You’ve got to be a certain age to understand that one. And, of course, watched British kids TV.
Crackerjack! was a national institution; the list of presenters was a Who’s Who of television from the 1950s through to the 80s. And Stew Francis. No, not the Canadian punmeister.
You can tell someone’s age by the Crackerjack! presenter they name. Anyone who says Eamonn Andrews is a lot older than they are letting on.
The majority of us never got a Crackerjack! pencil; like a Blue Peter badge, that was worth more than any other prize you could win elsewhere.
I read somewhere that if you had a Blue Peter badge, you received free entry to hundreds of attractions around these Isles. Sadly, the full extent of my kids’ talent was putting one foot in front of the other. Consequently, it cost me a fortune in entrance fees.
Given Alexandre Lacazette can’t put one foot in front of the other this morning, maybe it’s a very underrated talent.
Much like Crackerjack!, today’s preamble is as good as it gets.
News of the Frenchman’s injury raised few eyebrows. Since the Emirates preseason shindig, his injury got progressively worse.
While we chewed the fat about the midfield, the problems of an injury to Lacazette or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were skirted around.
Now, we’ve got to confront them. Lacazette is out for seven games at the very least. He’s missing September, but let’s be honest, no-one expects him back until after the October international break.
This presents opportunities for younger squad members as well as a path to redemption for older ones. Yes, Mesut Ozil, I’m talking about you.
What happens if Aubameyang gets injured as well? Dwell on these subjects too long and you imagine the worst. He’s as likely to cop a Beasant – drop a bottle of salad cream on his foot – as get kicked off the pitch.
At this point, the voice of experience drops by and points out that Beasant was a wimp. I dropped a jar of Branston Pickle of my foot – one of the big, really hefty ones – and didn’t even get bruised. I am, it seems, related to Foffo Spearjig.
The Arsenal squad are not made of such stern stuff. Or, to look at it another way, they are finely tuned athletic machines, the SRi with twin turbos, whereas I am but a clunky diesel whose knackered engine is failing.
And a lot younger. Which is where our immediate solution comes in. Talk of playing Ozil on the left is pointless. He drifts to the periphery of games as it is so placing him there at kick-off is only asking for trouble.
In reality, Emery’s one discernible style is the pace he likes his sides to have on the flanks. It’s why Nicolas Pepe arrived and why Reiss Nelson is such a key player now.
It’s a chance for the youngster to deliver on his promise as we look to rotate the squad. The same applies to Gabriel Martinelli. His chances won’t just be limited to the Carabao Cup; expect the young Brazitalian to pitch up in Frankfurt as well.
This assumes we don’t change formations. Emery doesn’t need much excuse to do that so Lacazette gave him a relatively big one. Which reminds me of a tale I heard about Crackerjack! stalwarts the Krankies some years back; I’ll save it for another day.
Bowie Changes Good, Emery’s A Bit Hit and Miss
Unai is likeliest for away games to revert to 4-2-3-1, and probably for some home games, as opposed to an overt 4-3-3. Or in Emery’s case, it is 4-2-2-1-1; he likes it narrow in recent weeks.
It isn’t the formation which is the biggest issue, it’s Lacazette himself. Dani Ceballos was effusive in his praise of the striker:
And [Alexandre] Lacazette, for me, is the best player: he understands the game perfectly and, if he’s 100%, he’s going to give us so much.Dani knows.
While Nelson or Martinelli on the flank, Auba in the middle is an answer, that misses the fundamental of Lacazette’s role in the side. His footballing intelligence – as well as the belligerent skill he displayed in his goal against Spurs – is something we can’t replace.
Ozil can’t provide that. He sees the pass, the run, the ball but not the attacking instinct. Ceballos wants to be the desequilibrio; the ones who influence the game, the roaming playmaker. Which is closer to Lacazette than the more cerebral and less physically intense Ozil.
And by physically intense, I mean a willingness to go shoulder-to-shoulder and fight. If there’s one stat which is even more useless than xG, it’s how many metres someone covered during a game. Great! They ran around a lot. Were they clever with their running or a headless chicken? You can’t factually answer that.
Which is a long way of saying the issue isn’t the formation, the problem of Lacazette’s footballing brain is the one facing Emery.
Personally, I think he’s going to go with Nelson tomorrow. He did so on the opening day although Nicolas Pepe was not ready to maraud down the Premiership wings.
It looks like we’ll know at five-to-five on Sunday how this is working out.