On Jack, Hexes & More

smqThere are a lot of ‘it isn’t’s’ this morning. Stories emerging from Spain about a buyback clause for Carlos Vela being invoked also mention one salient point; The player’s representatives are negotiating a new contract with Sociedad. It’s a time-honoured tradition to invoke the name of Arsenal when pay rises are being sought, this one no exception to that rule. It’s a bit like all the Cesc stories that emerged last year and recently; it’s all about someone wanting to feel loved. It isn’t about rejoining the club at which the pair either underperformed or sh@t on from a great height. As romantic as either returning might seem, it just isn’t going to happen. People need to stop acting like spurned lovers whose heart has been taken outside and pummelled into a bloody mess with a sledgehammer.

Whilst all and sundry were lapping up that appearance of transfer activity, Arsène was determined to make sure that everyone knew that it isn’t a mental block which has stopped Arsenal winning a trophy in the past decade. He didn’t offer any particular reason or theory as to why things had gone wrong in various league and cup campaigns, he didn’t need to. We all have our opinions on that subject and there is no sole cause. It’s been a combination of factors that change from game to game but in short, we haven’t been good enough.

Rightly, Arsène did highlight that Arsenal expect to be favourites in matches against the likes of Hull and Wigan. Dealing with it comes as part and parcel of being associated with a big club, be that as player, employee, supporter or official. To deny that tag is folly. It’s a bit daft really as is people getting het up because Arsenal have planned a victory parade. The same people would complain if the club had not planned anything or been barred from doing so. 2003 anyone?

All of which suggests pre pre-match nerves are beginning to shine through. Instead of enjoying the moments leading in to a Wembley final, some are becoming fractious at anything which might resemble overconfidence, almost inviting a plague upon the Arsenal house. Let’s set the reality out as it is:

  • Arsenal are favourites. Beyond facing Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester City, in a domestic cup final, we will always be favourites. Get used to it.
  • Arsenal have to plan a victory parade. Islington isn’t a sleepy hamlet in the country with a farmer, his wife and fields of cattle and sheep for company. It’s part of London, England’s capital city and a little bit of planning goes a long way to keeping the neighbours happy.
  • I expect Arsenal to win. There, I said it, just as I did before the semi-final against Wigan which you may have noticed, we won. Stating that in public, like the second point above, does not jinx proceedings. There isn’t a little imp, elf, fairy, pixie, leprechaun or demon walking around that will take umbrage at that statement and think, “Right, for that Arsenal will lose and I will bestow superhuman footballing powers on Hull City’s players so that they become, for ninety minutes, the most skilful, athletic and luckiest sportsmen there have ever been”. Life just isn’t like that; Arsenal will lose if they are arrogant, unfit or unprofessional in their approach to the game. If they are professional, treat Hull with respect and play to the best of their abilities, Per Mertesacker will lift the FA Cup. Provided John Terry doesn’t beat him to the top of the steps and protect Jose from being labelled a “specialist in failure“.

So if there is a hex or plague on Arsenal’s house, I didn’t so much invite it in, more like giving it the key and telling it to run amok. It needs redecorating anyway.

Which brings us back to Vela. Well, no, actually it doesn’t because Karim Benzema is apparently Arsenal’s target this summer and the club want to do a deal as soon as the Champions League final is finished. in no way should Benzema’s imminent arrival be tempered by the fact that, (a) he has 12 months to run on his contract which means he is either sold or given a new deal, or, (b) despite intense media speculation, Luis Suarez has not yet signed for Real Madrid. Any delays in the deal can always be ascribed to John W Henry’s marvellous negotiating skills as had will no doubt succeed in persuading Real to accept the contract clause which prevents them selling anyone to Arsenal. Just like that nice Mr Levy tried to last summer because that worked really well, didn’t it?

