On Mkhitaryan and Squad Rotation

Politics and sport never mix, with the latest sorry incident to stuff into a packed back catalogue being Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s withdrawal from the Arsenal squad for Thursday night’s game in Baku.

It’s tempting to be derisory and refer to Qarabag as so many others have: FC Carrier Bag. That’s unduly disrespectful to the…what the hell, we’re football fans for god’s sake.

It’s unsurprising Mkhitaryan isn’t going and disappointing. Looking far into the future and probably over-optimistically, but what will UEFA’s solution be for the final in Baku next year?

Don’t get your hopes up. When Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in 1968, UEFA’s solution was to keep clubs from both nations apart in the draw. No ban or forcing games to be played on neutral ground, just the prospect of “CSKA Moscow will play…Slovan Bratislava. Er, no they won’t; Werder Bremen. CSKA Moscow versus Werder Bremen.”

Nobody knew that happened, of course. No 25-minute introduction of a former player and videos of his exploits, followed by the best goals of last season in those days. No television cameras panning an audience of suited and bespectacled men whose faces are perfect for radio. Those were the days when three men with a notepad in a smoke-filled room, sat drinking coffee and made the draw.

The first you knew about it was the following day when the sports pages carried the news of the exotic lands to where your heroes would journey. You then referred to the well-thumbed Rothmans to see the history of whatever team you faced.

Opponents were tough or easy depending on their history against English clubs ten years earlier. Unless they played one of the ‘big’ teams – and there were only two or three at the time, unlike the contrived mess we have today.

Soviet Prison? I’ll Tell You What A Soviet Prison Looks Like!

And it was fluid as well. If a team was ‘big’, they had to win trophies to stay there. Fail to lift silverware for a season or two, and they were ‘fallen giants’. A club wasn’t big just because they signed the best player in the world. It was a title which had to be earned.

Fans were told to be careful; the police ‘over there’ don’t take any prisoners. The players never worried about that; their bête noire were border guards and customs officials.

But I’ve digressed enough for today. Back to Mkhitaryan. I confess I don’t recall a story back then of players not travelling for political reasons. Mainly because squads were full of English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh players. The glut of overseas players began in the late ’70s with the Argentineans at Tottenham, Birmingham, and Sheffield United.

I don’t blame Mkhitaryan for not going either. It’s not a meaningless game but one we ought to win comfortably. Oooh, but they held Atletico twice last year and they beat us in the semi-final. Get back in the playground with your Rothmans.

The squad will be the usual mix of ne’er do wells, reserves, and fringe players. Key personnel will stay at home – Sokratis, for example, is unlikely to figure, surely? – while others who aren’t getting a look in for the Premier League – Elneny – get the chance to press their claims before being sold next summer. Or in January, in Aaron Ramsey’s case.

I’d expect the Welshman to play, possibly in his favoured central role with Mesut Ozil rested. Ramsey’s contract situation doesn’t warrant being dropped; that’s just cutting off your nose to spite your face.

What Difference Does It Make?

Unai Emery will play his best players for each game but we’re getting back to the time when Wenger played Ramsey on the right. It suits on occasions but never gets the best out of the player. Noticeably, when he plays on the right, the criticism of him increases. Coincidence?

Anyway, whatever the case, we’ll rotate just as we always do for the cup games. Sunday lunchtime kick-off or 4.30 that afternoon makes no difference to the team’s routine or fatigue. If we want a real impact, Monday night football is the way to go after Europa League matches.

English football arranging fixtures to help clubs succeed in Europe? Whatever next?

’til Tomorrow.

38 thoughts on “On Mkhitaryan and Squad Rotation

  1. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    K9 and Sarah Jane Smith!

  2. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    I’ve no idea YW! It was a spin off and they both assisted the good Dr!? Is it to do with Ramsey being a bit part player until his departure in the summer!? (I’m not buying into this being sold in Jan lark! No club, that Mr Ramsey thinks he should be playing for, will take him in Jan for any fee, when they know they can get him on a free in the summer. Any unfashionable club who might like to take a punt on Mr Ramsey in Jan, won’t have the kind of funds that might persuade Mr Ramsey and his consortium to change employer.)

    I’m terrible when it comes to associating pictures with words!

  3. C says:

    Maybe Mhkitaryan saw the hell that Ozil went through and how it bled over to futbol and thought otherwise. Shame really but it does afford Ramsey the chance to play in his favored position UNLESS Emery plays Smith-Rowe.

