“I love it when the player is as good as possible. If he does not play on an international level, a bit is lost.”Arsène Wenger on Mesut Özil
For a man whose entire management career saw him rail against international football and overuse of players, it is surprising Arsène Wenger feels Mesut Özil must return to the Germany team if he is to play his best for the club. And you can bet he wouldn’t be saying that were he still in charge at the Emirates…
Wenger hasn’t lost his sense of humour. “In the next five years, it might happen that social media substitutes players during a match…This will happen.”
The twinkle in his eye as he spoke hinted that the “I’ve got 22 years experience” as he’s told to substitute a favoured son.
Where that will be is another matter. PSG still hover in the background; maybe he’s talking about Germany because relegation to Nations League B won’t be seen as a year or two schlepping around new grounds. It certainly will be Joachim Low’s resignation note and a long one at that.
Wherever he ends up, good luck to him. He will inspire the players, as he did with Thierry Henry. Not that the new Monaco boss learned about football from him. No, that was from Pep Guardiola.
Pep for me is the reference. We learnt how to play the game when I went to Barcelona under him.Thierry Henry…ouch!
Whether the intention was to be as brutal as it sounds in bites on an electronic back page is another matter. It underlines the difference in approach of both coaches. Guardiola, the pragmatist, involved and student of football; Wenger, paternal and nurturing.
If he finds the balance between the two, Henry could be a success.
Bruised Ankles, Bananas & Egos
On the Arsenal front, the international stragglers returned to training and we photographed being all intense and that. Everyone is fit who was expected to be apparently.
Danny Welbeck’s hamstring twanged but stopped reverberating so he’s back with the squad while Mesut Özil’s back isn’t spasming any more. Sokratis has a bruised ankle which will match the bruised banana next season’s away kit is sure to be.
The most intriguing returnee is Ainsley Maitland-Niles. If he didn’t have a double-barrelled surname already, ‘versatility’ would be inserted as one of them. However, his return offers an interesting dilemma for Unai Emery: who makes way in the squad? A short spell on the bench before 90 minutes against Blackpool? That may have been a match marked down as one for Elneny but I suspect, will see AMN and Guendouzi in tandem.
Which begs the question of what now for the Egypt international? Certainly, it seems only a run of bad injuries will put him into contention for the Arsenal XI. A January exit seems likeliest for Elneny which wouldn’t hurt the squad in terms of numbers. Six midfielders – seven if you class Alex Iwobi as one – without counting any of the youngsters such as Smith Rowe (still no hyphen), Willock, etc.
The squad is evolving, with Welbeck and Cech still seemingly heading toward the Emirates exit when contracts expire. An overhaul of the squad is only to be expected with a new boss but it seems most of the work may be completed in three transfer windows, even with the reportedly miniscule transfer budget we have next summer.
That’s a conversation for another day. There are plenty of those between now and kick-off against Leicester City on Monday night…