Good morning, plenty to get through today so let’s start with team news ahead of tomorrow’s game against West Brom.
Thomas Vermaelen and Cesc remain out with achilles and hamstring problems respectively while Kieran Gibbs starts his ‘short term’ absence because of his bashed up metatarsal. There are fitness tests ahead for Rosicky and Eboue while Song and Squillaci come back in. Abou Diaby could also make the squad after Paul Robinson’s tackle against Bolton.
There’ll be a fuller preview of the game tomorrow but we’ll also see the return of Almunia as well as discovering how the manager jigs things around having seen some players do 120 minutes in midweek. Arsene’s press conference took place yesterday as the club’s financial results are released today. We’ll wait and see what’s officially produced but all the talk is of record profits, early payback of the Highbury Square loans and increased revenue.
It’s good news, by any standards, although I am steeling myself to listen to the phrase “All that money and we still didn’t buy a goalkeeper” about sixty billion times in the next 24 hours.
And speaking of goalkeepers the manager was quizzed about the comments made by Wojscez©® during the week in which he expressed his disappointment at not being given a chance. He said:
He is right, he deserves a chance but the keeper in front of him, Vito Mannone, deserves a chance as well.
I believe the best thing for him is just to focus, work hard and trust us. No club in the world has started more players at the top, top level than we have. Nobody, so he is in the right club.
On the one hand it’s easy to understand the young man’s frustration, he spent last season out on loan, playing every week, and now he finds himself third or possibly fourth choice at Arsenal. I believe the original plan was for him go on loan again this season but for whatever reason, and I suspect it’s because Arsene has doubts about Almunia and Fabianski, it hasn’t happened.
Which leaves us with an unhappy young man. My feeling is that he’s probably gone about things the wrong way. Airing his gripes so publicly really isn’t the brightest thing to do, especially when if you show a bit of patience, wait for the inevitable mistake from Fabianski you can then have a quiet word in the manager’s ear to remind him that you feel you deserve a go.
The other source of frustration might well be that the manager’s patience with Fabianski seems endless and in that case I don’t think there’s any Arsenal fan who doesn’t feel some sympathy for him. However, reading his comments during the week it seems his expectation was to be the number 2 keeper this season with Fabianski as the number 1. If he thinks the manager has erred by keeping Manuel as his first choice keeper then his judgement is obviously suspect.
The other thing is that there’s such an amount of hype about his ability that maybe we’re refusing to see that there might be other issues as to why he’s not being picked. You just need to look at 18 year old Jack Wilshere making the most of his chance in midfield to see that age is not an issue for Arsene Wenger. He’s not a man swayed by sentiment either, we’ve seen that through the years, so you have to ask why, when Fabianski makes mistake after mistake, does Wojscez©® not get a go?
Don’t get me wrong, I’d be all for giving him a chance in the cups and promoting him to number 2 right now. He’s clearly a talented young man and anything that keeps Fabianski away from the first team can only be a good thing, but let’s not kid ourselves that the young Pole is suddenly the surefire answer to all our goalkeeping problems. Like Schwarzer, currently playing like a blind seal for Fulham, his reputation amongst fans is enhanced simply because he’s not Fabianski or Almunia.
I can’t help that feeling if he’d kept his counsel and said what he needed to say privately it would have been more productive for him. A good season for Brentford is not enough to start making demands and veiled threats at a club like Arsenal. This wouldn’t be such a worry if there wasn’t the contract issue. Arsene says we want to keep him and a new contract is being offered but unless he sees there’s a real chance of first team football, sooner rather than later, I suspect he might well be off. Over to you, Arsene.
Also on the agenda was the subject of bad tackles and criticism of Arsene by Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce. In classic Wenger style he dismissed the Stoke and Blackburn managers bleating, saying:
When I say ‘this is a bad foul’, I just say ‘this is a bad foul’. I do not consider who it is, where it is or the manager. I just think it is a bad foul. They shouldn’t take it personally because I do not criticise them.
Clearly Pulis and Allardyce are overly-sensitive to the issue, and are both hopeless stinking twats, but making them the story fudges the issue. On bad tackling the boss said:
That’s why I have pleaded for a long time for the use of video [technology] – if you want the referee to get bad tackles out of the game, you have to accept that at some stage a review of the video so the FA can punish the players that do it.
And he’s absolutely right. Wenger was charged and punished by the FA within 48 hours of his Sunderland misdemeanour. Which is absolutely fine yet weeks after the shocking, over the ball challenge from Paul Robinson the Bolton player remains untouched by the slithery hand of football justice.
And it’s not as if there isn’t precedent. The FA have used video evidence in the past to punish players – Ben Thatcher’s elbow on Pedro Mendes for example – yet they generally avoid the issue of serious foul play. Often, when they do use video replays they make fools of themselves. I remember when Eduardo’s leg was broken at Birmingham, Jeremie Aliadiere was sent off that weekend for touching an opponent in the face.
Ok, by the letter of the law a red card, but he touched him. He didn’t slap him, punch him, scrape his nails down his face or anything particularly violent. Middlesbrough appealed the sending off, the FA must have had to look at the footage again to make a decision then added an extra game to his 3 match ban for making a frivolous appeal. So you have a situation where a reckless, late and dangerous tackle which broke a player’s leg in two and massively impacted his career is punished with a mandatory 3 game ban while Aliadiere’s silliness gets 4.
So while I’d very much like to see retrospective punishment – because I truly believe it will make players think twice about going in recklessly and dangerously – I would have little faith in the FA’s ability to implement a fair and reasonable system for dealing with such things. When you’re dealing with an organisation that is quick to punish managers for minor indiscretions yet refuses time and time again to address one of the most pressing issues in the game it’s difficult to believe they actually care enough to make the change.
Anyway, as long as Wenger remains the lone voice on this it’s easy for them to ignore. It’s up to all the managers who genuinely care about the game to make themselves heard. Mark Hughes might feel differently this week after Stoke’s latest piece of thuggery but it shouldn’t take incidents like that to want what’s best for football.
Right, that’s enough of all that and it’s time for this week’s Arsecast. Joining me to discuss the win over Sp*rs, Jack Wilshere, Wojscez’s comments and more is the always fantastic Amy Lawrence. As well as that we’ve got Arshavin, Internet Joe and the usual waffle.
You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too. To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (26mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.
As I said, a fuller preview of the West Brom game tomorrow as well as a look – but not a Swiss Ramble look – at the financial results.
Till them, have a good Friday.