Morning all, the last Saturday before Christmas and we face…the crowds of shoppers searching for the last bargain. Today’s musical offering has the solution; let your partner do the shopping whilst you listen to Lost in the Supermarket (here and in the right sidebar on Dad’s Jukebox) and you too will share their experiences.
Tomorrow’s fixture is a strange one to look forward to. It’s Liverpool, traditionally a big fixture that seemed certain to regain some of its allure following both clubs endeavours last season. The anticipated advances haven’t been made, essentially for the same reason: lack of investment in the respective squad.
Money was spent in both cases. How wisely is the judgement that hindsight passes down. In any other season, the footballing fates might have given Wenger and Rodgers the benefit of the doubt; injuries might not have happened and Balotelli could be a great signing. OK, neither is ever likely to happen, history tells us that already.
It’s old ground for us to cover and I am sure Liverpool supporters feel the same whenever the subject is aired. For them, that aspect of the game is more acute. The man Brendan Rodgers identified as being the solution is lining up for the opposition.
Instead of having Alexis Sanchez available to replace Daniel Sturridge or the misfiring Mario Balotelli, the Liverpool manager faces the prospect of playing Raheem Sterling centrally. You wonder if Rodgers would have preferred the Italian to have signed for Arsenal. Wenger was quick to point out that it was a media story rather than reality.
I am not sure who was more insulted by his statement though,
No, you linked [Balotelli] with me. We have the type of presence up front with Olivier Giroud and Yaya Sanogo. We have players of that calibre.
Giroud must be wondering why he’s been lumped in with those two and if Balotelli doesn’t take being compared to Sanogo as a kick up the Arsenal, nothing will do that. In fairness to the French youngster, he too might think, “I’m not that bad” with his record of 1 goal in 5 better that the Liverpool strikers 2 in 15.
The change in tactics worked for Liverpool last weekend at Old Trafford where the scoreline – not the victory – flattered Manchester United; Sterling might have had a hat-trick but for De Gea’s outstanding performance. It was an experiment that worked at Bournemouth. Whether they will be as effective in a home match where the emphasis is on Liverpool making the running rather than hitting on the counter-attack, remains to be seen.
The concern for Arsenal is that the same frailties which were exposed at Anfield and Stamford Bridge in quick succession, resurfaced at The Britannia where a soft early goal led to what proved to be an irretrievable three-goal deficit at half-time. Different season, different excuses, same outcome. The lessons for Arsenal remain painful.
Both managers spoke highly of Sanchez with Arsène pointing to the continued presence of the club in the Champions League as a reason for the Chilean and other players joining the club. It’s a virtue, certainly, and one of the few positives of finishing in the top four.
A meandering thought is whether that consistency of participation whilst attractive, is as much of a barrier. Arsenal have only threatened to win the trophy twice; as much as players want to play in the competition, the élite want to win it and move to clubs where they believe that to be a realistic opportunity. Of course the decision to move is more complex than just that, this is just one aspect to be considered.
Still if Sanchez and Özil the peak of players that the club can attract, it’s not a bad level to be at. More’s the pity that at the moment, the squad is suffering from the lack of depth behind them.
Whilst Arsène is concerned about the impact of Aaron Ramsey’s absence over the next fortnight, the deeper concern is that without the quick arrival of new signings, Arsenal are simply storing up problems by being unable to rotate those who have played in a significant percentage of the matches this season.
Wenger will find out today if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is able to make the trip. It’s a difficult question to answer. The midfielder isn’t fully fit and the question then becomes who replaces him. Yes, he could start but that is a risky proposition with the type of injury he has.
Any damage inflicted could have longer term implications; Theo Walcott has suffered once already on his comeback trail so he will need to be managed carefully, as Arsène seems to be thinking by his indication the England international won’t feature at Anfield.
I am sure that Arsène would have preferred Tomas Rosicky to be back in training rather than be considering how to shuffle the pack. It’s the lot of the manager to take calculated risks; anything that goes right is proof of genius, that the mojo is back or simply emerged from behind whichever bushel it was hiding.
The opposite also holds true. Politicians understand the way that a manager’s popularity fluctuates, probably grateful when a high-profile club endures hard – or harder – times as it keeps them out of the headlines for a short while.
As a supporter you just have to hope it is a situation the manager has addressed, identifying targets and others at the club have the deals in place. We’ll find out soon enough.
FROM THE VAULTS
One from the first Premier League season, 1992-93. Arsenal had endured a miserable start to the season, even if it perversely started brightly enough. A two-goal half-time lead on the opening day ended with four unanswered Norwich goals in the second period followed by a deflected Alan Shearer goal at Ewood Park three days later. As with his hat-trick for Southampton against Arsenal, that balmy summer evening was his full home début.
Fortress Anfield? A win to get the season off and running. Exactly what the doctor ordered happened thanks to Parlour and Wright. This then, how The Guardian reported the match