Morning all, it might seem a bit quiet right now, but our schedule is about to get kinda hectic. We don’t play Watford in the FA Cup quarter-final until Sunday, after which we fly to Spain to face Barcelona.
An early Thursday morning return will probably mean that’s a rest day, and then it’s more travel, this time to Liverpool for an early kick-off Saturday morning against Everton. Tough enough at the best of times, but with injury worries over so many players, it’s going to make things even more challenging.
The early news regarding Aaron Ramsey isn’t terribly promising, with reports that he could miss 6 weeks with the thigh injury he picked up against Hull. Whatever you think of him – and there were the inevitable morons who took great delight in this news, attempting to comment on Arseblog News – it’s not a good thing. He frustrates, but it’s not as if we’ve got a plethora of midfielders to choose from right now, and anyone who uses the phrase ‘Blessing in disguise’ in relation to this is straight on my list.
It’s a long list. An ever growing list. But there’s always room.
Laurent Koscielny has missed the last two games, Gabriel has done his hamstring again, Monreal is carrying a knock, Petr Cech is out until the end of the month, Mertesacker has got a split eye, and with so many games we just can’t afford to pick up any more injuries. Any more injuries – sounds like the first question Arsene Wenger must ask every morning when he comes to training.
“Any more injuries?”
“Well then good morning.”
I’m putting it down here now. If I ever write a book about Arsene Wenger it’s gonna be called ‘Any more injuries?’
I suppose, with Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny, we have an obvious central midfield partnership. Whether it clicks or gels, or is good enough, remains to be seen, but at least we’re not at the point where we’re scratching our heads trying to find a solution. Anyway, we can talk more on possible permutations for these upcoming games when we have a little bit more info, but hopefully the Ramsey thing isn’t as serious as they fear.
Meanwhile, a story emerged yesterday about a crisis meeting held by the players ahead of the Hull game. Results have been poor, performances not great, and a promising league position has become much less so. That saw Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Tomas Rosicky and Peter Cech call a meeting away from the manager and coaching staff so that things could be said in confidence, the air could be cleared etc.
Now, that in itself is not a bad thing. These kind of get-togethers are, if conducted properly, a positive thing. If players can speak their minds freely, and it’s all about seeking to improve and do better, then why the hell not?
I imagine these kind of ‘secret’ meetings are par for the course at football clubs throughout the season, especially in periods when things aren’t going as well as they should. Of course this one is no longer a secret because after the Hull game Theo Walcott told everyone about it. Speaking to the media, he said:
We have quite a lot of experienced players in the dressing room. It came from Cech, Mikel, Per and Tomas. We have four good old heads there. I’d like to keep what was said among ourselves but it was very important. We have had a reaction from it anyway.
We know as a unit it has been tough and we all had a good chat among us behind closed doors, without even any of the coaches or the manager knowing about anything and I think it is important that as a team we have got it in us. We just have to produce it more often.
As I said, I like the idea of it, but the more I thought about this yesterday, the less I like the fact that it was made public. I don’t think there was anything sinister about it, but there’s just a whiff of ‘Look what we did!’ from the fact what had been an undisclosed meeting, and undisclosed for good reason, became public knowledge. I’m happy that there appears to have been some kind of reaction from it in terms of the Hull result, but why did we need to know about it?
Would he have said anything if we’d lost the game? Exactly. Maybe it’s just me being a bit cynical, but it felt a little self-congratulatory, and as much as I enjoyed beating Hull 4-0, that result and that performance isn’t necessarily worth crowing about. Come back and tell us about this meeting when you’ve won 6 or 7 or 8 in a row, not after a win over an admittedly decent Championship side. You’ve just about steadied the ship, that’s all. There’s still a lot to do, and I also wonder how the other players feel about what was supposed to be confidential becoming part of Walcott’s media niceties.
Elsewhere, the Premier League announced plans for an away ticket price cap to come into play at the beginning of the 2016/17 season. It means no away fan will pay more than £30 for a ticket, and from Arsenal there was a little bit extra:
“The club is also providing a further £4 discount for its away supporters attending Premier League matches, in addition to the £30 cap on away tickets announced by the Premier League.
“This will ensure no Arsenal fans will pay more to support Arsenal at Premier League away games than the lowest priced £26 ticket that both visiting and home fans can pay to watch their teams at Emirates Stadium.
With all the new TV money, and the fact that clubs now rake it in from their dozens of commercial partners, something that genuinely benefits the fans is long overdue. Credit to all the fans representative groups and organisations like the FSF that have long campaigned and worked hard behind the scenes to make football more affordable. Hopefully it’s just the start of something, rather than just a sop to fans who have been increasingly vocal and combative on these kinds of issues.
Finally for today, while it won’t make any discernible difference to this season, it seems as if the signings of the two Nigerian wonderkids – Kelechi Nwakali and Samuel Chukwueze have been completed. It looks as if they’re guys for next season, starting at youth level, but after that who knows?
Right, that’s that. Tim Stillman will be here with his column later, I’m back tomorrow with an Arsecast and all the rest. Until then.