It’s one of those Saturdays where we wait for our ‘Super Sunday’ game tomorrow against Man City, the Premier League equivalent of the party boy son of a drug kingpin who shows off in nightclubs and spends thousands on a bottle of vodka simply because the glass is slightly frosted.
Mikel Arteta says beating them would be a ‘statement’, while Arsene Wenger says the hunger in this Arsenal squad is ‘massive’. There was little between the teams in either game last season and we were, I’ll happily admit, a much less cohesive unit back then than we appear to be today. It’s a tough test though and one we’ll concentrate on in tomorrow’s blog.
In the meantime, there’s all the stuff from yesterday’s press conference to get on with. Wojciech Szczesny is out of tomorrow’s game and will miss 2-3 weeks meaning Don Vito has got a chance to further his redemption. I was worried about him when we went to Stoke but he played well and was protected well by his back four. I think we’ll need them to be similarly aware tomorrow but the Italian does seem determined to make the most of this chance. Even if it doesn’t end with him becoming the Arsenal number 1, if he plays well it’ll surely open more doors for him than any loan spell at Hull would.
With Jack Wilshere’s return now visible on the horizon, the manager was obviously asked many a question about the young Englishman. Yes, Wilshere had some dark times during his time out but Arsene says:
When you’re so young and you’re out for 14 months, it’s a good test for your mental strength. I always thought he would come back. I believe what he’s gone through will make him even stronger.
He will be a better player because if you have this kind of injury at the age of 20 you will take off again and move forward normally. If you have the injury after the age of 25 it is different. At his age it is no problem.
His return is one that we should all look forward to simply because of the talent of the player involved, but we have to urge some caution too. It’ll take time and some games will most likely pass him by before he finds his form and his match sharpness, but personally I can’t wait to see the Arteta – Wilshere – Cazorla midfield starting games for us. I know it’s not a trio that will suit every game but for those it does it’s a mouthwatering prospect.
Jack’s fitness is also another reason why the manager didn’t buy another midfielder this summer, despite the interest in Sahin. I can only assume the good news about Wilshere is what made up our minds there. His versatility is an asset, he can play in any of the three midfield positions and I see him as the link man between the two Spaniards. Such is his quality signing another player would have been counter-intuitive. Plus, when you consider there’s Diaby, Coquelin, Ramsey, Rosicky and the returning Frimpong it would have made the Arsenal midfield an overly-crowded place.
Still, it’s a much better problem to have than worrying about who we’re going to play and that level of competition will, hopefully, see the cream rise to the top. While there’s plenty of football to play this season, there are going to be one or two frustrated by their lack of playing time so we’ll have to see how it all pans out.
And speaking of not playing and so on, Arsene has spoken again about Theo Walcott’s situation, and hinted he wouldn’t be averse to selling him in January if nothing is sorted:
I still hope to sign him and the next two months will be vital because, after that, the longer this situation lasts the more difficult it is. It will depend on the needs of the team and the club. We can afford to go to the end (of the contract) if needed.
The manager makes a reasonable point about how Walcott not playing isn’t necessarily a punishment for his contract wrangles, citing Laurent Koscielny’s situation. The Frenchman signed a new deal and still hasn’t played this season, but there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a real difference here. Let’s not forget that Walcott and his people were given a ‘sign or you don’t play’ ultimatum as the transfer window closed which saw him dropped for the Stoke game.
And from what I understand, rather than there being any sign of reconciliation the two parties are even further apart than they were back then. Arsenal have been told that Man City and Chelsea will be more than happy to sign Theo on a free next summer (amusingly neither side want him so badly they’d actually spend money on him – and let’s remember City paid £16m for Nigel de Jong in a January window when they could have had him for nothing in the summer), but the club are not willing to budge on an offer they feel is a fair reflection of the player’s talents.
And look, from the player’s point of view, regardless of how happy is supposedly is at Arsenal, if he thought those clubs would come in next summer with higher wages boosted by a Bosman fee, why would he sign on for much less with us? There’s loyalty and there’s blind stupidity and even though I think Theo and his agents have made a total mess of their bid to get more out of Arsenal they’re not that silly to mess up the chance of much more money for the sake of sitting still for a few months.
In the meantime the manager’s reaction is to play other players. Gervinho got a chance down the middle against Southampton (and it’s hard not to think that was a pointed decision), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain continues to develop and for now Walcott will remain in kind of footballing limbo. It’s his decision not to sign the deal on offer from Arsenal, he’s the one being advised by those close to him to reject us and walk away from talks, and although footballing expediency will see him used when necessary, unless something changes dramatically the final chapter of his Arsenal career may well be a disappointing one.
That said, football expediency is one of those things we can’t ignore either. If he starts a game or comes on and scores a goal, he’s doing his job, and there’s no suggestion Walcott is doing anything but training well and acting professionally. If we can recognise that footballers don’t view clubs the way we do as fans, we should be open to the machinations of the game and cut off our nose to spite our face. We may need him at some point.
Finally for today, Conor Henderson has gone on a three month loan to Coventry, good luck to him there. I don’t know if he’ll play in the Poetic Anal Cup on
Tuesday Wednesday, but we shall see. Update: apparently he’s not. So there you go.
Right, have yourselves a good Saturday, back tomorrow with a full preview of the City game.