the first home game of the season – our awesome new kit makes its debut – and there’s the expectation of a good win today. Blackpool had a brilliant introduction to the Premier League as Wigan lubed up and took it like gentlemen. I don’t expect Arsenal to do the same today.
Squad news is that Song, Djourou and Fabregas are back in the mix. There’s some talk that Djourou might not be 100% and Song could play at centre-half. That could mean a return for Cesc or another chance for Jack Wilshere with Tomas Rosicky taking Nasri’s place in the midfield.
I think Theo Walcott will get the nod ahead of Eboue in the front three, Arshavin will probably continue despite his poor showing last week, and all things going well we can give van Persie and Cesc a run out to start honing their fitness.
Manuel Almunia will start in goal and Arsene was entirely non-committal when asked about the goalkeeping situation yesterday. He admitted Almunia was unsettled but told him, more or less, ‘that’s life’. At a big club like Arsenal you have to accept competition. As I said last week Almunia knows this fine well having been the one to benefit when the manager felt Jens Lehmann was no longer up to the job.
Schwarzer’s name came up again, as did Given’s, but Arsene was giving nothing away. As always he said he wasn’t going to speak about bids made or details of bids, which makes Mark Hughes’s comments about Arsenal unsettling Schwarzer even more laughable. The only manager talking about Schwarzer moving to Arsenal is Hughes.
The boss also spoke about the need for defensive reinforcements. In the pre-match interview with ATVO he was asked about Squillaci and the conversation went:
Arsene – “We need one more body, at least, and he’s one of the candidates. It’s premature to speak of him joining us”
Q – “How far down the road of signing him are you?’
A – “It depends how long the road is. hahaha. We have just walked into the road”.
So there you go. It all depends on the road. I checked on the internet about the road and according to popular beat combo The Hollies the road is quite long indeed, with many a winding turn, so it might be some time before we get to the end of it. At least we’re on it though and not stuck at a set of traffic lights.
Today we’d do well not to underestimate Blackpool. The Hull game a couple of seasons ago should still serve as valuable and embarrassing lesson to us. We went out that day thinking we just had to turn up to win, a hubristic approach that cost us three points. At the moment Ian Holloway is an amusing character, full of nice words about our manager, but I seem to remember Phil Brown starting that way. And yes, there’s a connection. Blackpool play in orange, Phil Brown is orange, let’s hope he doesn’t go down that road (an entirely different road from the one we’re on looking for defenders, btw).
You have to think a fully focussed Arsenal will have too much for the new boys today. A nice early goal would settle things down nicely. Fingers crossed.
I’ve got to touch on these Scholes stories that are making the headlines this morning. In the middle of his Arsenal press conference, about Arsenal, AW was asked by a BBC journalist (I assume) if he had a few words about Paul Scholes as they were doing a feature on him for Football Focus. Wenger said he was a great player who had a bit of a dark side which he didn’t like.
Cue stories this morning featuring favourite words like ‘blast’ and attacks which were ‘astonishing/stinging’ and all kinds of other stuff.
Now, there are those who point to Patrick Vieira having his disciplinary problems. Absolutely fair enough. So why is it considered beyond the pale to criticise Scholes? Is it in any way incorrect to suggest that Scholes can be a dirty player at times? Even the most ardent United fan will admit that. How many times have we heard of a ‘typical Scholes tackle’, which is usually late, dangerous and from behind. Commentators and pundits laugh off his dirty moments – “When will he ever learn to tackle? haha” – simply because he’s one of the best players England have produced in the last 15 years.
A foreign player who consistently tackled the way Scholes did would have a reputation far worse than the United man. Scholes is a brilliant player, Wenger was full of compliments about his football ability and respecting Scholes for not hogging the limelight, but saying he was capable of going a bit too far with his tackling is no big deal. It certainly doesn’t merit the headlines this morning.
Sometimes you get the feeling Arsene is a little too open for his own good. The hacks know if they ask his opinion on anything they’ll get an honest answer. Maybe yesterday he should have said ‘This is about Arsenal, let’s stick to that’, but to put him on the spot then stick the knife in when he gives them his honest opinion is a bit scummy, if you ask me. Can anyone really argue against what he said? Can any United fan? Great player but a bit dirty on his day? I don’t think so.
The boss also spoke about William Gallas and his last resort move to Sp*rs. As always he said he hoped fans wouldn’t give him a hard time and spoke well about his character. He does this every time a player leaves who the fans have taken agin and every time we ignore him because our relationship with them is different. Arsene might have respected Gallas for his attitude, that’s up to him, but we make our own minds up and let’s face it – looking at Cole, Adebayor and the others who get a hard time – we rarely get it wrong.
Yeah, and you can shut up Frank Stapleton.
So that’s about that. Some pottering about to do this morning then it’s time for 3pm Arsenal. No better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Just finally – happy birthday to the Mugsmasher today who is celebrating by doing this. The crazy fool.