Good morning to you from an unseasonably sunny and warm Dublin. Something odd is going on, it thinks it’s the middle of July. Well, if it was the middle of July this year it would be pissing rain, what with it being the crappest summer ever, but you know what I mean.
Ahead of the Sunderland game there’s no new injury news beyond what we know already. The boss is hoping to have the whole squad fit by next week. As it is he’ll have the same bunch to choose from as next week. Playing against Sunderland brings us face to face with an old rival with Roy Keane now a manager. He’s been talking about how if he could only play one game of football ever again it would be against Arsenal, and he spoke fondly of the games between Arsenal and United when he was a player there.
Looking back on it it really was a fantastic time. Two teams that were evenly matched, either one capable of winning any game, both of them fighting for the title and it was all topped off with an obvious dislike between the two managers and the two sets of fans. On a purely footballing level it was probably the most entertaining and intense rivalry any of us have ever seen and while he’s right in saying there’s still no love lost the battles between Keane and Vieira were just awesome. There’s nothing these days to really match it, which is kind of a shame.
What’s been lost since the arrival of Chelsea on the scene is the fact that the emnity between Arsenal and United back then was built upon a grudging respect for what the other team had done. United were a great team built by a manager who used the funds earned by the club through merchandising and their vast stadium to buy top quality players. When you look back now it’s a fact that United’s earnings, much as they were criticised at the time, were down to being a bit ahead of their time. Now every club has its superstore for shirts, key-rings, toilet seats and whatever the fuck else. Arsenal, meanwhile, were built by a manager whose eye for young talent and combining it with the existing core of experience made them a very strong footballing side but also a very physically capable side (read Emannuel Petit’s thoughts on that side here). The whole thing was diluted by Chelsea’s emergence as a title contender but done in a way that garnered no respect. They simply bought their way in while Arsenal and United only ever spent money that was theirs.
What you can be sure of is that the Sunderland team, while perhaps short on quality, will make up for that with the energy and workrate that their manager displayed throughout his career. They will run themselves into the ground and we have to be careful not to assume they’ll be whipping boys. I have to admit I’ve been impressed with Keane as a manager, what he did last season to get Sunderland up was incredible and while it’s going to be a tough season for them if they can stay up then they’ll have the stability and resources to bring in better players next time around.
There’s also a reunion with a former Gunner. Anthony Stokes did good things while on loan in Scotland to get himself a move but he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire up there yet. How he’d love a goal against his former club. How I hope he doesn’t get one. It should be a good game.
In other news the boss has come out firmly against Sepp Blatter’s latest attempts to nobble the clubs by restricting the number of foreign players. He said:
I am against it. Sport is competitive and competition is based on merit. It does not matter where you are born. It matters who you are.
And he’s absolutely right. People can say what they want about Arsenal not using English players but you only have to look through the other teams in the league to see the players who began their careers at the club and received a footballing education that is second to none. Sidwell now at Chelsea (silly boy, should have gone somewhere where he might have played a few games), Harper at Reading, Pennant at Liverpool, Bentley at Blackburn, even Ashley Cole at Chelsea. And that’s just a small number of the lads who have come through our system and gone on to have good careers because of the grounding they got at Arsenal.
Charles Sale in the Daily Mail outlines the extent to which journalists were schmoozed by Alisher Usmanov this week.
Luton to Moscow on private Gulfstream 550 jet with lunch and drinks, transfer to five-star Kempinski hotel, dinner plus drinks, transfer to bar for drinks. Then one night in Kempinski, lunch in a Russian restaurant, transfer to Usmanov office, Metro trip, coffee and teas in Usmanov office, gift of art book, Gulfstream return to Stansted with cold supper.
Not bad. His detailing of this comes as Bloggerheads detailed the journalists who went to this meeting and neglected to mention the fact they’d been on the receiving end of such hospitality.
Also worth noting is that Red Action, the fans group have called for other fans to join them in making it quite clear that Usmanov is not a welcome investor and that fans are opposed to any kind of takeover by him and the rest of Fat & Orange. Goodplaya talks a bit about how the whole Usmanov affair has been a ‘very Arsenal protest’. Interesting stuff.
And that’s about the size of it. Now I must shower, eat breakfast and go out and enjoy the sunshine. It would be criminal not to. Till tomorrow.