The FA Cup defence begins on the banks of the Trent. Nottingham Forest occupied a regular slot in the fixture list but reduced circumstances mean cup ties are now the only meetings. It’s the FA Cup though and that’s not until 2018. Before then, we’ve got to get our season back up to speed.
It’s strange to say that after one defeat but when your target for the campaign is a minor placing, that’s how it is. Redemption might come quickly. Sam Allardyce’s chewing gum flavoured spittle will spray the Anfield turf this weekend in the Merseyside derby. By the time that kicks-off, we’ll have taken all three points at St Mary’s. Hopefully.
Sandwiched between a meaningless European game and League Cup tie, Southampton is a testing fixture for Arsène. Not in the usual ‘graveyard of dreams’ way, but in a ‘does he value loyalty to the players over what’s best for the team or club’ way.
I genuinely can’t remember the last time a player was dropped for poor form. We should see that this weekend without the ‘injury’ in training to save his bacon. This time, Thursday’s match against BATE will tell us much about how Wenger is approaching Southampton.
It isn’t unfeasible for a player to feature on Thursday and Sunday, but next Wednesday as well? The team which finishes the Europa League is sure to be rested this weekend. If Shkodran Mustafi’s Twilight Zone injury is as bad as made out on Saturday evening, does Wenger play Rob Holding in three games in seven days, four in ten?
The midfield likewise. Jack Wilshere isn’t up to three games in a week so an appearance on Thursday pretty much stops Xhaka getting the chop in his favour. Unless Francis Coquelin returns to the starting line-up at Southampton?
Life Begins at the Hop
Lots of ifs, buts and maybes. More answers will come at tomorrow’s press conference but the defensive performance was such that change is required.
Change at the top of the club occupies minds. Raul Sanllehi begins work after the January transfer window which comes as little surprise. Did he serve a curtailed notice period on the understanding no new job can begin for the next transfer window? Who knows.
Wenger of old never placed great store in the January window other than being a good time to buy players so they have six months to adapt to the English game. His words explaining his philosophy around the time of landing, Jose Antonio Reyes, paraphrased into mine. However, the calibre of player we must be looking at, shouldn’t need that long adaptation period. Alexandre Lacazette did, in Wenger’s mind at least.
Lemar, Goretzka, Tom, Dick and Harry; they’re all linked with us, touted around the marketplace like a cheap piece of meat. We may sign someone, but only if Sanchez or Özil are going. I’m amazed to read around this electronic world that people still think they will stay. We’re beyond that point with players, I think, no matter what the manager might think about contracts.
It’s not the most bizarre thing in the Arsenal world either. Anti-social media saw Ian Wright pulled up on criticising Arsenal, along with the other Match of the Day pundits. Who cares what they think in that setting? They are asked for an opinion and give it.
That’s life, get over it. Wright is as passionate as any ex-player but trying to pretend all is well with Arsenal is just madness. We aren’t challenging for the title or European honours; we talk the elite talk but walk it aided by a rotting cane.
Heading for the Edge of a Cliff
There’s a strange code which developed since we moved to the Emirates; ex-players must be loyal to the club or they are nothing. I saw Patrick Vieira criticised yesterday for managing NY City, one of Manchester City’s offspring.
Vieira, a City player and coach, was never courted by Arsenal once he left the club. However, because he chose to work for another former employer, his status is diminished. Apparently. Even by the standard of the Looney Toons, this is a bizarre rationale.
Supporters are goading each other into extremes and the gullible only too willing to adopt a contrarian stance. Sven Mislintat offers the view that expectations of him of out of control. “If I follow the press in England and Germany, I am expected to find a Dembelé in every transfer period,” he told Kicker. “I’m going to build an incredibly high podium.”
That view was espoused by supporters long before the press picked up on it. A seed was planted in minds and like knotweed, it over-ran them. When the English media runs with Mislintat’s interview, who will be the first to use “Christmas Time, Mislintat and Whine”?
Just me then. And no, he isn’t whining but how long before questions start about what exactly he does at the club?
I wish I could put it down to the ‘Christmas time of the year’ but you can’t. It’s nothing to do with that at all…