Attention turns to the last sixteen of the Europa League with Thursday night’s trip to Rennes firmly in view. The foibles of form and the fixture list mean it is our last away game for one month while the second leg is our last game for 17 days thanks to the international break.
Little wonder our away game at Molineux is yet to be re-arranged. The longer our run in the Europa League, the fewer opportunities there are to reschedule. Indeed, the Premier League’s insistence that the season finishes on 12th May means the match is likely to be played on 4th April. That will be unpopular with Wolves given they face Manchester United on 2nd April.
It will also wind United, Chelsea and the way they are playing, Tottenham up something chronic. Which makes it imperative that we reach the semi-finals of this tournament at the very least.
A potential clusterf*ck because of regulations. It’s a genuine problem as well. We’re not defending a three-goal lead and complaining, just looking to fit a game in. How much of a winner are you when you take a three-goal lead with no away goals conceded and moan that you’ve played on a Saturday lunchtime?
Back to Arsenal after that brief interlude.
The trip to Rennes offers an opportunity for rotation. It’s a game where the decision on whether Ramsey or Özil plays is the centre of attention. The former’s inclusion against Tottenham indicates it is likely to be the latter.
There’s a strong argument supporting Özil playing. It’s less “physical” than United will be yet the guile he provides could be crucial on Sunday. The decision depends on how much Unai Emery is focused on the damage United’s counter-attacks wrought in the FA Cup tie.
I Fought The Law But The Law Won
Before we get carried away on this weakened team malarkey, can we just remember that in the past five away games, we have lost three and suffered defeat in five of the last ten. Taking victory for granted is jumping the gun a little, especially since Mustafi is likely to play in the centre of defence.
Elsewhere, the IFAB came up with some sensible and not so sensible rule changes. Sanity prevailed one point; the notion of a saved penalty or one which struck the woodwork gives rise to a goalkick is madness. They saw it that way as well. Eventually.
Several months too late, the IFAB ruled goals scored after accidentally striking a player’s arm won’t count. Think Aguero at City earlier this season; we’d have only lost 2 – 1.
Other changes include players “can” leave the pitch via the nearest touchline. Surely the more effective way of dealing with timewasting is taking timekeeping out of the referees control, as is the case with rugby league. Get an official timekeeper who monitors such matters. The guideline could be 10 seconds to leave the pitch and get the sub on; anything more sees 10 seconds plus time wasted added on. So 15 seconds to get this done adds 25 to the end of the game. Or if you are losing ten seconds is docked from time added on. Incentivise the coaches and players to get their arses in gear.
Jumping to the Wrong Conclusions
The intriguing change is banning attacking players from being within 1 metre of the wall. If you look at how badly these situations are often managed by officials, it’s not a bad move. Jostling in the wall, making a hole for the ball to travel through; all things of the past. Watch how many line up a wall in front of the wall, get the attacking wall to jump which the defensive wall will copy as the ball sails underneath. Footballing genius.
These things are major changes and will surely help fight the curse of modern football, namely referees who don’t apply the rules properly. Oh…
Three days on from Tottenham and Taylor’s mismanagement continues to be in the spotlight. So much so that we’ve been rewarded with Jon Moss taking charge on next weekend’s clash with Manchester United. To be honest, I can’t wait for VAR to come in although judging by Saturday’s fiasco, it won’t do much good.
“Yes, Anthony, there was a stamp on the goal-line you need to check.”
“No, it’s all good. I saw it and he was just disentangling his studs.”
“Yes, sometimes you must repeatedly stamp downwards to get them free.”