  4. ferkov says:

    Completely relevant to news yesterday…

    Did K9 lift a leg at the Tory conference?

  5. ferkov says:


    Hope he plays SR And Eddie. Save Danny and Rambo for Sunday’s bench.

  6. ferkov says:

    Completely relevant to news yesterday…

    Found this from last week.
    ‘engineers give robot dog an extra arm to be humans’ new best friend’
    Make of it what you will.

  7. C says:


    I actually think we can fit Smith-Rowe, Eddie and Welbeck but I’m sure Emery will play Ramsey.

  8. Steve says:

    Pity that Mkhytarian misses out as I would like him to push more for that spare place in the first 11. Ramsey is not playing well and is playing so far forward as to offer little in any sense of a conventional midfield role, in terms of attacking and creative play then Henrik definitely offers more and in his games this season has done well in this respect. Had a few howler moments as well but in the main has contributed.

    He is a class act and I would love to see him bring the best out of his old Dortmund pal Aubameyang who is another that can contribute more.

  9. Alex Ice Cream says:


    I disagree about Ramsey – he should be dropped. We need to send a message to these overrated players that we are not going to be dicked about like we have been under Wenger’s watch. Either you sign or will be sold and if you aren’t sold you will be dropped. This might focus the minds of players like Ramsey who are nowhere near as good as they think they are. I would still keep him in the squad, make him play in Europa or if we need him due to injury but as a first teamer he needs dropping immediately.

    The contract situation is secondary though – his form is simply not worthy of a first team place. The way to get the best out of him is to let him run around and do what the hell he wants – i.e. it wont happen at any “top” team. He has been rubbish this season and last season scored the grand total of 1 Prem goal. Didn’t Mustafi score more than that? This is a player in decline who – 2013-14 apart – has been average to just above average for 10 years.

    Another reason to bench him is to see if we can force him to take a move in Jan. He is more likely to leave if on the bench as this looks bad on Brand Ramsey.

    We have a new manager with new (some?) ideas and new system. Why waste time trying to adapt to a new system with players who have no future at the club? This makes no sense.

    Keeping him in the first team is weak and sends out the completely wrong message. He isn’t good enough for the first team anyway.

  10. ferkov says:

    Alex Ice Cream,

    Boom. Apart from the weak bit , which I think is iffy, i totally agree.
    Now cards are on the table , bench him. Make him go looking for green pastures .Start playing systems that don’t involve him, with or without recruiting a replacement in January? Sign or not we should buy his replacement in January. Don’t think that needs to be an 8, before u start C, but a first team player. Bona fide winger sounds good.

  11. Set me free says:

    Yes, totally agree with Mr Icecream. Although I’ve always thought that Ramsey would be a key player for us, if he doesn’t want to stay there is no point having him near the first team. He isn’t going to put in the effort anyway, particularly given his injury record and what that may do to his future earning potential.
    Bench him for the league games, give a few cup games and possibly even make a point of subbing him in them, score permitting.
    Make a point. As Mr whippet (sorry couldn’t help it) says, brand Ramsey won’t be happy with that and just may want out as quickly as possible.

  12. Set me free says:

    Phucking auto correct, must remember to check during rants, that should read mr whippy, not whippet.

  13. Blue Yonder says:

    I would like to see SR, Nketiah and Welbeck all feature but I also think Emery will want some starters in the cup games just in case. With Ramsey, if the club hopes to sell him in January, he will need to be featured. If that doesn’t happen, then look for Ramsey’s playing time to be reduced. Regardless of the contract, he simply doesn’t justify a start right now. Still don’t understand how, after starting against Watford and playing poorly, he sulked when replaced. I think players will soon realize (if they haven’t already) that they will get hooked if they don’t perform.

  14. C says:

    Think I’ll watch Le Coq and Gabriel(wouldn’t it be good to have his pace, quickness and no non-sense defending) against Manure.

  15. ferkov says:


    Cited just grabbed a win in Germany. Thank fuck for that. Keep them out of the Europa. At least.

  16. YW says:

    Good grief.

    The man who voiced K9 in the 1970s also played Bungle in 1972. (For the non-English) Bungle was a bear in Rainbow, a staple British TV programme for kids in the 70s and 80s. The host of Rainbow, Geoffery Hayes, died yesterday.

    There was something odd about the programme though. Rod, Jane, and Freddy was originally Rod, Jane, and Matthew, but he left to shove his hand up Sooty’s bum for a couple of decades. Freddy came on board and trouble’s a-brewing. Rod and Jane were married, then they weren’t. Then rumours abounded that Jane and Freddy were doing the dirty, which they denied. Then they admitted it. Jane and Freddy got married and lived happily ever after. So did Rod.

