With just over a week of the season remaining, there’s a sense that Arsenal are on the back foot. Hector Bellerin defended the squad against accusations of burnout whilst Olivier Giroud responded to Thierry Henry’s criticism of him by putting it down to jealousy. Henry, it seems, was not motivated by his punditry cheque but instead can’t handle the fact that Giroud has taken fewer games to score 50 goals for the club which is Giroud dragging the argument down an avenue he really shouldn’t. It won’t be long before someone wonders how many games Giroud will take to score 229 goals.
Still, despite their difference of opinion, the pair do have something in common. Neither has scored for Arsenal in a final…
Arsène defended his current charge by pointing out that he has the mental strength to lead the line but stopped short of denying that he won’t be buying a striker this summer. I think that encapsulates pretty much of what everyone thinks of Giroud as a player. He’s very good, and in tandem with or as an alternative to another player, he’s a very useful squad player but it’s hard to shake the feeling that we could find an upgrade.
The rumours have started once more about Higuain or Benzema, but the reality is we don’t know who Arsène thinks is the ideal in this case. Having tried once for the former, is he going to be able to persuade Napoli to part with the Argentine? Possibly; money talks and having made the point about having cash available earlier in the week, Wenger can hardly claim there isn’t enough to tempt clubs to sell. Whether he wants to pay that is another matter. When the talk of Higuain surfaced a few years ago, Giroud admitted that this was the signing rather than Suarez, which caused him most sleepless nights.
Problematically for Giroud, he hasn’t scored in half-a-dozen games or so and we don’t have any genuine alternatives so whilst he is firing blanks, picking fights with the club’s record scorer might not be the wisest of moves. It makes him an easy target, especially if the team isn’t scoring either. You can carry a non-scoring striker if his all-round play is contributing to victories but when the team is stumbling, you really need a centre forward to stand up and be counted. A good goal return is important but so is being there when the team really needs you and that is an advantage Henry has over Giroud in the ‘run of the mill’ Premier League fixtures.
Having seen off FFP, the next irritation was to see off that pesky transfer ban. The Premier League’s broadcast deal has spurred Europe’s élite into action and Barcelona waits for no man. Apparently, the Catalans are appealing for a ‘Pardon’ on the basis that Real Madrid, Atletico, Valencia and Villarreal have all been charged with the same offences. Not that they have escaped censure, you understand, just that everyone else was doing it, so why have plucky little Barcelona been picked on? What are you going to do, FIFA, charge the whole of La Liga. You wouldn’t put it past Blatter.
Anyway, this course of action is going to allow Barcelona to sign Aaron Ramsey for a fee of more than £50m this summer. Their scouts went shopping for Jack Wilshere but changed their minds and recommended Ramsey instead. A bit like AC Milan when they went shopping for John Barnes but ended up with Luther Blissett in the 80s.
But how does this deal work? Not to worry, The Sun has it all worked out. Even if the ban isn’t lifted, Ramsey will be signed and loaned out until January. That’s right, a club which can’t sign players or register them, will be allowed to sign a player and register him but he won’t be allowed to play for them. I’m going to sit back and ponder that one for a while…
Just to prove that lunacy is not the sole preserve of the media, the FA took front seat yesterday. The dearth of English talent meant that Roy Hodgson called Danny Welbeck into the squad for June’s internationals despite his current injury problems and the fact that he might not play before then for his club. He didn’t call Ashley Young up though. The Manchester United winger who is according to some, playing his best football ever, has a ‘slight medical issue’ which excuses him from international duty. His mum must have written a helluva note to get him out of the footballing equivalent of PE.
But chief madman of the day is Greg Dyke, the FA Chairman. I am sure he casts envious glances across the Channel at Blatter’s fiefdom and yearns for a time when he can change the decision to give each of the FA Cup finalists more than 25,000 tickets. He can’t though because he can’t change the FA despite being its’ chairman. He did find time to rail against those who want a 3pm kick-off for the FA Cup final as opposed to the 5.30pm slot it now enjoys.
They aren’t supporters who may struggle to get home, no. According to Dyke, those who hate the tea-time kick-off are Luddites, people who want football as it was. Purists he called them. Time to move with the times, Greg said before adding, without any sense of irony, “Old men are always dangerous. You should never let them make the decisions…”
Greg Dyke is 68.