Had The Blues Brothers not been made into a film, casting Arsène in the role of Jake might not be so far-fetched. Instead, tall and lean, he is an elderly Elwood. No matter, in his version of events, he and Danny Welbeck have Papal Blessing; they’re on a mission from God and getting the squad back together.
Listen, if Arsène can wander off at a tangent about Welbeck’s signing, so can I.
All that time and energy devoted to kicking Wenger for not talking to the media about Welbeck and that’s what you got. Was it worth getting hot under the collar about? A tale of religion, power and wealth. Of money and a young man seeking his fortune in the City. Aloysius wasn’t about to be left out, cackling in the background about how, far from strengthening Arsenal, they were DOOMED because Danny isn’t that good really. It has the makings of a Spielberg script, perhaps a collaboration with George Lucas, Star Wars meets An American Tail.
And it sets up Welbeck to score the winner in the first meeting between the two sides.
Which is a more likely proposition than on Saturday against City. Arsène isn’t convinced his new striker will start, integrating him into the team presumably the issue. As if he’s going to put a £16m striker on the bench. The rarest of things, a Mancunian United supporter making his début against City. If that isn’t the heavens aligning for a spectacular first game, I don’t know what is.
It’s a difficult time for a player to join a new club, late in a transfer window and during an international break. It doesn’t lend itself to a smooth transition but football, life, isn’t always a straightforward affair and were it I, with the options currently available, Welbeck would start.
City were quick to point out that theirs will be a much changed line-up and attitude from the Community Shield. Their defence will need to be as quick if Welbeck is included. That match counts for nothing beyond a nice trinket to sit at the front of the team photo; it has the same influence and bearing on the season as last year’s win in Helsinki. I am sure that the players will put it out of their mind, leaving us to attach an importance to the result since the match was played at Wembley.
The manager’s comments about the squad were encouraging, certainly in the returns to fitness. Walcott can be brought back slowly and steadily, not rushed through necessity with the addition of Alexis Sanchez giving options down either flank, as well as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Welbeck – in theory – offers more goals than Sanogo so that is another aspect covered off. It’s what Walcott needs, a release of the dependency on him for goals in support of the central striker. Mesut Özil and Ramsey are crucial to success, the reaction to the latter’s injury told you all you need to know in that respect.
For Saturday, that pair and Arteta being available is nothing but good news. The Spaniard’s return offers a more thoughtful approach than Flamini’s scurrying and City’s counter-attacking style benefits from the Frenchman’s haste in the tackle, leaving gaps where a more considered approach may provide cover. When Flamini is in the same XI as Wilshere, there can be a tendency for both to play that way hence the space enjoyed.
City offer a stern test and Arsène’s observation about credibility and confidence was interesting. The sentence started as if he believed if might influence outsiders – the media, pundits, bookies – but ended by making it insular, as if the squad need a win to convince themselves that they can make the step from fourth to a higher plane. Coupling it with the points at Everton and Leicester puts the notion that they do not quite believe in themselves to the forefront of people’s minds. Personally, I think Chelsea look a more solid XI than City this season and I’ll be surprised if they don’t win the title. That’s not to dismiss Pellegrini’s men, there are plenty of opportunities for everyone to cock it up between now and next May.
It’s ironic that Arsène chose to bring up belief at this early stage in a year when supporter expectations seem at their lowest. Few believe we are genuine title contenders. It’s a season when, if Arsenal claim third, Arsène should asking to be judged in May. Being two squad players short has diminished belief of a title challenge. To me, that works in the players favour. Along with the knowledge of last seasons false dawn, the Premier League rollercoaster appears to have shallower troughs with peaks that do not extend so high into the skyline. Hopes will be slower to surface, falls from grace have softer landings. And I’m comfortable either that for this season. There’s nothing to change for at least three months, let’s see if the lessons from last season have been learned on the pitch because they don’t appear to have been off it.
That doesn’t mean I don’t care about results, performances. It’s an acknowledgement that the decisions made over the summer have got us to ‘here’, the ‘now’ is the most important thing. And winning this weekend is the current important thing.