English football returns this afternoon with Liverpool and Manchester City playing out a turgid goalless draw at Wembley in the Community Shield. If Guardiola’s men win, it’s a quadruple in 2019; four trophies in a year, never been done before, etc. Klopp, meanwhile, is poised to land Liverpool’s first-ever Premier League title.
That’s the media narrative. And yes, I’d like us to be in either position so there’s the usual hint of bitterness in those words. Jealousy is a nasty virus which eats away at you in that sense. Still, when we get back to that level, we’ll be the most free-scoring side in the history of English football.
Perhaps we’ll throw in the record for most goals conceded by champions as well. “One-nil to the Arsenal” will be sung in a post-modernist ironic way because we don’t do defence.
And, it seems, we don’t do defenders. Or maybe we ‘do’ defenders but the question is whether we’ll sign any with Kieran Tiernay’s deal being questioned. Not by me; I say sign him.
Doubts are surfacing over his fitness. He’s recovering from a double-hernia with osteitis pubis thrown in. The internet equivalent of the Reader’s Digest Family Health Guide and Medical Encyclopedia is taking a hell of a battering this weekend as everyone looks up what osteitis pubis is. “Ouch” is essentially the answer. A few months to recover is the general consensus and that ties into this morning’s ‘eight weeks out’ narrative.
Eight weeks? So, that’s four weeks of club football because of the international breaks in September and October; is it that much? Especially when, as I may have mentioned before, we have bigger defensive problems than at left-back. That’s mainly because our left-backs are playing anywhere but left-back even when they are selected at left-back.
We have a history in signing injured players which should stand us in good stead. Kim Kallstrom, Denis Suarez; they were loan signings, not permanent deals. That’s the difference so we shouldn’t worry about it. Maybe we also ought to realise that those were decisions made by the previous regime. Raul won’t be getting a statue if he makes the same poor judgements.
Of course, it won’t be Raul’s fault. Absolving Edu of any blame for this transfer window was taking one for the team. Or was it? Did he know about the Pepe deal and was setting himself up to be the latest suit ‘rock star’. Or ‘rock star’ suit, which conjures up all sorts of images of him in spandex belting out Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in its entirety.
Oh to see the faces of the Barcelona suits when turns up in that garb to negotiate the signing of Philippe Coutinho.
That loan deal is gathering pace with the Catalans ready to negotiate the return of the over-rated wild child, Neymar Jr. According to some media reports, the fee for borrowing Coutinho for two years is a staggering £107m. I know we made £45m stretch to more than that but seeing a loan fee at that level surely makes you run around screaming “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”
Tierney is more realistic. Watching Neil Lennon’s journey on this whole saga is hilarious. From bolshy defiance to a simpering resignation that the bluster counted for nothing. Such is his unbridled resentment that it’s becoming difficult to see where his head ends and his hair begins. Celtic’s 7 – 0 win yesterday ought to soothe his furrowed brow.
Onto Pleasant Things – Well Done Arsenal
Television, along with the Europa League, continues to wreak havoc on the fixture list. We don’t have a Saturday, 3pm kick-off until November. In the meantime, we visit Manchester United and Sheffield United on Monday nights which means no train service home.
Sky doesn’t care for away fans travelling in numbers. In fact, they would much prefer you to stay home and watch it on their expensive subscription service. So long as home fans turn up in enough numbers, there will be enough of a crowd for some atmosphere of sorts.
Today we face our final demon from the Champions League era. We did Bayern, now it’s Barcelona. Trips to the Nou Camp invariably saw us dumped unceremoniously from the competition. With our tails between our legs or cursing the officials.
Our defensive issues are not going away and ignoring them won’t fix them. Indeed, they’ll only come back and bite you on the Arsenal during the season. At a crucial moment. We’ve all watched football for long enough to know that is an immutable truth; we’ll struggle to make the top four if our philosophy is to win 6 – 4.
It’s great to win games by that sort of scoreline but ultimately damaging. We won’t win playing flamboyant open football at Anfield or the Etihad. Instead, we’ll get battered. As per, young man, as per, I hear you say.
My concern is that a good result today deflects attention away from that . It’s a friendly; neither side is looking for anything more than patterns and fitness; a win is good but a defeat isn’t the end of the world. The former boosts confidence, the latter confirms what we already know or at least, the manner of it does.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.