Even if we don’t sign anyone, so many players are returning from injury that it will feel like the squad has been strengthened this summer. One of those is Jack Wilshere whose fitness is being proved just in time for Saturday’s final. Whether he will start, that is a different matter. Has Arsène told the squad his XI already? You can’t divine anything from the colour of the players bibs in training. Just when you think you can, along comes Laurent Koscielny wearing the wrong colour and throwing a perfectly good theory into disarray.

Speaking at the club’s media open day, Wilshere spoke about growing up in public. Not directly but certainly relating the tale about how he approached Paul Scholes following his comments after the Swansea match, suggest a thoughtfulness and maturity that bodes well for his captaincy aspirations, as well as for the present day. There’s nothing wrong with wanting yo lead out his country although admiration for Wayne Rooney does seem questionable on any level. It harks back to a time long ago in footballing terms, when representing your country brought a sense of pride and when talk of the right wing referred to Stanley Matthews. That is hardly surprising as the public has tired of the boorish behaviour of players whose egos are assuaged by a man whose behaviour is Korda in keeping with Steptoe and Son. Fair play to this mornings Guardian in their app edition for finding a photo of Scudamore that just shouts out, “You dirty old man. As opposed to the website which makes you wonder who is doing what out of shot.

Wilshere suffers from our expectations. Having come through the ranks, the ghosts of Charlie and Rocky haunted him, underpinned by a prodigious talent. To believe he should have developed more by this stage in his career ignores the disruptive influence of injuries. We saw how long it took for Aaron Ramsey to recover from a long spell on the sidelines but also how quickly he pushed on as soon as he regained his confidence. Wilshere’s trajectory appears more attuned to that rather than Eduardo who was never really the same player following his horrific broken leg.

For me, Wilshere is right to highlight his increased involvement in scoring and creating but we have to avoid the trap of solely relying on stats to gauge a player. He epitomises a problem Arsenal have had in recent years, that the midfield font scored enough goals. Aaron Ramsey’s one-man crusade to rectify that I’d most welcome but more need to follow in his footsteps, Wilshere included. The same criticism applies to Cazorla and Özil; creative, yes, bug they need to be more prolific especially when we are playing with one central striker. Arsène highlighted the difference in City’s goalscoring record yo our own; if the manager talks on a subject publicly, you hope he is moving to strengthen the squad in that area.

But that can be left to the transfer execs at the moment, Arsène has a cup final victory parade to plot.

’til Tomorrow.

160 thoughts on “On Jack, Hexes & More

  1. If we aren’t going to go out and really address the striker issue with a long term top player, I would not be averse to giving Eto’o a one year contract with us. He is in London and wants to play CL football next year. He offers a different type of approach to Giroud. He could score 10 for us as a back up to Giroud and I’d be happy with that. Keep OG fresh, let Sanogo develop at his own pace.

  2. C:

    I missed your post earlier. Some of the creative types are deep lying playmakers and the midfield scorers play in front of them. Deco, Xavi, Pirlo are/were deep lying playmakers. You could characterize Lampard as box to box but the reality is that when he was scoring all of those goals he was the most advanced of Chelsea’s midfield. No?

    LImestone:

    Ozil is not someone I would characterize as a deep lying playmaker. In theory, his more advanced position should give him more opportunities to score.. It is probably not critical for him to goals as long as we have Ramsey but if we are without Ramsey for any length of time it would be a huge advantage and perhaps a critical thing for the team to have Ozil score more goals.

  3. Pistol, sounds like a great way to wrap up your season in the Caribbean. Let’s hope Arsenal end their season as wonderfully as you are (also, fingers crossed on your Liverpool supporting proprietor)!

    I find Florida too hot in the summer, unless you spend the summer sailing of course! You have to come up North–it is terrific on the north shores of the Great Lakes in the summer and among the smaller lakes in Eastern Ontario and Quebec–spectacular and warm but not oppressively hot and humid mostly. And it is sea-like conditions in the Great Lakes but without tides to worry about.

