last night I dreamt I was making a movie in New York, funded by mafia money, and it would have all been fine if it wasn’t for the fact that David Thewlis was an inveterate lush. I can never go to New York again lest someone who sounds like Joe Mantegna comes after me for the $76 they gave me to make the film. Oh well.
Last night Arsenal’s reserves played Norwich at Carrow Road, and the team contained quite a few first team players. Andrei Arshavin, Yossi Benayoun and Marouane Chamakh all started – as did Ju Young Park but it’s hard to call him a first team player. Chamakh went off injured after about half an hour, but Park scored, Arshavin scored two, Benayoun scored and Benik Afobe, making his return after months out with a dicky groin (hah) also got on the scoresheet in a 5-0 win. Also involved last night was Carl Jenkinson who played 45 minutes, making his comeback from a stress fracture of his back.
Clearly the manager had an eye on keeping players who have spent a lot of time on the bench sharp for Sunday’s North London derby. Whether it means he’s thinking of some serious rotation and using these players we don’t know but giving them a run-out is, I guess, better than them sitting stewing on the bench. Neither Arshavin or Benayoun were used on Saturday against Sunderland when perhaps they might have been, and it was hardly a surprise to see the Israeli speak about his unhappiness on Twitter:
I guess the manager has got to decide does he stick with the players who disappointed against Milan and Sunderland, or players he doesn’t seem to trust a great deal. Is he willing to make those kinds of changes for a game that he’s got to win or, at the very least, not lose in a way that feels like a loss. For example, a late equaliser by Sp*rs is a crushing blow, a late one for us a sign of spirit and character. The result is the same but people’s perception of it is going to be a factor this weekend, like it or not.
Whether what happened at Carrow Road last night will change his mind in any way remains to be seen but you can’t ask more than for players to go out and score goals, show what they’re capable of, and both Arshavin and Benayoun have done that. We might get a better indication of their chances later in the week but it’s a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t in some ways. Stick with the others and it’s conservatism, play guys who have been on the bench most of the season and what can you expect from guys who have been on the bench all season (mostly for a reason too). Anyway, more on the weekend’s game in the days ahead.
Elsewhere, there’s a lot of talk about Robin van Persie’s contract, with people trying to out-exclusive each other with information already in the public domain. The latest is that Arsenal are going to put the foot down and insist that van Persie sees out his contract at least, with some suggestion the skipper is more open to a new deal than he has been. Or something.
The cynic in me thinks that this kind of news emerging at a time when fans are … erm … shall we say ‘mildly crotchety’ … is something of PR bluff. That said, it is a situation I can see happening. It seems much quite likely to me that we’d hold Robin to his contract and let him leave on a Bosman should he so desire a year later. At that point he’d be 30 and could, if fit and healthy, have his pick of clubs and a nice fat package to go with it. Of course, depending on where we are, he might want to stay.
People draw parallels between his situation and that of Samir Nasri but I don’t think they’re the same. Nasri was younger, more mercenary, more driven to leave and, frankly, uncommitted to anything except getting as much money for himself as possible. It’s easy to say you’re leaving for footballing reasons but tarting yourself from club to club doesn’t give you much of a leg to stand on, in that regard.
Anyway, for me this is an non-issue until the summer anyway. While I think one particular player in the same contractual situation as Robin has a huge cheek to wait and see what happens this season before committing to the club, I can understand it better for van Persie. But like players before him who have left when perhaps they didn’t really want to, maybe the best way of keeping him is investing in the squad and bringing in quality players who increase our chances of winning things.
A top four finish is not just vital for the club’s finances but vital for our team. For player retention, for attracting new players and for allowing those we do have to continue playing at the highest level of club football, something which is important for their development as well. I would suggest all van Persie contract stories are best ignored until the summer, we know nothing’s going to happen until then, and if there’s one place beyond the stock markets where speculation is king, it’s football.
As an aside though – there’s a very interesting piece about van Persie and his contract on Goonerboy. He looks at the final contract dished out to Thierry Henry at a similar stage of his career and wonders if the van Persie situation might be similar. Whether you agree or not it’s a good read.
And that’s that for this morning. As expected it’s been pretty quiet this week, no doubt there’s plenty of taking stock going on and, you would hope, a lot of hard work to get the team focused before Sunday.