That ray of sunshine in your life called Arsenal FC? There’s a black cloud headed in its’ direction and it’s called Ray Parlour.
They call him a ‘bubbly character’ but when it comes to discussing Arsenal’s title hopes, he was absolutely realistic: we aren’t going to win it.
Of course we’re not; I don’t think anyone seriously believes we will. But after recent years, the last decade, let us have a little joy in the sun. We’ll come crashing down to earth soon enough; that’s the Arsenal Way, offering a glimmer of hope and then smashing it into little pieces.
Honestly, I don’t think we’d have it any other way. Tweaked a little, maybe…
The Heil reports we’re after renewing Matteo Guendouzi’s contract and offering him a new deal worth £70k per week. That seems fairly standard for a first-team regular. Can’t wait for the op-ed in tomorrow’s Heil which claims he’s doing an English player out of a job and Brexit will sort him out. Probably be written by Mrs Michael Gove.
For once, Steve Stammers is wonderfully understated. Or the sub-ed is; Guendouzi is a “useful asset” we’re told. He is part of the midfield conundrum Unai Emery faces: who to pick?
Of the midfielders picked so far this, only Granit Xhaka hasn’t performed well. I know people think I pick on him and yes, I know some think he’s brilliant. He isn’t.
Socrates was a brilliant central midfielder. So too Roberto Baggio, Danielle De Rossi, and Andrea Pirlo. Closer to home, Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva. Cesc as well, provided you ignore the rodent qualities he developed. These are players who were brilliant.
Xhaka is some way off that, even on a good day.
There is a but coming: it isn’t all down to him…
That’s a Fairly Big But
It isn’t. Granit Xhaka isn’t a defensive midfielder but that’s frequently the role he is tasked with. He’s not fast enough and unlike Bobby Moore, doesn’t read the game well enough to make up for that.
Lucas Torreira is much more of what we need in that role. Scurrying, tackling, breaking the game up; it’s not Xhaka’s natural game and I don’t think these are skills easily learned.
Which puts him in direct competition for a place in the side with Ceballos, Guendouzi and Ozil. Willock, AMN and Smith Rowe can be added to that list for next season. That’s a lot of competition and I’ve yet to see Xhaka consistently put himself down as the first name on the midfield teamsheet.
All of them have their faults. The youngsters are still learning while Ozil hasn’t tackled anything since he was a youngster. Even then the wet paper bag got away unscathed; it isn’t his game.
Guendouzi still hits the turf too easily, for example. If Dinosaur Dyche were upset at one man, it might be him although I doubt Sean the Stegosaurus could pinpoint one incident; sling enough mud and it sticks. Eventually.
That’s just an example. None are perfect but the energy of the youngsters is something we need more of in my view and it isn’t something Xhaka brings.
He does have the experience to counter that although like everyone in a red and white shirt, he suffers from brain farts. No-one is perfect. I just think there are better fits.
Which is a long way of saying Guendouzi is doing well, deserves a new deal although structuring it into bonuses might be something worth considering? The new Arsenal and all that.
Backdoor Super League? Of Course It’s Sneaky: UEFA Is Involved
Sitting as we are joint-top of the table, changes to the Champions League are of interest. Until we slide into Europa League obscurity for while.
One of the options UEFA is considering for the new Champions League is four groups of eight, with the bottom two then replaced in the knockout phase by the Europa League semi-finalists. The remaining four places will be decided by a “pre-tournament knockout phase will take place between teams who performed well in their domestic league.”
The readers of this blog are intelligent people and note that 4 + 4 = 8 which leaves 24 teams unaccounted for. That’s because they are already decided; the 24 are those who deserve to be in the competition, not on merit but on how well they performed in previous Champions League.
I doubt the benchmark will be their ‘on the pitch’ achievements; this has their contribution to marketing revenues written all over it. Will Arsenal benefit? Assuming the four-clubs per nation rule continues, there’s more merit in us being one of the 24 than Spurs on that basis, for example.
I’ll stop there; it’s all I need to think about if the Champions League goes down that route.
If it sounds like a fiendish plan concocted in the laboratory of a mad professor, you’re not far off; this is UEFA, experts in creating a monster which destroys the notion of sporting competition while wearing a St. Pauli t-shirt because it’s achingly hip. More hip than the hipster wearing a Dortmund 1975 retro top.
As per usual, it’s a terrible idea. Beyond crap. The ideal structure for European competitions was a pure knockout tournament; three of them, in fact. One for the champions only; one for domestic cup winners and one for everyone else.
Achingly Beautiful But Destroyed By Vile Hands
There is room in that set-up for the fourth tournament which is coming soon. A UEFA Cup for the smaller nations. European football for everyone.
It’s what they had until a marketing shill decided that the champions needed more football in an already crowded calendar. Did they insist on cutting the top flights of each league to eighteen or fewer clubs? Did they heck as like.
This is driven by money and every decision is made for money’s sake. Sporting competition died in football when seeding was introduced. That simply stopped the big clubs exiting the competitions in round one. Television paid the money and became the piper. Football’s administrators simply morphed into rodents who preferred eating each other on the way to power.
No administrator at national or international level is a guardian of the game. They are leeches, sucking the lifeblood from football in the same dreadful manner as club owners. Football, always as a status symbol, is just a rich man’s toy.
And when the rich man gets bored or proves to be a pauper in disguise, the club, the fans, staff and players suffer. Just ask those at Bolton Wanderers and Bury. David Conn’s tweet yesterday summed it up:
This isn’t all about the Premier League leeching money or not sharing enough but that’s where it began. The real issues at Bolton and Bury are rogue owners. Someone always bails out a football club, don’t they?
Is this the time they don’t?