West Brom preview + Saturday round-up

It’s West Brom today and the expectation must be three points.

The last time we played them at home was the opening day of the season a couple of years ago and Samir Nasri’s debut goal was enough for the win. The visitors arrive on the back of three decent results. They should have beaten Sp*rs a couple of weeks ago, they put three past Birmingham at home and beat Man City in midweek. A weakened Man City it might have been but that’s not going to stop them coming into this game in a good shape and fairly confident.

There simply can’t be any question of underestimating them. They took a pasting from Chelsea on the opening weekend all right but I’m sure there were lots of lessons learned from that. I don’t expect anything like that kind of scoreline today. It was interesting to listen to Jack Wilshere speaking after the Sp*rs game on Tuesday. He said Arsene came into the dressing room, congratulated them then told them to forget that game and get focussed on this one.

It’s hard to see any of the teams around us dropping points this weekend so a win is absolutely vital. As for the team you have to think he’ll change things around a bit. Those who sat out the Carling Cup game will come back in, so that means returns for Sagna, Clichy, Almunia, Chamakh, Squillaci and Arshavin. Song returns from suspension, Abou Diaby could be back and then he’s got to decide which of the players who did 120 minutes in midweek are fresh enough to start today.

That leaves question marks over the involvement of Nasri and Wilshere, I suppose, while at centre-half he’s got no choice but to play one of Koscielny or Djourou. I suspect the Frenchman will get the nod there. If we play well this is a game we should win. Any lapse of concentration or focus and West Brom are good enough to take advantage.

Moving on an Arsenal’s financial results were released yesterday. It seems we’ve managed to save up all our coppers and our piggy bank is quite full indeed. The Gazidis interview is worth a watch and I don’t think there’s any great need for half-arsed financial analysis from someone like me. If something better comes along I’ll be sure to point you in the right direction.

With financial results like that, however, it brings up the issue of the manager’s spending, or lack of spending. Arsene has denied that he’s afraid of spending money, saying part of a manager’s job is to get the new players for the best possible price. He cites Chamakh:

‘why did you not get spend £20 million for him?’ If I’d bought him two years ago for £20 million it’s OK. But when you get him for free it’s ‘oh, he didn’t spend money again’.

It’s easy to understand where’s he’s coming from but it’s really only half the story. There is the sense that by just spending a little more we might have had more success in the last few years but as plenty of clubs have shown down the years spending is no guarantee of winning things either. The manager also makes the point:

For example you [the media] reproach me for not buying players but if I buy players Jack Wilshere doesn’t come out into the first team.

Also a good point but not every young player is a Jack Wilshere. Anyway, frustrated as I have been by his inactivity in the transfer market at times, and I really have been, I would rather his perceived parsimony than someone who spends so much money the club he’s managing goes into administration and gets relegated. I know there’s a balance and I’m taking an extreme and twitchy example but he’s always cognisant he’s spending ‘our’ money.

It’s fans who contribute much of the club’s income, fans who will remind players not doing their best who ultimately pays their wages, and while it’s easy to say, during the desperate search for a goalkeeper ‘Why not spend £4m on Schwarzer?’, the answer is clearly that Schwarzer was barely worth what we had offered for him, let alone double that.

One of the men he did spend money on this summer was Sebastian Squillaci from Sevilla. Hardly the big name defender people wanted and Arsene and Arsenal drove a typically hard bargain for the Frenchman. He cost just over €4m and he talks about what he brings to the team:

I am a proper defender, tough on my opponent, good in the air. With the ball, I always try to play simple, good passing. I have scored a few headers on set-pieces, so I can help there too.

It’s been a steady, if unspectacular start for him in England, and that’s no bad thing by any means. I’ve thought a bit about what’s changed about this Arsenal team this season and I’ve come to the conclusion that the additions to the team have been extremely well thought out.

Koscielny is given a chance at a level he might have thought beyond him at this point in his career. He’s motivated and giving everything to make the step up. Chamakh arrives at 26, experienced in Europe and ready to hit his peak. Squillaci has just gone 30 and knows this is likely his last big move. Again that gives us a player hungry for success. And when you add the 18 year old enthusiasm and quality of Jack Wilshere to the mix it really has freshened up the team in a good way.

After today’s game Roberto di Matteo will be invited for a drink, as is the custom after every home game. It’s ridiculous that after all this time Arsene still has to justify why he doesn’t have a glass of wine with Sam Allardyce after a trip to Blackburn. Personally I can’t think of anything much worse than having to witness that grunting oaf slurp from a cracked goblet of Blue Nun.

I’m no fan of the Daily Mail but this piece by Des Kelly was quite funny, this bit in particular:

What is it with managers and wine, anyway? In every pre-match interview, experienced bosses seem to morph into pseudo sommeliers and agonise over whether the red wine they have bought for their visiting counterpart is decent enough. It has become a badge of bogus sophistication.

Heh. It’s far from Château Latour most of them were raised, I tell you. I know folk can learn but if you had to guess what they’d give you it’d be a can of Tennants and a bowl of cheesey Wotsits. Cheers to @Hansen97 for the tip-off.

And on that intoxicating, fermented note I’ll take my leave, get busy in the kitchen with some bacon, coffee and a bottle of Black Tower.

Here’s to the three points later, more tomorrow.

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