The international break is over. No news of bad injuries yet so we assume everyone is fit and relatively healthy. That is a broad definition which ranges from superfit to barely avoiding a wheelchair; a pulse to many coaches seems to be an optional extra.
It begs the question of whether the zombie apocalypse will see an organised football league emerge? Return of the Walking Dead: The Premier League Years.
England proved entertaining last night in a Keystone Kops way. The slapstick defending made me look to see if Shkodran Mustafi changed his name to Michael Keane.
It only took three paragraphs for the cheap jibes to start; pay attention, they will be coming thick and fast. Or is that fast because I’m thick? That saves anyone writing the abusive emails to me today.
There is an opening at the heart of the defence as England plough toward Euro2020. Rob Holding’s return to fitness arrives at a timely moment for club and country.
For Arsenal, we have seven matches in three competitions before the international break interrupts for the last time in 2019. The European games certainly offer a chance of match fitness before the trip to Old Trafford.
There’s a redemptive element to that fixture, a hurdle for Holding to leap psychologically. However, the more important aspect is his reliability. If he returns to that level of performance, it’s a case of who makes way, if they do at all.
With Sokratis and David Luiz showcasing their brand of defensive lunacy in recent big matches, there is an air of desperation for no-nonsense defending; one born of concentration. Holding fulfilled that aspect last season and set a high bar for expectations. Can he match them?
Juggling Your Balls
Emery will probably ease him back in, starting with Stuttgart and Liege; two matches to get up to speed? With Calum Chambers sitting alongside, it rests Luiz and Sokratis for the Premier League games.
Mustafi at right-back, almost out of harm’s way, for those matches seems likely with Hector Bellerin not returning until October.
Kieran Tierney is in the same boat; maybe playing against Bournemouth is a realistic target but returning to first XI football in the game before an international break necessary? It beats a wet, windy Monday night in Sheffield.
That seems stereotypical but I can only recall one occasion when we went to Bramall Lane and it wasn’t either cold, wet or windy. Far nicer to return in the daylight at the Emirates; that’s dug me into a hole but at least someone put the ladder up against the sides.
There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks; let’s hope Arsenal can get it right.
Elsewhere, the BFG’s book is out now and isn’t one for holding back. Not necessarily in a Michael Owen trying to make himself more interesting than a sundried wooden fence, but there’s certainly some honesty in it:
Footballing feuds are ten-a-penny as FourFourTwo points out.
Lehmann ought to have been Dutch such is his ability to start a fight in an empty room. Many moons ago, a previous partner was from Arnhem and she could row. I’m of Geordie/Irish stock but was a novice compared to her.
Talking of Irish brawlers, Roy Keane “opened up” about the “infamous tunnel bust-up” with Patrick Vieira back in the Highbury days.
Anyone who has seen the footage will know it wasn’t a bust-up, just a lot of finger-pointing and “I’m gonna do you, fecker” kind of comments.
Keane, who is undergoing some redemption as a cult hero – illiteracy remains high, even with spellchecking software – in recent weeks, opened his mouth without realising the full implications.
But when I see lads almost picking on somebody – and I don’t just mean on Nev. There were three or four of them, Martin Keown and people like that.
That irritated me. It was more the bullying than getting stuck into each other on the pitch. I think if you have any aggro with anybody, you bring it out onto the pitch.
The most important thing about that night was that we went on to win the game. There’s no point doing all this carry-on in the tunnel and then going out and getting beaten.
So the key was to win the match and just put Arsenal, one or two lads, in their place.
Roy really put us in our place: Manchester United beat us 4 – 2 that night. We bowed at their feet.
And finished six points ahead of them in the final league table.