  4. Next you’ll be italicizing and bolding your comments like the artists in the morning–just don’t break the internet like Jonny used to!

  5. @Bill

    Deco was often times played in the most advanced and Lampard would score goals similar to what we are seeing from Ramsey and hopeufully Jack. They make the runs from their deeper midfield spot to get forward. Either way though when you look, they all have a creator in the midfield that’s plays as they call it in the English game “between the lines” and that’s where players like Ozil, Silva, Cesc, Mata, Inesta, Kroos all play and excel.

  6. Limestone

    Funny enough i will be on lake Michigan the week after I get back, not boating but staying with family in Spread Eagle ( I know, what a name ) But its meant to be beautiful. Got a lake house for a week and gonna do some fishing, and heavy drinking most likely knowing my family. looking forward to it.
    Ive have actually spent two summers cruising in Alaska and loved it, also the West coast of Canada and Washington state. Im a waterman through and though and the only problem I have with up north is the water temp keeps me out of it. Otherwise its some of the most beautiful country Ive seen anywhere. Never been up the East coast though.

  7. C:

    Ok.

    Bottom line is that I think its important to get some scoring from the midfield and most of the best teams have someone like Lampard or Ramsey who can do that. Ozil is a great point guard and as long as we have Ramsey in the team and if we get some more scorers to play in front of Ozil then he does not need to score in order for us to take the next step as a team.

    I promise, I am very happy we have Ozil but it would be even better if he could step up and score more goals when the need arises. That sure would have been helpful this season. I think the reason that we were able to outbid the other big money teams for for him is that most teams do not want to pay that sort of money for a pure playmaker. Ozil has never scored much but my hope is that he has not done it in the past because its never been required, but he can learn to turn it on when need. What I really hope is that we will spend the money and get the players we need so that the team thrives without him ever needing to become a better goal scorer.

  8. Perhaps he has broken the bank on the van venture… Speculate to accumulate and all that; Jonny will show that success requires taking some risks! Best of luck with the business Jonny.

  9. C

    No way jack should start this weekend. long term he is behind Ozil and Ramsey as long as they are healthy. Jack could rotate into their positions when they need a day off. Perhaps that will change with time depending on how much jack improves as he matures.

    Jonny

    Arsenal fans have always been notorious for finding someone to blame for everything and I can’t think of anyone who makes a better scape goat then you.

  10. @bill

    I completely agree about this weekend. Honestly I wouldn’t even have let him go to the World Cup but what do I know. I think as Yogi points out, his development has been stunted by injuries but what happens if Ramsey keeps developing the way that he has this year and continues to fulfill his potential and Jack does the same. Are they going to be content rotating because they can’t play together as our sole pivots due to it taking away from their natural games.

    I think that this is a massive year for Jack but one that he has to stay fit for.

  11. Not yet – and, given how much it is costing to insure, I sure as hell hope to keep it that way. 🙂

  12. C

    As long as England wants him and jack wants to go I don’t think we have much choice regarding the World Cup.

    I think that Jack has to accept that right now he is the 3rd player for 2 spots. If Ozil and Ramsey both stay healthy then Arsene will need to find a way to get jack a reasonable number of minutes. Eventually Jack may want to leave if he does not become first choice and we will have to deal with that if and when it happens.

  13. Ozil on the FA Cup:

    Ozil said: “We have the opportunity to win the cup. It’s crucial, especially for the fans.”

    “Believe me, I want to win every single game, even in training.

    “If I don’t win, I stop smiling. I can’t stand not winning. In my view, you don’t play well if you don’t train well, with full concentration and effort.”

    “It’ll be a hard-fought game,” Ozil told espnfc, “They will fight all the way, it’ll be a hard game

    “But we want to win it at all cost, and I’m convinced that we can do it.

    “We want to thank our fans for their support and win it for them. They deserve it.”

  14. @Bill

    I think there are plenty enough matches for Jack to be rotated because we want to keep Ramsey fit. Jack at this point in his career can’t influence a whole side in that #10 role of Ozil’s.

