Before we get started on the blog today, you will have seen much in recent weeks about releasing official documents regarding the Hillsborough Disaster. There is an e-petition to obtain full disclosure of all government documents relating to the tragic events of April 1989. Please sign the e-petition here but make sure that you are eligible to do so. Normally such matters are restricted to British Citizens, Subjects or Residents.
Liverpool arrive at The Emirates today, the first Premier League home fixture of the season. The squad faces its first test of the season. Or was that on Tuesday? What constitutes a test? Arsenal face so many over the course of a season that I struggle to remember the definition.
It has been a different first week of the season to the one expected. Few foresaw consecutive clean sheets or a petrified Theo Walcott meeting a cross – a cross, of all things! – on the edge of the six yard box to score the only goal in two games. And nobody contemplated Matt Lawton concocting an open love letter to Arsène in the Daily Heil…
Everyone foresaw UEFA (when did they stop being EUFA?) disciplinary action once Sky showed Arsène talking to Boro talking to Pat. A fine will be his punishment, no doubt, with a warning of worse to come if he transgresses again. The Gnomes could help matters if they stopped employing incompetents as referees but that is another debate.
Today’s opponents offer a compare and contrast scenario. In Liverpool, we see a squad that is being built quickly, decisively. Whether it is efficiently is open to debate but regaining their top four slot was the driver for Dalglish spending heavily this summer. Not all of the new signings were players that Arsenal wanted or needed. We might argue that Enrique was one whom we could have signed but Charlie Adam, as good as his range of passing might be, is too ponderous in movement to fit in with Arsenal’s style.
It is this contrast which has driven some to distraction. Whilst we might claim that Liverpool paid over the odds for the likes of Henderson or Downing, if they finish in the top four that argument is spurious. The value of a player is that which someone is prepared to pay. Crucial to all of this is that Liverpool had fallen from grace, requiring the investment to catch the leading pack. They needed decisive action, they took it. Now they wait for the season to unfurl and for history’s judgement.
Arsenal might have done things differently, been pro-active, but were stalled to some extent by Cesc and Nasri. When speaking earlier in the summer of how busy times will be, Wenger and Gazidis were guilty of misjudging the mood of their audiences. It was not departures demanded as such, arrivals were more important. Tension is building as demands for new signings have not been sated.
It is not as though they have not tried. Valencia informed the world that Wenger had dithered, a week or so before Chelsea turned up with a new bid of £29m for Juan Mata. Cynical I may be but it is hard to believe that they did not know of Chelsea’s interest. Despite this, the clamour’s crescendo will come in the next ten days or so.
So to this lunchtime. Injuries and suspensions have hit the squad hard. The problems are exacerbated by self-inflicted wounds. Whilst not defending Gervinho, you could understand his actions having been mauled and hauled by 1930s throwback, Joey Barton. Alex Song? Malice and retribution are unprofessional. Surely he knows in a TV dominated era, cameras will catch his actions in all their g(l)ory? Even Paul Davis was chastised thirty years ago when grainy images caught his hook to Glenn Cockerill’s jaw, told he was stupid in a TV dominated age.
Song never considered the implications of his actions, Arsenal pay the price for his stupidity.
It earns Emmanuel Frimpong his chance. He had a busy time on the pitch against Udinese, his playing style more akin to the energetic Flamini than the languid Song. Tomas Rosicky’s absence truly underlines the folly of Song’s actions. Arsène’s dilemma is whether to compensate for the inexperience in the centre of the pitch with numbers or in attacking options.
Increasingly, the likelihood is that any deal for Samir Nasri will have to wait until after tomorrow’s match, his ‘sickness’ now cured. Being a professional, you expect him to perform at the height of his powers. It is a perfect match for him to say goodbye (or stick two fingers up), a big name opponent with a chance to show what is being lost. I hope he does, genuinely, as delivering three points for Arsenal would be the perfect parting gift.
Defensively things go from bad to worse. Gibbs, Traore and Djourou are out, limited options come in. It is a stark choice: Jenkinson or Squillaci. The latter transmits a nervousness that surpasses anything Almunia was ever accused of whilst the former, as likeable as he appears, is inexperienced. I would still take the risk on him, slotting him into the left back position.
The trade-off is keeping Vermaelen and Koscielny’s partnership going. They are capable of dealing with Carroll and Suarez, key is going to be cutting off their supply. It might be that Wenger decides that Sagna might be a better substitute left back, leaving Jenkinson on his favoured right side but that depends on the starting XI he anticipates for Liverpool.
It leaves the line-up looking something like:
Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Jenkinson; Ramsey, Frimpong, Nasri; Walcott, van Persie, Arshavin
The bench? Well, what time can you turn up with your shinpads and boots? Miyachi, Miquel, Lansbury and Chamberlain will be waiting, their combined ages less than Squillaci’s. Chamakh supports the forward line which leaves your spot unless when Wenger spoke of working with Cesc again, he has struck a crafty loan deal. Either that or Nicklas Bendtner is going to prove he is worth £52k and a first class ticket to Gard du Nort for PSG’s watching scouts.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ‘til Tomorrow.