing manager is a fear of change itself, well, it’s not very convincing is it? That part of the process is for the board to manage; it’s their job to ensure that a seismic change in the daily routine of the club is as smooth a transition as it can be.
Make no mistake, Stan doesn’t want to see Wenger go but nor will he tolerate damage to the brand that impacts negatively on the value of his shareholding. He is, we keep telling ourselves, a businessman first and foremost.
He hasn’t got to worry, 78% of those asked in an opinion poll of 424 (I’m surprised it wasn’t 433 or 451 although it would probably have a bit more credibility if it had been 4231) fans in The Sun this morning tell Arsène that he should carry on. Typically contradictory for football fans, only 50% believe we can win the Premier League again with him as manager.
Yes, the irony isn’t lost on me. Some of those were probably the same who mocked the 18 year gap between titles before George Graham broke the spell. I doubt they saw it themselves.