  17. nicky says:

    I fear that the “slough of despond” surrounding Ramsey, his form and his apparent intransigent position vis a vis the renewal of his contract, is spreading to this site.
    There are clearly contrasting views on both sides, although I hope that until a solution has been reached, football will be the winner. 😉

  18. LSG says:


    And then go out in the round of 16 to a relative minnow.

  19. C says:

    This ref has given Valencia 2 yellows yet Manure have on multiple occassions (taken one for the team) yet its just a firm talking to.

  20. C says:


    Would be perfect as we march on.

    If I offered you the EL crown and say 5th in the PL….would you take it right now?

  21. ferkov says:


    The Valencia ones have been more blatant, but not as frequent I agree.
    Makes me happy seeing le coq throwing himself about. Few good touches too.
    Gabriel tho. Now we’ve got a Spanish coach, what a bollock dropped. Quick and aggressive. Got Lukaku tucked away ….so far. Maybe Mavropanos is even better !

  22. ferkov says:

    If the final was in March. Yes.

  23. C says:


    Yea but how many times can a ref give ‘1 more chance’ to the same player.

    Le Coq is putting himself about. I was always a Gabriel fan ans think he got a bad deal because he wasn’t a typical Arsene CB, but your right. Quick, pacy, tough and no non-sense, he would have been really good for us under Emery. Lukuka is nicely tucked away in Gabriel’s pocket.

  24. C says:

    And another shit referring decision.

  25. C says:

    500/wk and Sanchez again looks dreadful

  26. C says:

    Sorry Bill, Sanchez AGAIN proving Ozil was the better option to keep and cost 200k/wk less.

  27. ferkov says:

    I fear that the“slough of despond” surrounding Ramsey, his form and his apparent intransigent position vis a vis the renewal of his contract,is spreading to this site.
    There are clearly contrasting views on both sides, although I hope that until a solution has been reached, football will be the winner.

    Hi Nicky
    I’m new to this blog the past couple of years. I appreciate many aspects of it , especially the generally reasonable balance of hearty opinion.
    I agree with you that there seems to be general acceptance on here that Rambo is done. But you say there is an alternative narrative. I for one would be very interested to hear it. I’m a big, longstanding fan of his. And I’ve got a signed shirt I need to protect the equity of. 🤑

  28. consolsbob says:


    Well I never.

    A bit late in the day for me, never watched children’s TV in the 70’s, too busy getting stoned and pissed.

    What you youngsters got upto in those days, eh? Rainbow? I didn’t half miss out.

  29. ferkov says:


    Still stringing a good sentence together tho. Hats off !

    Don’t dare tell me you didn’t watch Capt Pugwash with a wry smile and a Tennants Super!

  30. nicky says:


    Hi fercov,
    I’m with you as being a great admirer of Ramsey.
    Sadly, when a player refuses to extend his contract AND his performance suffers, inevitably he will have to leave. Either by seeing out his contract OR by being transferred during the penultimate transfer window.
    What disappoints me in particular is that during the Summer, there was much talk of Emery “building the side around Ramsey”. 😉

  31. Alex Ice Cream says:


    Why did Ramsey not sign the contract that was on the table? Surely that’s the disappointing thing not that: i) Raul and or Emery realised that Ramsey is not that good or ii) whoever controls the money these days had second thoughts, or iii) Gazidis sanctioned the proposed contract and since he has now left the contract was withdrawn.

    What is it about him that you “admire”?

  32. ferkov says:

    Alex Ice Cream,

    I like his shirt.
    I don’t understand why they haven’t renegotiated a contract to suit the situation.
    He wants more , He’s not impressing the new manager. The new manager seems to have persisting faith in him, but ?has condoned the removal of contract offer.
    Why not a years extension?
    Then he can have renewed motivation , Emery has faith in his commitment, they can part company in the Summer if it’s not worked.
    Hope we can get Danny to sign an extension like that.

  33. nicky says:

    Alex Ice Cream,

    I have no idea why Ramsey has so far failed to sign a new contract. The present wage of top echelon players is so obscene (IMO) that I have given up trying to understand the meaning of professional football contracts.
    I have always admired Ramsey’s ability of turning minute chances into goals and scoring vital goals into victories.
    He’s inconsistent but then so are most Arsenal players these days. It’s a “trait” the Club developed in the late 1930s, I’m afraid. 😉

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