Good morning everyone, hope you’re well. I’m super, thanks for asking. I’ve had a nice and very rare lie-in, and given it’s one of those Saturdays without any Arsenal, I think that’s ok. After a couple of days in London, there’s always a bit of catching up to do in terms of, you know, rest and that, so here we are. I have had a good old relax.
There’s some Arsenal stuff to get through, as the boss had his press conference yesterday. There’s nothing much to report in terms of team news – nobody back, nobody new banjaxed – but there was some chat about Granit Xhaka, with the manager declaring himself pleased with the Swiss international despite the fact he hasn’t started either of the last two games.
After what appeared to be almost a breakthrough performance, in terms of discipline (positional and card-inal) against Sp*rs, he wasn’t picked from the start against Manchester United or PSG. Wenger said:
I’m very happy with Granit’s commitment.I think he’s developing well. He hasn’t maybe started enough since the start of the season but he is adapting to a different league, a different way of playing. Overall I’m happy because every day he’s focused on working hard and I’m confident he’ll get his number of games.
Perhaps there is an element of adaptation, he’s something of a smalltown boy now at a massive club in London, footballing heaven, you might say, but it does feel a bit strange for Arsene Wenger to pay £35m for a player and not use him as much as he has. However, he did expand on the qualities that Xhaka brings, saying:
Granit is more a deep playmaker I think than a box-to-box player. He does not get in the final third of the opposition half a lot. He is more a guy who has a fantastic pass to play through the lines. He gets the ball from the defenders and finds the high midfield. His strength is what we call the ‘moderate-value pass’ – the passes that come from deep midfield to high midfield.
Which is a bit odd because the other week he described him as more of a box to box player than a defensive midfielder. It’s hard to argue against his categorisation as a deep-lying playmaker though, and his ability to pick passes from deep and open up the pitch is, I think, going to be a crucial part of getting this midfield working again.
If he doesn’t start against Bournemouth tomorrow, a game which seems absolutely perfect for him as the way they play should give him the freedom he needs to thrive, then I think we can start to get really concerned. But let’s see what happens. Who he picks him with might also be interesting, but I’m a natural optimist – I was born this way – and I think he will establish himself as a first choice player this season.
There’s no doubt we need to get back to winning ways tomorrow. Finally, having dealt with the three most difficult games that November had to offer, the quality of the opposition drops a little. Which isn’t to say it’ll be easy but we have a constant craving for three points and hopefully we can manage that tomorrow. Perhaps, at home, without any need to go west, or some other direction, we’ll be able to find our spark again.
Elsewhere, the manager says he wants to extend the contract of Jack Wilshere but admits he hasn’t spoken to the midfielder since he left for Bournemouth. Of course Jack can’t play tomorrow because of Premier League rules. Although Wenger has always been open to the idea of loan players playing against their parent club, the rules are the rules this season.
Wilshere says he wants Bournemouth to win, something which has caused a bit of outrage, but the manager insists that normal, and after lauding Steven Gerrard for his loyalty to Liverpool, he’s urged Wilshere to take some lessons from that:
My feeling is I want him back. I let him go this season because we bought Granit Xhaka, we have Mohamed Elneny, Aaron Ramsey, and I thought if he doesn’t play regularly and wasn’t fit enough to be in the position to start games, so I let him go. In the end it was a good decision for him because he gets regular football.
And on his future:
After, we see how he goes at the end of the season. If Jack comes back to his right level he will play for us. He always said he is an Arsenal man. If you only think about yourself then you go where you like to be. The word loyalty isn’t even the right word. He always said he was an Arsenal man. I can assure you talks over any contract are always difficult and with Jack they are always difficult.
Talks are planned in January because Wilshere, like Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, will be heading into the final year of his contract in June. I mean, I will survive if those contract negotiations don’t work out, but I think for the benefit of the club it’d be great to get things sorted. You can just see Ozil playing combos with Jack, and Alexis getting sliced down in the box for a stonewall penalty. Anyway, the club will be just as aware of this as everyone else, so I’m sure there’s plenty going on in the background.
The Arsenal Gent took a look back at the last week in his review of Manchester United and PSG, so do check that out, and finally for today, I’m very pleased to see Arsenal support the Rainbow Laces campaign so openly via their social media profiles. Some of the responses have been horrible and depressing, but all they do is hammer home how important the campaign is in the first place.
If most right-minded people accept you cannot discriminate against anyone for the colour of their skin, their hair, their eyes or anything else, then doing that because of their sexuality is just plain wrong. And the more that clubs like Arsenal, and the others in the Premier League show their support, the more that message will get through.
If, among those who object, it causes just a few to stop, think and consider the message, perhaps opening their minds, then it’s good work well done. There are things that Arsenal do that I don’t always agree with, but I’m proud that we’re a club that will help try and break down barriers, baby steps and all it might be.
And, of course, people forget the incredible story of how Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes attended a game at Highbury back in the 1970s. Invited into the Director’s Box afterwards, they overheard then Chairman Denis Hill-Wood reprimand a member of staff after the manager had fallen down and was unable to get up.
“Don’t leave Mee this way,” he said, inspiring a song that would become an anthem. True story.
Have a great day people.