Good morning, a whole pile of stuff to get through so no hanging around.
Arsene’s pre West Brom press conference took place yesterday and there were a few talking points. He confirmed Johan Djourou would be out for ‘at least’ 6 weeks and also confirmed that Thomas Vermaelen would miss the rest of the season. That in itself is no surprise but the manager announced it by saying:
I never expected him to be back before the end of the season.
Which rather goes against what he said back in January when the expectation was that surgery would see him return in 6 weeks. I don’t know whether Arsene meant that he ‘never’ expected him back since his last setback or whether he actually meant never. Arsene’s English is good enough not to make basic errors like that but it does fly in the face of previous statements.
Obviously that caused something of a reaction amongst fans who would ask, rightly enough, if you never expected him back before the end of the season then why did we go through January without even a loan signing to fill the gap? To be fair to Arsene even just a few weeks ago I was being told there was a chance Vermaelen could play in the second leg against Barcelona – but obviously he had one of those setbacks he spoke about the other day.
It makes yesterday’s statement very odd indeed and at a time when he really needs to play with a straight bat it wasn’t particularly helpful. The people who question why it is we’ve ended up with just two fit centre-halves going into a crucial time in the season have every right to express their frustration, in my opinion. And it’s not as if it’s without precedent. It’s all too familiar that a gamble on not making signings in January comes back to bite us in the arse. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if you see Arsene throw everything on red, put your money on black.
Also missing from the weekend are Cesc and Theo but I suspect a bit of injury management there. They might well be just fit enough to play for us but I reckon the last thing he wants is for them to then bugger off for two weeks during the Interlull. He’s counting on us having enough to deal with West Brom without them and having them back fully fit and properly rested for the final nine games of the season. Alex Song misses out too.
Meanwhile, Wenger and Samir Nasri have been banned for one game each by UEFA for their behaviour towards referee Massimo Busacca after the Barcelona game. Referee Massimo Busacca receives no punishment for issuing a red card that 99% of everyone who watches football, regardless of their allegiance, declared farcical and incorrect. Arsene’s not happy about it but at this point he ought to just leave it be and get on with things.
The return of Jens was also made official and the German will be on the bench this weekend. He’s already taken part in training, there are some nice photos of him and Manuel pretending they love each other, and the manager thinks he’ll provide some competition for the Spaniard:
I think Jens Lehmann will get the best out of Almunia, because he will show him every day he is ready to fight for his place – as he has always been.
It’s fair to say that Manuel’s best days were when he took over from Jens that season. He knew he had to stay on his toes and any mistake might cost him his place. It might well be difficult for him to view a 41 year old as the same kind of threat but as I said earlier in the week I think there are a lot of positives to take from Jens’ return, not just what it might mean to Almunia. Jens says:
It’s special to be coming back. I can’t wait to start working with the team again and I look forward to contributing as much as I can, both on and off the pitch during this time.
Would it to be too much to ask that if we’re 5-0 against Stoke with just a couple of minutes to go that we throw on Jens as a centre-forward. Jens v Shawcross = awesome. I’m sure many people will attend the funeral, a weeping Tony Pubis throwing his favourite cap on top of the coffin. “Shawcy! Shawcy! I love you so”. Oh, please let that happen.
The club’s plans for a trip to Japan have obviously been affected by the the recent events there, the manager suggest a charity game of some kind might take place instead. While a nice gesture I’d imagine football is about the last thing they’re thinking about at the moment and this is probably something we’ll revisit once the season ends.
Now then, onto this week’s Arsecast and to try and keep the focus away from the football, which hasn’t been much fun, I’ve got an interview with the club photographer Stuart MacFarlane. Find out about how he got the job, what it entails, what a match day is like, how it’s changed down the years, some of his favourite photos and more. And if you want to check out Stuart’s Flickr, which contains some really excellent shots, just click here.
There’s Arshavin, Internet Joe and more, including a rather cool competition from Pele Sports. I’ve got two pairs of their Performance 1970 boots to give away (valued at €136 a pair), as well as some of their t-shirts/zip-ups/training tops. Check out Pele Sports and/or their Facebook page. Competition details are in the ‘cast – and it’s open to everyone, I’d just ask that if you can’t make use of the boots please just add ‘no boots‘ to your entry.
You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too. To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (22mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.[audio:http://arseblog.com/podcasts/arsecast_episode193.mp3]
And if that’s not enough to keep you amused this Friday, check out the Facebook page for Flashback Friday or the ArseTumblr. It’s better than work. Unless your work is ‘Sawcross Ltd’ in which you spend your day sawing people named Shawcross in half.
Till tomorrow, Arsefans.