Arsène had plenty to say in his press conference ahead of tomorrow’s High Noon encounter with Huddersfield. That the match kicks off fifty five hours before Arsenal meet Everton highlights the depths to which the footballing authorities have plummeted.
They know Sweet FA about running the game
2011 has been a fiasco for those who rule the game. Blatter and Platini are both making their views that football should be a summer sport well known, allowing Qatar to host the World Cup in winter. If England were disappointed to lose out to Russia, football as a summer sport is the death knell of the country as a host again.
In England, Sian Massey has been on the receiving end of the lack of backbone that referees are used to. Whilst her withdrawal from the Crewe match in midweek was understandable, to prevent her officiating this weekend simply allows the media to win. Unless of course the PGMO has no intention of letting her officiate again this season to allow the fuss to dissipate.
The Premier League has made a huge error in its fixture scheduling. Everton play Chelsea at lunchtime today. None of the other teams playing in the FA Cup tomorrow has a game on Tuesday. The FA need to explain why they declined the opportunity to reschedule Southampton’s tie instead.
Equally, the Premier League need to explain why fixtures were scheduled this week rather than the week in February when Arsenal play Stoke in the re-arranged fixture? This is a weekend where games are broadcast over the two days rather than crammed into one afternoon. Nonsensical choices by TV companies are going to lead to more fiasco’s such as this week’s decision to fine Blackpool for a weakened team.
At least everyone knows what the rules mean now. You have a 25 man squad but you cannot use it to the fullest extent because the EPL are the sole arbiters of your club’s playing strengths.
Arsène’s First Choice
Arsène has seen the headline writers strut their stuff and wilfully twist the meaning of his words already this morning. Wojciech Szczesny is Arsène’s Number One we are told except they left off the key phrase ‘at the moment‘. It is not hard to see why Wenger said that. Until this weekend, James Shea was the only other fit goalkeeper. No disrespect to the youngster but at this moment in time, he is not competing for the Number One slot in the first team.
When Fabianski returns to full fitness, the test becomes more real. Arsène has to make his decision about whom he believes to be the best goalkeeper at the club. Until then the younger Pole is rightly in situ and as Wenger observed, done little wrong. Equally, neither had Fabianski so it become’s Arsène’s Choice.
Manuel Almunia returning to the squad has underwhelmed and bemused some. It is apparent from the emotive language used by his manager yesterday that the Spaniard is not going to be joining Carlos Vela in leaving the club on loan or permanently.
Wenger spoke of Almunia ‘fighting for his place‘, of Almunia feeling ‘unemployed‘ – a phrase that suggests the Spaniard has not bee injured for all of the time he has been absent – whilst the manager likes him as a man and a player.
In other words, he is holding out hope for the more experienced goalkeeper. The chance to return to first team action regularly is not gone entirely and if you play well, work hard, opportunities may arise. No guarantees but motivation at least. To place a player in a position where there is no hope of redemption leaves him mentally unready should he be needed.
There is though a need for some to show Almunia some respect as a man. He might not be the best goalkeeper that the club has ever had – he is certainly not the worst – but at no point has he conducted himself without dignity, particularly during the unedifying solicitation of Mark Schwarzer in the summer. Whilst he might not be anyone’s choice as Arsenal Number One, Almunia certainly deserves more from supporters than the abuse he receives.
Arsène’s Central Dilemma
Arsène made it clear that he was only looking to sign a centre back on a loan deal as he feels there is plenty of cover under normal circumstances. It all depends on Vermaelen as to whether he has four or five fit centre backs at the moment but surely Arsène, counting Alex Song is disingenuous.
The manager asked why he would want six centre backs on a permanent basis. 2011 has shown him that numbers can quickly diminish. However, Song is a central midfielder and whilst he is a short-term fix, he is not a long-term solution.
Arsène is right to be mindful of the ongoing costs involved with new players but let’s not muddy the waters by playing a first choice midfielder in the wrong position on paper.