Hello everyone, welcome to Friday. Another week almost done and dusted, and they are flying by at the moment. Today would normally be press conference day, but yesterday was press conference day. I don’t know why, maybe Arsene Wenger just likes to mix it up a bit.
There wasn’t much in the way of team news, other than Francis Coquelin returning after his midweek suspension, and the good news that Hector Bellerin is in contention to play tomorrow against Stoke. If he does play, I’m assuming it’s because he’s at 100%, or close enough to it, because otherwise we’d probably be advised to exercise some caution. Gabriel has done pretty well there, and although I’d much rather have Bellerin there than anyone else, I only want him back when he’s fully ready because the season is still long and there’s a lot of football to play. I do not want to hear the word ‘setback’.
As you would expect there were questions about the futures of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, and having written about it yesterday, I’m not really inclined to repeat myself today. You can see Wenger trying to play a straight bat for the most part, to try and avoid the sensationalist headlines, but this is a world in which sensationalism is par for the course, and the headline writers can always fashion something out of nothing.
If you want to read what he said, and the questions he was asked, we have a full transcript of that right here. It is exactly the kind of stuff you’d get from any manager reluctant to make any negotiations with his two star players public. It’s an ongoing process, it’s obvious what the club want, relatively obvious what the players want, and in the meantime all we can do is wait and see what happens. It does feel like this is going to become a saga, particularly if the media keep asking about it, knowing that they’re going to get the same answers week after week.
Thankfully, he was also asked about what Ozil and Alexis were doing on the pitch, a question he was much happier to deal with. He said:
They’ve been hugely important. You can talk a lot in a press conference but the most important thing is what the players do on the football pitch. The commitment of Sanchez and Ozil is absolutely total for the team’s benefit. I am very pleased with that.
We are professional football people and people forget many times that the first quality of a professional guy is to give absolutely 100 per cent as long as he is somewhere,and not to project yourself on two years time. It’s about here and now. That’s what it means to be professional. Here and now. And fully committed to the cause, that’s what it’s all about.
And there’s really no arguing with that. With 21 goals and 12 assists between them this season, they’ve been a major contributor to how well things have gone thus far, and while we’re all concerned with the contract situations, what they do when they’re on the pitch is far more important. If anyone thinks that they’re not fully in because of these negotiations, then their performances and numbers make a lie of that.
I know people accuse Ozil of drifting or being off the pace (still, I know), but the fourth goal against Basel the other night was the perfect illustration of how much desire he has to make things happen. The pic below shows him just as Ramsey picks up the ball from Koscielny, he takes off on a 60 yard run into the box, bombs past the defender circled in red, which allows Alexis to find him with a great pass and for the German to lay it on a plate for Iwobi to score. Tell me now that’s a player who isn’t giving 100%.
We all know the importance of keeping both of these players, but I also think it’s important not to let those worries cloud the enjoyment of what they’re doing this season. It’s December, things are going well, and if they can keep up this kind of form then our chances of being in the mix come May are much, much better. It’s been a while since we had two of the best players in the world at this club, and one of the natural consequences of that is fear of losing them. Whatever happens though, it shouldn’t get in the way of loving what they do when they play, and there’s a danger the constant scaremongering about their futures could do just that.
For some extra reading this morning, Tim Stillman looks at life without Santi Cazorla.
Right then, time now for this week’s Arsecast, and after a couple of fantastic wins I’m joined by Tim from @arse2mouse to discuss the midweek battering of Basel, finishing top of the Champions League group, potential opposition in the next round, and a squad that seems to be as strong and balanced as we’ve seen in ages. The Angriest Man on Twitter drops by, there’s some fun commentary, the chance to win goodies from the Art of Football, and lots of the usual waffle.
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Any breaking news throughout the day can be found over on Arseblog News, The Gent will be here with his weekly review later on, and I’ll be back tomorrow with a preview of the Stoke game and whatever else happens in the meantime. Have a good one, and enjoy the podcast.