Sports franchises do have one thing going for them: team names. Not nicknames which reflect the foundation of a club such as the Gunners, or a simple “The Reds” – there’s a reason clubs never wear puce-coloured shirts – but flamboyance.
You could have the hugely unoriginal “Manchester City Oilers” or “Manchester United Moaners”. “Chelsea Siberian Gulags For You”, co-mingles Vladimir Putin’s penal chain stores sponsorship of Abramovich’s investment. Reflecting events of the past, “Tottenham Riot” or “Leicester Shock”.
We can be contemporary as well. If they’ve shut up about Sunday’s penalty, it’s “Burnley Wine” to keep the claret theme of their kit. Or “Burnley Whine” if they are still blathering on about it.
We, of course, given the clubs property development around the rubbish tip, could become the “Arsenal Wasters”.
Huddersfield Town, on the other hand, will be “Plucky Little Huddersfield”. That’s certainly how their performances against both Mancunian clubs this season position them. A win over United – our Watford, for comparison – and running City close last weekend.
There are no two ways about it; this match has all the hallmarks of a banana skin for us. No disrespect to the Terriers, but it’s a game on paper that should be over before kick-off. However, we’ve slipped up before, we’ll do so again; after last night’s results, it’s one we can’t afford to slip up in tonight.
While I don’t think we’re a top four side, Arsène and the players have that as their primary target. Capitalising on Tottenham’s misfortunes is a surefire way to prove doubters wrong.
Huddersfield’s away form is another reason to be optimistic. A win at Palace – nothing unusual – was the only of the seven away matches in which they scored. The other six – nada, zip, zero, nil, nothing. We might be on for a clean sheet.
That depends on which team Wenger fields. It won’t be a Europa League XI but I expect some changes, even if Arsène observed to the contrary. “The most important game is tomorrow,” he said at yesterday’s press conference. “We have a good chance to take three points at home and that is all that matters. We have a big squad to deal with it.”
The last sentence is crucial. Iwobi is out, and I’d expect Ramsey to receive some rest. Having told Jack Wilshere to focus on his fitness, the least Wenger can do is give him a chance to play. Tonight is that opportunity and I wonder if the expectation of a physical evening might persuade Wenger to start with Olivier Giroud?
We don’t need too many changes though but more than anyone, resting Laurent Koscielny seems sensible. Wenger and the medical team possess the stats but public utterances from club and country managers are that he isn’t up to two games per week. While the short-term view is important for the manager, “we have a big squad to deal with it”.
I’d expect the line-up tonight to be:
Cech; Mustafi, Holding, Monreal; Bellerin, Kolasinac, Ramsey, Xhaka; Sanchez, Giroud, Wilshere
The rest of the press conference was about the appointment of Raul Sanllehi, an appointment which appears to have put Arsène’s nose out of joint. “Head of Football Relations” is a director of football by any other name, on the face of it. That’s a sop to Wenger; his previous railings against a director of football would mean humiliation in the eyes of the press.
Arsène was quick to make sure everyone knew he was still in charge. “lSanllehi works] with me. Ivan has nothing to do with buying players.”
Get you. Nah, that wasn’t the ‘get you’ bit…
…I Like My New Role
…this was. He’s the procurer of talent, not Gazidis. “I know them all because I’ve been in the game before them,” he Partridge-esquely declared. “So, of course, I know everybody in every club in Europe. Basically, I know them all.”
You can read into his words whatever meaning you like. The acolytes will shrug their shoulders and tell you there’s nothing to see, move along. With Wenger though, you know there is something to see when he responds to questions with a Derek & Clive attitude, just a lot less sweary.
Sadly for Arsène, there’s a divergence in views about who is involved in transfers. Pointedly, the club statement announcing Raul’s arrival noted, “He will join us in February to lead future player negotiations and work alongside manager Arsene Wenger, chief executive Ivan Gazidis and contract negotiator Huss Fahmy.”
January isn’t looking too promising for new arrivals then.
However, next summer is shaping to be a humdinger. Ivan Gazidis sang the club song with his comment,
“Raul’s appointment is another important step in developing the infrastructure we need at the club to take everything we do to the next level.
“Raul has extensive contacts across the football world and has been directly involved in some of the biggest transfers in Europe in recent years. We look forward to him bringing that expertise to Arsenal.”
Inevitably, the question is whether Arsène will be here to oversee it. “I stick to my contracts” will chorus, omitting the one documented time he tried to resign but was rebuffed.
Next summer is a troublesome transfer window. Closing before the season starts for domestic business, with a World Cup as well? High-pressure times for a club as lethargic as Arsenal in the transfer window.
This Is Not A Love Song
Will Wenger go next summer? There’s a danger of reading too much into the situation. Arsenal are putting a director of football in place, but for the next manager. There’s no way the director of operations at Barcelona left to become Transfer Bloke at Arsenal. It’s will be a wider-ranging role than that.
I don’t think this summer will see Arsène walk away but I do think this is his final contract with the club. If these appointments help him go out in a blaze of glory, which surely everyone bar the numpties who want Arsenal to lose to hasten his departure, wants, more power to everyone’s elbow.
You can’t help but think this is a seismic change. And therein is the danger. Expectations will build, embellishing the role, power and influence of Messrs Sanllehi and Mislintat. Hurling past glories around is no proof of future success in N5.
Salutary tales about hopes being raised at other clubs. Monchi isn’t doing badly at Roma but is a long way from the success he enjoyed at Sevilla. Closer to the home, Steve Walsh had the Midas touch at Leicester; he’s got anything but that at Everton.
Not that I expect either to be the case with Arsenal’s new heads but it’s more a case of not letting hopes spiral out of control. Keeping our feet on the ground and patience, which is in short supply at the moment, will be needed before either is judged a success or failure.
And the only genuine way to judge that is by success on the pitch. Starting tonight.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. And beforehand, pop over to Dad’s Jukebox where a new post, based on the letter ‘W’ is arriving early this afternoon.