Boys keep swinging

Boys keep swinging

This time last week, I was gazing firmly at my navel. Peering mournfully through black eyeliner at the poetry of Sylvia Plath whilst listening to The Jesus and Mary Chain on repeat. Without wishing to crucify the point, a pair of meek cup performances had left me one exasperated motherfucker. Yet today you find me practically skipping through the meadows, giggling like a schoolgirl. Hell, I might as well have been wearing gingham and pigtails for the last 4 days.

Is that schizophrenic? Fickle? Part of the rollercoaster that makes following football so addictive? I’ve got no idea. Frankly, I’m not in the most analytical of moods right now, so I couldn’t give a chimp’s gland. But whilst the shellacking of Spurs gives us the fans every right to grin, strut, gloat and yell, “How’s this for a power shift, fuck face!?” at the top of our voices, as we jab our scissors into the eyes of that mouthy Spurs fan in the office for the 17th time, I rather hope the players’ approach is different.

It feels like we say this so often that I’m not sure it’s even worth repeating. Whilst I hope the players enjoyed the victory for 24 hours or so, it’s crucial the template for the comeback becomes a platform and not just a constellation (or even a consolation) in the Arsenal sky. I’m not sure how much hope I hold for this comeback being a blueprint for the rest of the season. But I do know that, at times like this, your big players step up. It’s no coincidence that two of our biggest dragged us back into the game at 0-2 with well timed goals. Sagna’s effort especially just screamed, “Right, enough of this old bollocks.”

That attitude now needs to transmit to the rest of the squad and become the expected standard. Starting with Liverpool this Saturday. 3rd place is still very much in the crosshairs now. The advantages of finishing there extend beyond the parochial confines of North London pride. As this post from A Beautiful Groan points out, finishing 4th could play merry hell with our preparation for next season.

Though club mouthpieces would never confirm, it would appear that our spending is linked inextricably with definite qualification, which could delay our summer cosmetics until the end of August. We know precisely how well that worked for us this season. This could be particularly damaging in the event that we need to replace a certain star striker. Unpleasant thought though that maybe, you’d rather hope it is one the club are contingency planning for. A couple of inevitable exits last summer didn’t appear to have been planned for at all and, well, we know precisely how well that worked for us

Much has happened in the last week that has been delightfully nudged into the margins, but bears discussion nonetheless. Such as the surprise departure of Andrey Arshavin last Friday. It does strike me as incredibly strange to let a player go when there is no prospect of replacing him. It could be that the manager has assessed the acceleration of Chamberlain’s progress and regarded the Russian as surplus. (I’m certain that that was probably the plan at the beginning of the season, for Chamberlain to nudge Arshavin out of the door come the summer).

Maybe Arsene would have sanctioned the move in January were it not for Gervinho’s absence. But I have to say this looks as though it has more to it than meets the eye. I understand Arshavin’s point of view. In many ways, he never seemed to recover from Russia’s surprise failure to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. The Euros are approaching, which likely represent his last chance to shine on the international stage and he wants to play regularly. But for a player of his considerable talent you would expect him to be able to push for that to happen with us.

One can only idly speculate, but there just has to be more to this than meets the peepers. Perhaps Wenger wanted to use Arshavin – a player with a big reputation whose impact on the first team is negligible at this point – as an example to other underperformers that life isn’t so forgiving in the Arsenal cocoon. Or maybe the diminutive Russian rather forced the move. I suspect we’ll probably never find out for certain. All the same, it’s a shame that it all ended in such indifferent circumstances for a player with such ability.

Off the pitch, a pair of more tertiary announcements from the club have set tongues a flutter. Arsenal must be the only business on earth that feels the need to “bury” an announcement of big profits amidst a day of good news! But honestly, I really can’t be fucked to go into the ins and outs of the balance sheet. So I’m just going to stand behind Swiss Ramblerstroking my chin, nodding furtively and occasionally intervening with, “Hmmm, good point. Exactly what I was going to say.”

Just as the column went to press last week, the club also announced a freeze in General Admission season ticket prices for next season. As someone paying close to £2k for my own, that was something of a relief. But there are still questions which will be answered in due course. For a start, the club did not confirm any pricing policy for individual matchday tickets. One assumes the powers that be are therefore waiting to see how the season ends before making a firm decision. Rather worryingly, that suggests to me that season ticket prices are only being frozen in deference to a below par season.

Last year the decision to raise prices was made in the boardroom in late January / early February, with the team still going strong in four competitions. It stands to reason therefore that a successful campaign in 2012-13 will probably lead to another price hike. At the AST meeting of ten days ago, there were some interesting discussions around cup credit allocation in the event that Arsenal are in the Europa League next year. The announcement suggests those cup credits are in tact regardless and that Europa League games will be treated the same as their sexier Champions League counterparts.

Quite a lot of people would suggest if the quality of the product is inferior, then the price really should be dropping to reflect that. In the event that we do finish outside the top four, it will be interesting to see how the club address communications around this. Personally, I would favour a flexible, creative approach to pricing on cup credits, with Europa League games priced on an individual basis and rebates being made available to season ticket holders for opponents such as Shamrock Rovers.

