Evra’s comments hurt for good reason + Saturday round-up

Morning to you. The thaw is well and truly on, not in time to save football last night but Sunday should be fine. I had to replace an hour of 5-a-side with an hour of drinking Rioja and playing FIFA 11, it’s close enough to what happens on the pitch.

Now, a lot has been said about the comments from Patrice Evra. If you haven’t heard them, he said:

For me, Arsenal is a football training centre. You watch the match, you enjoy it, but are you going to win a title afterwards. There is nothing. There are no trophies, there is nothing. A big club like Arsenal have not won a thing for five years. For me that is a crisis and a load of rubbish.

Understandably Arsenal fans have not taken kindly to them. Nobody likes to hear anyone talk badly about our club. It’s ok for us to do it but that’s our right. At his press conference yesterday Arsene was asked about the comments and said to the press folk:

He gave you some good stuff to make it all hot before the game. But we are guided by the way we want to play football and not by the statements of anybody who plays against us. We want to focus on the way we want to play and ignore any provocation before a game. We are motivated by the desire to win the game and by the quality of the football we want to play.

Which is exactly what you would expect any manager to say but for the players, well, that’s a different thing. If we’re being honest the reason Evra’s comments sting is because there’s more than a hint of truth to them. Unpalatable as it might be to admit, there just is. It doesn’t mean that Evra isn’t the scuttery, infected discharge from an swollen anal polyp, because he is, and more, but our record is there. Lots of nice football, just not enough of it and no trophies.

And I don’t want to open up the debate about finishing in the top four and all that. He’s right, nobody remembers who came fourth. Champions League football is important, of course it is, but unless you’re a pack of smalltimers like Sp*rs you don’t go celebrating the fact you’ve qualified for a tournament for the 12th season running, or whatever it is.

Yet if we’re stung by his comments as fans then the players should be too. If this doesn’t fire them up and provide extra motivation – not that it should be needed ahead of a game like this – then I’d be very worried indeed. Sometimes the best motivator is an opponent. How many times have you played a game and heard one of the opposition mouth off about how ‘they’re rubbish, lads’ or ‘get stuck in, they don’t like it’? I’ve lost count but, when I’ve calmed down and stopped myself slide tackling the fucker in the face, it makes you focus and redouble your efforts.

That’s what Evra’s comments should do to the Arsenal players. It shouldn’t provoke any kind of personal vendetta on the pitch, there’s no point kicking him and getting booked or sent off, the best way to hurt him for those comments is to make Man United pay for them. So that afterwards someone might turn around and say “Next time, Anal Polyp, keep it shut till after the game”.

It might be a cliché to talk about putting the comments up on the dressing room wall and the teamtalk being done but, honestly, these things do count. They do matter. It’s not about making Evra eat his words, a win over United is just that, there’s no silverware for it, but the captain and the manager would be foolish not to use those words to try and get more out of the team. Not just for the United game but for the rest of the season.

Whether the captain makes the game or not is still in question. Arsene says:

It will be a very late decision to see if Cesc is in the squad or not. We have to assess if it is a risk for him to play and if he is ready to play in a very intense game, then I will make a decision. The final decision will be mine. I have the responsibility to make the decision.

The lateness of the decision suggests the odds have to be against it but we’ll see. Djourou and Clichy come back into the squad, as expected, but Vermaelen, Diaby and Almunia remain out. Speaking of whom, the manager says his departure has never been discussed and that comments from his agent are odd because he doesn’t have one at the moment.

Andrei Arshavin’s patchy form this season has been a source of frustration but the manager has defended the player, saying:

He tries to make incisive passes so of course when he takes one risk and it doesn’t work for him he takes another one. So sometimes people are impatient with his decision making. But if you look at the numbers of Arshavin in the Premier League you will see that he is the best passer and has more assists than anybody.

I call foul on the best passer stat, that’s patently not true, but while both Chris Brunt and Nani have more assists in the league he tops the chart from an Arsenal point of view. Personally speaking it’s not his misplaced passes that frustrate me, it’s his casual approach to games, the wild inconsistency between performances (and you can include first halves v second halves there), and the fact he just doesn’t seem to have what it takes physically. I fully accept his stats look good but you can’t judge a player simply on numbers.

It’s hard not to be frustrated by him yet still aware he does have the quality and ability to make something happen. He’s somebody who should make a big contribution to any trophy winning side, I don’t think it’s unfair to expect better from him, and I hope he can put in the kind of display on Monday that merits his reputation. If we’re going win at Old Trafford we need him to play well.

Cesc talks about the ‘weird season’ and how we have to take advantage.

Tomas Rosicky on how there’s still a lot of work left to do.

The Mail has a nice bit with Tony Adams and Martin Keown doing a bit of reminiscing. I wonder was it the fact that Keown was touched up by a ghost that made him the player he was. I like to think so.

Finally, just to remind you about some Arseblog stuff – you can follow on Twitter or Facebook. If your work is one of those that blocks websites for being totally cool and awesome you can always sign up for the Mailing List, meaning you’ll have fresh arse lashed into your box every morning, and if you’re bored check out out the Arsenal videos powered by 101 Great Goals.

And that’s about that for today. Still trying to get to grips with the Mondayness of the game so it’ll make the rest of the weekend weird. Till tomorrow.

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