Morning all, FA Cup Third Round weekend is under way with Cardiff City taking on Colchester United in a Friday nightmare for BBC Wales with the lowest ever attendance at their home ground. It reminded me of the photos of Darlington’s monument to their then-chairman’s folly, The Reynolds Arena; not just swathes of seats empty but whole stands.
Fair play to the BBC’s website who were in no doubt that the blame lay with Russell Slade and not their choice of a dreary cup-tie to televise.
Indeed, the ghosts which haunt Arsenal’s defence were probably there, making their most of a Friday night off. It’s an Arsène-inspired playlist this morning and with its’ title, Ghosts, you can take a guess at the theme. The merriment can be found be found in the right sidebar on Dad’s Jukebox, on the page of the same name or in your web browser, here.
The club’s first business of the transfer window will be completed imminently it appears, with Lukas Podolski leaving for Internazionale. Straight to Godwin’s Law in one sentence. The fee ensures that Arsenal are well on course to make a profit in the transfer window and the revenues have eased the cashflow worries about paying another fee to KSE for services rendered.
It isn’t hard to find criticism of the deal, Podolski’s popularity is such that his overall contributions are ignored. There’s no doubt he was a useful player and a reputation of being the best finisher, whilst anecdotal, was based in an element of truth. The murmurings of discontent are more to do with the current state of affairs than a genuine upset at Podolski’s departure.
The sale is part of the strategy Wenger mentioned in a recent press conference with Bordeaux seemingly the most likely destination for Yaya Sanogo. Aston Villa are the English club most closely linked to the young striker, although a strange fit; a club which is struggling for goals signing a striker struggling for goals is just about as weird a loan deal as signing him permanently in the first place.
As they depart, Arsenal are looking to seal their first arrival with Timothy Claypole set to arrive for an undisclosed fee. His versatility is most welcome and his ability to pop up anywhere, often unnoticed until he is in position, will help to cover if Laurent Koscielny’s lacklustre defending is to continue.
There’s a great photo this morning’s Daily Heil with the look on Koeman’s face a mixture of ‘I feel for you, brother’ whilst barely stopping short of laughing like a drain at the sheer incompetence on display.
Ahead of tomorrow’s cup tie with Hull City, Wenger observed that May’s win at Wembley was a boost for the club. It’s something he wants to repeat and as has been the case for the last decade or so, represents Arsenal’s best chance of a trophy.
We’ve got our Arsenal back. The 1978 – 80 version this time, a good cup side but hopelessly off the pace in the league.
Arsène is right, there’s nothing like a cup run to lift the spirits as last season proved. The relief was as much about lifting the millstone of trophyless years as being two-down and winning the final. Losing to Hull didn’t bear thinking about, no matter how much the reality stared us in the face.
It was a match though, which had no bearing on his future. Arsène made it clear that he was remaining in charge no matter what,
Walk away? No. I have just won my 600th game out of 1,000 – that means I have won 60 per cent of the games and after 18 years, you would not be serious to walk away for losing one game. I do my job as well as I can and I respect my contract.
An interesting phraseology and one open to interpretation. Is it as clear-cut as the headline writers and journalists think? His contract expired last summer and he could have walked away, out of contract. But confirmation of Ivan’s view that the new deal was agreed well before the end of the season and all that remained was for it to be signed. Why they waited to announce in the summer is curious but unimportant.
Leaving aside the dubious maths, the manager is in a tough spot over tomorrow’s team. David Ospina is fulfilling the cup goalkeeper role as opposed to any punishment being levied on Wojciech Szczesny. If the Colombian remains between the sticks for the visit of Stoke City to The Emirates in a week’s time, then the Pole knows he has been held mostly culpable for the result at St Mary’s.
In my view, such a reaction would be knee-jerk and the manager can ill-afford such violence in his emotions. Szczesny went into the game off the back of one his best performances of the season but instead of bravado, he was a quivering wreck. What induces such an almost inexplicable change, particularly as the first choice back four was in situ.
For me, that is the most worrying aspect of it all. Who fed that nervousness; the band was back together and the return to the relative parsimony was expected. Is it as simple as Mertesacker believes? Are injuries really to blame? How does that explain away Southampton since it was the strongest back four; it doesn’t.
That Szczesny was repeating mistakes made by Fabianski (for Mane’s opener) and a lack of leadership for the second – as I pointed out yesterday, the Pole could not pick the ball up so why did Debuchy or Mertesacker not hack it away rather than leave an almost prone goalkeeper to deal with it?
There were other incidents such as Koscielny ceding possession which ended in a shot cleared off the line with an inability or unwillingness on the Frenchman’s part to recover position or the ball. It’s more than simply being unfamiliar with each other due to absences caused by injury. There is a fragility in the squad which needs freshening up. Improvement not back-up has to be the order of this transfer window.
We shall see, there are still more than four weeks to go. If new arrivals happen, this window will be successful. There’s no point saying this week or putting any timescale beyond that. This is Arsenal, we don’t do urgency in January.