Monday, January 24, 2022

Braga preview + Wenger on bad tackles

Right so, we’ll start with the team news for tonight and as expected Abou Diaby misses the game after the Robinson challenge on Saturday. Also out is Thomas Vermaelen who hasn’t recovered from his achilles problem picked up on international duty.

Johann Djourou played for the reserves in Manchester last night so that means the centre-half partnership of Squillaci and Koscielny will continue. I expect Sagna and Clichy to return to the full back positions, Nasri or Wilshere to take Diaby’s place and beyond that I think it’ll be the rest of the team that played against Bolton.

The manager spelled out what he expects from the visitors:

They are a team that are physically strong, well organised and play with very quick transition from defence to offence. We know their players. But what impresses me is that they finished in front of Porto, who we played last year.

Braga lost last weekend against Porto, an away game in which they played a formation very similar to our own. As it’s their Champions League debut proper, and against a team with some pedigree in the competition, I think they come to London with nothing to lose. We won’t underestimate them, by any means, but at the same time I’m not sure the football world expects a lot from them which allows them to play without too much pressure.

If, as the ZM report suggests, Braga struggled to cope with the movement of Hulk, they might well find Arsenal’s attacking play a lot more difficult to deal with. With Fabregas pulling the strings in midfield and with Arshavin (hopefully with shooting boots), Chamakh (who the boss has been talking up), Rosicky, Nasri and even Alex Song who got forward brilliantly against Bolton they’ll have to be at their best, I feel.

We know how important the home games are in the Champions League. I think I read somewhere that we’ve never won an away game in the CL in the countries we’ll be visiting this season so it’s important we make the most of the games at the Grove. The confidence will be high after the Bolton game, let’s keep the good start to the season going.

At the press conference yesterday the news regarding Diaby was initially quite worrying. The manager said he had no idea how long he’d be out, later clarifying what he meant. Diaby himself said:

To be honest I am lucky to only miss two or three games, I really thought I would be out for a long time. Bolton is a very physical team and the tackle was a strong one, but it is Premier League football, people are committed, so it is fine for me.

There have been some mixed reactions to what Diaby said. Those who would urge him to condemn Robinson outright have to remember he’s also made a couple of bad tackles in his time which the media would quite happily dig up if he had. All that would do is take the focus off the issue which is the dangerous tackling which seems to be more and more commonplace.

Arsene Wenger, however, put it right up to the people who should be doing something about it, the FA. The same FA who seek to prevent coverage of such incidents for reasons best guessed at. Anyway, Arsene said:

The tackle was bad. The tackle was very bad. I cannot protect the players, only the FA can do that. I love the English game, but people are more interested in controversy than protecting the players. Why should I create another story? You asked me how the tackle was, and it was bad.

The beauty of the game is down to the fact that you play with commitment, passion, but the right intention. I’ve been a football player. If I’m injured by a guy who goes for the ball, I’m too late and twist my ankle I say it’s an accident.

If I go for the ball and am tackled at the level of my knee then I feel it’s not football.

It’s difficult to know how anyone can argue with that. Of course you’ll get idiot pundits and columnists winding people up, and even on Twitter yesterday someone mentioned to me that TalkSport were saying there was nothing wrong with the Robinson challenge. I know the way radio stations operate, they’re putting forward a controversial opinion which they know is wrong but which they also know will get people upset and ultimately create listenership. At the end of the day though it’s not just a wind-up, it’s condoning a style of play which is dangerous and which will lead to players getting hurt.

Like the manager I love the physical side of the game. Unlike some people though I find it hard to look at players whose legs are snapped in two or whose feet are pointing the wrong way. I don’t accept that as ‘part and parcel’ of the game. The FA are too lenient, the media consistently make excuses for players who take the physical side of the game too far – if they’re not simply ignoring incidents which deserve greater analysis – and the sad reality is that until the authorities accept there’s a problem and make moves to do something about it we’re going to see more players (and not just Arsenal players) hurt badly.

Anyway, it’s a bit like pissing in the wind at the moment but hopefully as more and more people get their news and information from non-mainstream sources pressure might grow on those who run the game to take their heads out of the sand and do something positive.

Marouane Chamakh talks to about his fledgling Arsenal career and how he’s coping with English football:

I was a bit taken aback to start with. I’ve taken a couple of shoulder barges and thought the ref was going to blow but he didn’t. He just looked at me and said: ‘Play on, play on’. That’s the way the game is and it’s up to me to get used to it.

He’s had plenty of time to prepare himself for the move to England and at 26 is experienced enough to cope with the change more quickly than a younger player might be. I’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen of him so far and I’ve got some money on him to score the first goal tonight. He’s got a good record in the Champions League – he’s scored in each of his last three appearances in the competition – so fingers crossed he keeps it up tonight.

Nicklas Bendtner, a man who is going to have to step it up with the arrival of Chamakh, reveals he’s well on the way to his comeback. With van Persie out for a good while yet that is a good thing.

Finally for today, congratulations to Lee Saunders who won the tickets to tonight’s game thanks to Emirates Airline. Enjoy.

Here’s to a good result and a good performance later, more tomorrow.

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