    He must develop and take that next step in his development and part of that is being okay playing second fiddle not to mention being able to rest. Now I get the World Cup but friendlies are pointless if your not 100% fit. I do think if Jack is fit rotating him and Ramsey will not only benefit Arsenal because both will be playing at a high level but also the players themselves because they will be kept fresh, hungry and most importantly fit.

    I think the same thing can be said about Santi. Jack and Santi at present are behind Ramsey and Ozil and that is the way it should be. We don’t need our CM’s playing on the wings anymore.

  15. Giroud on the pressure of winning the FA Cup and the FA Cup final:

    “Maybe because it’s a final there is always a bit more pressure.

    “But I’m used to having [pressure] on my shoulders and I’m OK with the pressure and I like it. I want to transform it into motivation and determination.

    “We know what we have to do to win this cup and we all focus on the same targets and the same goal. We really want it.

    “We feel really excited because the final is a special moment for a player and especially for the club and for the fans as well. We have been waiting for a trophy for nine years now so we really want to win it for all the Gunners.

    “I think I’m quite fit so I feel good in my body. Even if I have the World Cup after the season it was a great season for me and I don’t feel tired because we have a really exciting finish and I look forward to it.

    “We have had a good answer on the pitch, a good response after our defeat against Everton. We were conscious that we had some things to correct.

    “We did well in these last games and we have a lot of confidence for this final, but we really want to start the game on the front foot because we really respect Hull City.

    “We are confident but you know it’s one game so we have to be cautious, focus on our game and carry on what we have done well in these last weeks.”

  16. I would love to have Vela back. Of the literally hundreds of young players that have left in the the last 10 years he is the only one who eventually morphed into a player that I wish we could have back. It’s nice to dream, however, I agree with yogi regarding our chances to get him back.

  17. Sadly, that last bit is actually true, I once broke my cricket captain’s wife’s leg (and dislocated her ankle).

    After that breaking the internet was relatively unchallenging.

  18. Morning Clocky

    Don’t forget, the clocks went forward in your part of the world today.

    I’m having a lay in to give you a better chance to get #1

  19. Morning NB ca va? Qoi des neuf? I’ll miss the game Samedi,will be on the way to Madrdi.Ouchh

  20. I’m tryin g not to think about tomorrow….. every time I do I get a bit nervy!

    Come on Yogi, wakey wakey, I’m gagging for a glass of wine.

  21. Just a bit, NB! Taking son in to Toronto to watch with other Arsrnal supporters and to see Thierry Henry play for Red Bulls later in the afternoon– going to be a terrific day out!

  22. NorthbankBettingConsortium.Com /b

    NB ……………evens
    HenryB……..5/2
    Damon……..4/1
    Ras………….7/1
    LSG…………10/1
    MLF…………16/1
    Nicky………..20/1
    Clocky…….100/1

  23. Ok to be nervy just don’t be fearful! Nervous anticipation is only natural ahead of such a big game. But we are the Arsenal: we are going to Wembley and we mean to win the FA Cup!

  24. Better out me down in the bottom with clocky, NB, cause I’m going back to sleep if I can!

  25. The odds just lengthened on LSG….. 200/1

    My bloody bold brackets closure didn’t work. Yogi, some teacher eh 🙂

  26. Hope so too. But Limestonegunnerinho won’t let me stay down too long if they somehow manage too. He’ll be too excited to see Henry whom he’s only seen on TV and in the YouTube videos I’ve shown him since he was two years old! When Thierry scored that last minute winner in the FA cup during his latest stint, we were jumping up and down together for two minutes chanting his name with delirious joy–what a moment. I was sillier about it than the 4 year old beside me. He loves to wear his Henry 12 shirt. So we’ll just deal with whatever happens. But I believe we will win this match. Good night!

  27. Sorry Damon…… but on the bright side, your odds have just improved.

    Be back later.

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