The widespread boredom with the international break really hit home yesterday evening at my youngest son’s football training. An otherwise sane man switched into rant mode about the recent qualifiers. They were a pair of games that left him cold and utterly disinterested in Euro2016; the games rulers, he opined, had made an already poor product worse by the need to have the top seeds on show in two years time.
It’s a fair point. I care nothing for international friendlies and to be honest, the Nations League will probably be as effective as the League of Nations. Scanning the groups for the qualifying tournament, are there any with matches that hold interest? Iceland’s charge to the top of Group A brings a smile although there is to me at least, seemingly some familiarity in the Czechs and Dutch being drawn together. It won’t last according to bookmakers on bonuscorner, who firmly believe the natural order will be restored.
There is precious little else to get excited about, no fixtures to set the pulse racing for this neutral anyway.Seedings have killed the Champions League group phase and are doing so to international qualifying tournaments. UEFA has an awful lot of work to do; the clubs, wisely and despite the cost in terms of injury, are biding their time as international football becomes increasingly irrelevant until the finals.
So mercifully, Arsenal returned.
How Ivan and Chips must wish they could follow the lead of their forebears when in 1932 they banned the media from the equivalent meeting. They would probably go one further. Like the customer whose site I recently visited, given the choice, they would make you check your mobile phone in at the door and return it to you when the meeting was over. As it is, they had all those pesky Twits giving a blow-by-blow account of the answers given.
It’s all much ado about nothing.
There’s no accountability at the AGM, screening questions answers that are as smooth as tights and contain the sheerest denier of substance. Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors. We know what is coming and are still upset by it. I’m not chastising anyone for that, by the way, I am not sanguine about the situation by any stretch of the imagination but let’s be honest, Vince McMahon admires the way the results are all stage-managed. Ivan won by the way, two falls and a submission.
I pretty much got everything off my chest about the ticketing issue in yesterday’s post. I didn’t expect Ivan to come back with more cud on which to chew. 3% is nothing in percentage terms, it genuinely isn’t. The cost of getting to Arsenal is increasing by more than that so another couple of pounds isn’t important. The rationale is, there’s genuinely little tangible to show for it. People will tell me we have the stars. I’ll tell you KSE, on a nod and a wink, took a similar sum out of the business; there isn’t right answer though. I’m not right with my claim of linking the two sums and neither are you. Football’s revenues are too complex to simply with a quick equation that omits broadcast revenues which are as, if not more, important.
The disdain from the directors was obvious; they don’t like being asked questions and will probably prefer the time when Stan reaches 75% shareholding and takes the company private. Or reaches agreement with Red & White to do so. If that’s possible, I don’t know. I found it more disturbng that they don’t admit to having much of a plan surrounding the manager. Sir Chips admitted they keep quiet when Arsène says he doesn’t have a plan. He’s right in some respects, Arsène is the professional and it’s his job to know what to do or have the best guess at it, at the very least. Where Sir Chips was horribly wrong, utterly, utterly wrong, is that they should not be keeping quiet; they should be challenging the manager on why he doesn’t have a plan. They would do the same to Ivan or any other department head, why does Arsène evade the same scrutiny?
Shock and awe, baby. Shock and awe. They will be shocked when he quits, they are too in his awe. So much so that Chips had to admit they don’t have a plan for his succession. It’s a straightforward choice on the board’s part; tell us they don’t have a plan or admit they do and endure managerial speculation for the next two years. I truly want to believe that they were calculating enough to take one for the team. I truly want to believe that. I don’t though. I don’t for one minute believe that the board has a plan for Arsène’s succession. Instead of beginning to put changes into place now and working toward a structured handover, a smooth move, it strikes me that it won’t be that way. Enjoy the cheap laugh at United’s expense, Sir, for they will be having belly laughs at you when the time comes. Unless you’ve got a plan which…oh, for God’s sake, there’s nothing virtuous about this vicious circle.
Arsène spoke to the media beforehand and we were left punch drunk at the prospect of the back four this Saturday. Thank God it’s only Hull visiting The Emirates. The likeliest outcome is Nacho Monreal playing centrally as Arsène looks to repeat the discovery of Bacary Sagna’s versatility. It’s a risky business; I’m a rarity, I like Monreal as a full back. For the most part he is reliable and some of the performances he is chastised over come when the midfield has abdicated any responsibility for defensive duties.
The summer showed, however, that he is very much learning his trade in terms of the centre back role. Were it a good side, a top four rival, who was visiting on Saturday then the reality is that Laurent Koscielny may well have believed he were a pin cushion with all the injections needed to make him fit for kick-off. Or fit enough to walk on the pitch at kick-off. The summer also showed the folly of selling Thomas Vermaelen without a replacement being lined up. I believe the manager when he said he couldn’t agree a fee in that instance but the problem is, he wasn’t in a position to be argumentative with his third experienced centre back off to the Catalan capital. He had two choices; trust to the fates or the barrel that was proferred, he lent over it. Wenger chose the former and is now paying the price. He hopes Koscielny won’t need surgery, currently definite about that but you never know with that sort of injury.
If it is going to be a long-term absence, there will be little surprise if Hayden isn’t pushed centre stage, at least in games Arsène has marked as a banker. With the trip to Brussels next week, he may be loathe to risk Monreal tomorrow. At least if Hayden plays, he will hopefully have a good outing under his belt if needed.
What a position to be in. Roll on January 1st when the cavalry will arrive. They will, won’t they…?