Ornstein has spoken:
Jay Leno decides today if he’s coming to Arsenal but reading between the lines, we probably won’t find out for a few days yet. July is a production line of new signings. Sokratis is pencilled in already and more are likely to follow. It is reassuring to see us working effectively in squad strengthening at this early stage.
Of course, Ornstein let himself down with the Torreira comment. Some are still pushing that his medical is tomorrow and that there will be an empty seat on the Uruguay bench for their match against Saudi Arabia.
We’re none the wiser which goalkeeper Leno is replacing. Napoli want Cech for a season although they are also looking at PSG’s Areola. Presumably, they think he might make a right tit of himself so need some back-up now Pepe Reina is AC Milan’s Pepe Reina and not Napoli’s Pepe Reina.
Ospina, however, is peculiarly and perpetually linked to a move to the Super Lig. It is the only destination touted for him. Ever. Genuinely, I do not think I’ve ever seen such ‘brand loyalty’ in a nation’s transfer market. Even ageing players face a choice of China, MLS or the Middle East. Not Ospina though. He is Turkey or nothing. Not even a return to Ligue Un or his homeland: just Turkey.
You can make a case for either to stay or go; they are both much of a muchness and both have their own peculiar weaknesses. Cech’s are rooted in age catching up with him in much the same way it did with ‘Safe Hands’. Nothing he can do about that beyond retiring gracefully.
Ospina is Ospina; a strange signing given how short he is. At time when the average ‘keeper is 6’5″, we signed a relative Oompah-Loompah.
Young Guns, Go For It
Elsewhere, the Under-21s are participating in the Checkatrade Trophy next season and from memory, some of the group games must take place at the Emirates. It will be interesting to see how Arsenal approach the ticket pricing on that, particularly with the notoriously low crowds the competition attracts.
The Academy sides participation is the thin-end of the wedge for some. They remain convinced this is the Premier League clubs using a backdoor to get their youth teams into the Football League. If a European Super League comes into existence, that might happen anyway.
The young players can only benefit from it, as Per observed yesterday. Their learning curves are not steep enough when it comes to bridging the gap between the academy and first-team football. In ‘the good old days’, they had the South-Eastern Counties League, followed by the Football Combination where they mixed with old pros and those with knackered knees. But they learned valuable lessons. That gap isn’t closed for young players today, so if this helps…
Two being given their chance of Calum Chambers and Rob Holding. Reports suggest Unai Emery wants to see how the pair develop during pre-season training before deciding on their futures. Fulham is suggested as a destination for Chambers, but Holding is very low-key.
The pair deserves a fair crack of the whip after Arsène threw them under the bus on more than one occasion. It will be interesting to see if – or how – they handle a coach who is intense on the training ground after Wenger’s laissez-faire – or lazy fare, depending on your viewpoint – approach.
The same holds for Hector Bellerin. He’s apparently an ‘untouchable’ with Emery feeling he is first-choice without competition. Lichtsteiner, useful for experience and leadership, will very much be a cup full-back.
Which brings us to the World Cup. Belgium swatted aside Panama eventually, after 45 minutes of obdurate defending. Martins ‘ice-breaker’ was an outstanding finish while Lukaku took his goals well but there’s no doubt that Panama are the weakest team in the group.
England on the other hand were surprisingly bright to begin with and Kane took his opening goal well. There followed a masterclass in bad refereeing. Short of spearing, Kane and the England team faced every kind of grapple and impediment at corners. It’s baffling that the VAR didn’t give at least one penalty, particularly when Kane was almost bodyslammed to the floor.
The referee seemed entirely laid back about everything bar the penalty England conceded. Not even waiting for VAR confirmation, he booked Walker. Had VAR made him look again, his ego would have taken a battering. England didn’t play badly and compared to the opening games in recent World Cups, it was a lot better.
Would a taller goalkeeper have stopped the penalty? Pickford got a hand to it so there’s a sense that a 6’4 goalkeeper had a better chance of stopping it; who knows? Peter Shilton was short and had a poor record at saving penalties. Just to screw the theory up, Paul Cooper of Ipswich, shorter than both seemed unbeatable from 12 yards for a while.
Anyway, England won and that’s all that matters. When it came to goal difference, we were never going to seriously rival Belgium. Had Jack Wilshere been in Russia, we might have unlocked the Tunisian defence a lot more often; ifs, buts, and maybes.
Mo Elneny faces a must-win game against Russia while Ospina will look to prove me wrong by having a blinding game as the final group gets going and Colombia face Japan.