The eyes of the world are once more on the football family as the French arrive at Wembley. England expects every man, woman and child will do their duty and show brotherly love to the noisy neighbours. The union flag was rearranged to the Tricolour after Friday night’s tragic events in Paris and I hope that the humanity of the evening shines through.
Who knows what sort of match will transpire. The media speculate that the French players aren’t particularly interested in playing whilst Didier Deschamps acknowledged that it would be a difficult game, but the squad were proud to represent their country this evening. The truth is that it will mean different things to different people and I wouldn’t presume to know how they feel. Deschamps though, will surely have a better idea.
They are infrequent visitors to this part of north London, probably because they haven’t stopped laughing at Geoff Thomas’ appalling effort in 1992.
Our seats that night were almost directly below the camera judging by that clip. To think, George Graham was hell-bent on signing the Crystal Palace midfielder even though I haven’t met anyone who thought it was a good idea at the time.
It is almost irrelevant to see who does and doesn’t play. Hopefully the Arsenal pair of Giroud and Koscielny will get a shortened runout with Deschamps resting them ahead of a busy club calendar. We can live in hope but the expectation is that neither will be spared from a full ninety minutes. Returning to the club fit for the weekend’s trip to West Brom will be a positive from the evening.
Roy Hodgson meanwhile is expected to give Kieran Gibbs ninety minutes, keeping up his match sharpness just in case Arsenal need him. The England manager is looking to lower expectations of his squad, as if that were at all possible. “People need to stay patient. We’re not going to win every game: we’re playing these teams for a reason, to get experience“. That was fairly obvious on Friday in Alicante as England didn’t appear to be playing to win.
Away from the England match, Arsène has been speaking further about doping in football. It seems the most modern of football responses. The Football Association asks for an explanation of his previous comments and he answers via a subscription television channel. Will Greg Dyke appreciate the chosen medium for Wenger’s response? I do hope he sees the humour in it; I wouldn’t expect him to see anything else. Contempt? As the man who gave the world Roland bloody Rat, he’s beyond it.
Wenger made some salient points. How could the testing be expected to be effective if only one or two players are tested after a game. With that small a sample, what chance of catching the three or four transgressors who make a difference to the team performance. Dope for puns, as The Ruts would have it.
It didn’t take long for the moment to be seized where sloppy play by the XI (or X after Giroud’s dismissal) and poor team selection were quickly substituted for Arsenal being beaten by drug-crazed Dinamo players. A loaded question offered the opportunity and Wenger took it with some aplomb:
Do you feel Arsenal were more punished than Zagreb?
Yes of course.
Finding a suitable solution will be hard. Wenger suggested blood tests and examining more players. The reality, as he puts it, “can you have 740 football players at a World Cup and come out with zero alert on any doping? It’s a little bit surprising.”
There is a problem in other sports so it is naïve to believe there isn’t an issue in football. The same view held sway about corruption and that is coming back to bite the game hard on its’ arsenal. Reports this morning suggest that new allegations will surface during an Australian documentary on the Fifa crisis.
It is interesting that he is no longer an advocate of creatine. Building muscles is not compatible with the modern game. “Football is more about mobility, speed of movement, quality of coordination so I don’t think it’s of any use”, he said. It’s a change from his early years at the club and perhaps more of a reflection of how his preferred style of play has evolved over time than any dislike of supplements which aid the players physical development.
Time will tell if Wenger can triumph with style over substance.