Scanning the announcement, it looks as though this won’t happen and prices will remain the same as for Champions League matches. (I suppose we’re just as likely to draw Macclesfield Town as Manchester United in the F.A. Cup, which is also accounted for in the cup vouchers). Bear in mind also that the Europa League carries an extra knockout round, which could have residual effects on the 20013-14 renewal if we were to progress and use more than seven of our allocated credits. Given the likely pricing policy; if indeed we are in the Europa League, I do wonder if Arsene will come under any pressure from upstairs to play a full team given the prices that will be charged.

It could become a tricky negotiation for the club. I’m sure they’re crossing their fingers and hoping against hope that a top 4 finish rather banishes some awkward questions. Anyway, I suppose they are enquiries for another day. I will allow you to resume basking in the humiliation of the cheating chimp and his scrawny chicken cohorts and bid you adieu for another week. LD.

Follow me on Twitter @LittleDutchVA

Internationals, defenders and summer travels

Internationals, defenders and summer travels

Right then, stupid pointless, irritating internationals are out of the way, now we can get back to the real thing.

So far there have been no reports of maimings, snappings, twistings or any other ings which might prove damaging to an Arsenal player’s chances of playing on Saturday. Robin van Persie played 45 minutes against England, Bert van Marwijk saying that he’d spoken with the skipper and because he’d had a bit of a groin problem he agreed to only play him for a half.

Maybe we’re super-conscious of it because it’s Robin, but surely the sensible thing to do if a player has any kind of a problem is not play him at all. And while I get that this is the last friendly many teams will play before Euro 2012, it always seems strange to me the way the managers don’t take the opportunity to look at some more fringe players.

What could the Dutch camp have possibly gained or learned from playing van Persie last night? It’s the same with Ireland, Trapattoni playing the same players who always play (for example – what would it have hurt to try another goalkeeper apart from Shay Given for once?), but there you go. Football managers are a strange lot at the best of times, international managers even stranger because they have to spend so much time alone with nobody to talk to  and with nobody on the training ground. They put the cones out every morning but nobody is there to run between them. It’d drive anyone mad.

Still, let’s hope that Robin is fine and all the others who flew to various parts of the world for games nobody gives a single, solitary shit about come back safe, sound and ready for action on Saturday. And amazingly, I found out there’s another African Cup of African Nations of Africa in Africa next year! Seriously, two years running … how do they get away with it? I realise we don’t have to worry about this until next January but all the same Platini must be spewing.

He wanted a World Cup every two years and now the Africans are putting him to shame with their tournament moving (briefly) to an annual basis. After next year it returns to its bi-annual status but in this day and age I am still staggered by the rights of nations over players who they don’t pay, don’t look after properly and who they’re quite happy to run into the ground before sending them back to their clubs. Anyway, that’s a rant for another day.

You can find a full list of who did what, and for how long, on the official site. 90 minutes for Vermaelen who was carrying an ankle knock, eh? Cheers, Belgium. Maybe it’s a sign that his ankle is ok but I have visions of an evil doctor who looks just like the Fakir from Tintin injecting him with a mix of cortisone, novocaine and morphine (with a dash of crystal meth for energy) before sending him out to run around, out of his mind and feeling nothing. Nothing.

The players will start trickling back today, meaning we’ll only have one meaningful training session ahead of the ‘smashers. As it’s an early kick off on Saturday we’ll be traveling up tomorrow which really doesn’t make for ideal preparation, but there you go. I’m sure they’ve had players away on international duty too so it is like a bobbly pitch – the same for both sides. That doesn’t mean I can’t complain about it from an Arsenal point of view.

At this moment we’ve got no idea regarding team news, so all previewing of the game can take place tomorrow and Saturday when we’ve got a bit more information. The only snippet we have is that Johan Djourou looks set to miss a month with a groin injury, so with Mertesacker crocked, Squillaci sitting in a corner somewhere rocking back and forth, and no midfield cover to allow us to move Song back, it opens the door for Ignasi Miquel should he be needed.

We have a maximum of 13 games left this season – if we assume that Milan is a mountain that’s just too high to climb although you never … nah, let’s not even go there – so hoping Vermaelen (somewhat injury prone) and Koscielny (being nursed through minor knocks and strains) stay fit enough to start all of them might be a little optimistic. Obviously that would be ideal, but Miquel has looked decent enough this season. Sometimes a young player just needs a chance to prove himself, so let’s see what happens.

Not much else going on really. The club have announced a pre-season game against Man City in Beijing in July. Clearly a game that is designed to boost our finances with no Emirates Cup this summer and one which ties in with our desire to spread our Arse across the globe. I really have no issue with that at all, the sedate, safe nature of the Austrian training camp was hardly crucial to success, as the barren years have proved, but I do find it odd that with Kroenkenstein now the main man we haven’t ventured to the US.

The Gooners across the Atlantic are some of the most passionate and dedicated overseas fans we have, getting up really early (or staying up really late) to watch games. Not that this makes them any different from our friends in other far flung places, but that kind of dedication to the team is always amazing, wherever you are. Also, if you want to base a tour on appeal to fans then I can tell you that based on traffic figures for Arseblog the UK comes first and it’s the US second by a long distance. I know that has as much to do with numbers of people, and their online access, as anything else but still.

And surely the bottom line is that if you’re talking commerical appeal, spreading ‘brand awareness’ and all that other marketeering guff, then the US is a market and a fanbase we should be doing more for? Maybe it’s in the pipeline for next summer, with a US owner and all that that entails, you would like to think so.

Right, that’s that. Back tomorrow with an Arsecast and all the rest.