Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
It isn’t just the hacks who are finding life hard to understand at the moment. A footballer admitting that their performances have been poor enough to warrant being dropped is a rarity in itself. Is Papa Vermaelen just minutes away from haranguanging Arsène via the Belgian media and more importantly will TSSSIMBT hacks be as willing to pass off a mass of supposition as the basis for a rebellion? Wars have been started on less…
I have made mistakes. If I played flawlessly in all the matches I would be Lionel Messi. As a footballer you know you what may happen when you play badly. I’m not worried though – it’s only the last games, I have played about 35 times this season. This is Arsenal, they are not a bad team and there is a lot of competition.
Only the last games? Ouch. Thomas Vermaelen’s defence mechanisms are working as well as the Arsenal defence in his absence. Mind you, when I was a lad 35 games only constituted about half a season…
Vermaelen’s career at Arsenal has been interesting; hailed as a saviour, injured, questioned and now blamed in some quarters for defensive failings. He isn’t perfect – far from it – nor does he claim to be. Captaincy has weighed heavily on him this season, as well as the confusion of the Arsenal defence as the team’s form slumped following defeat at Carrow Road. His natural game was evident during his first season at The Emirates, pressing onto the opposition quickly. That is the antithesis of Mertesacker’s game, his lesser pace not suited to a high line. It led to angled defensive lines and gaps readily exposed. Koscielny’s value to the German or Belgian evident as he seems comfortable in either set-up.
Vermaelen has also been touched by the captain’s disease. Things have not been right on the pitch and he has tried to rectify by forcing himself onto the game. As he observed, he isn’t Messi and cannot impose himself onto matches, influencing their outcome through attacking prowess. Vermaelen’s efforts identified the absence of ‘leaders’ across the pitch, people who could take the game by the scruff of the neck and turn matters around. His own form dropped and his efforts intensified in trying turn things around individually and for the team, entering a vicious spiral for which being dropped is the only solution, to allow clarity to his own thoughts. I have no doubt that Vermaelen will be back in the team soon, injuries have a way of creating such openings but he is well aware that ceteris paribus, he is not going to return to a defence which is not conceding goals.
Grabbing the game by the scruff of its neck comes naturally to Jack Wilshere. Firmly ensconsed in the position of Arsenal saviour, his performance against Brazil saw him ascend to the throne vacated by Wayne Rooney following one of his numerous international transgressions. Despite these, Rooney is still on course to reach a century of caps and becoming the country’s leading goalscorer, 21 and 17 away from the respective benchmarks.
From Arsenal’s perspective, injury is the only England concern. Experience gained at tournaments and in qualifiers for his country benefit the club, it adds depth to his ability to read the game. Out of the squad now through injury, Arsène is seeking to minimise any involvement in England’s end of season friendlies. Whilst there is nothing to be gained in playing the Republic of Ireland, is there any harm in him travelling to Brazil in early June? If he is fit, he will return in time to have a month’s holiday, surely enough to begin pre-season training with the rest of the squad. I understand why people are so protective given that he missed eighteen months through injury but if the club manage his fitness properly – the failure to do so is held as the core reason for his prolonged absence – then recurring problems (if any) can be minimised. There’s more hope of that than England not playing pointless friendlies as Winter turns to Spring each year.
The co-existence of international and club football is strained at the best of times. Clubs are more protective of their assets – rightly – which are used and abused by the national FAs. Moves to unify the football calendar continually fail as friendlies interfere with important phases of the club fixture list. Until that is resolved, the tensions will remain. There is an unseen benefit at this moment. The friendlies are causing expansion plans for the Champions League to be stalled so every cloud has a silver lining, even if it is a microscopic thread.