Sunday, January 29, 2023

Ref rows – UEFA charges – Injury worries


the post-Barcelona fallout continues with the news from UEFA that Arsene Wenger and Samir Nasri have been charged for comments made to referee Massimo Busacca after the game. I’m unsure of the specific charge but I suspect it’s something that contravenes the ‘Don’t tell a shit ref he’s shit, it’ll really hurt his feelings’ law.

In the Mirror John Cross has some details of what went on. There was the initial bust-up, which started on the pitch, and carried on into the tunnel. And then a further row an hour later after Wenger had finished his press conference. The suggestion is that the referee played an equal part, and joined in the swearing. Personally, I have no real issue with that. If we’re swearing at him, calling him a ‘useless, crooked cunt’, perhaps, then he’s perfectly entitled to have a go back. We’re all adults here.

What’s interesting is that Busacca clearly thinks he made the right decision. There was obviously no post-game ‘Ooops, you know what? I might have got that one a bit wrong’. His vigorous self-defence comes from the belief that he’s entirely in the right and he’s got a history of being reactionary. Thanks to JCP085 on the old Twitter for pointing me in the direction of this story about how Busacca was done for fingering young boys.

You only needed to look at his bug-eyed joy in knowing that he was making himself the story on a night when people should have been talking only about football. And apparently he’s reffing the Champions League final this season. I’m sure Barcelona will be happy about that if they get there. Anyway, on March 17th the UEFA disciplinary panel will meet to decide on a punishment for the manager and for Nasri but whatever it is we won’t be affected by it until next season.

Interestingly Robin van Persie will face no charges despite calling the referee and his decision a ‘joke’. And if it was a joke it was clearly written and performed by James Corden.

Ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup game against United and the run-in to the title, Jack Wilshere has called on his teammates to pick themselves up and show what they’re made of. He said:

We have got great mental strength. There is disappointment in the dressing room, yes, but we have got to pick ourselves up and go to Manchester United to get the win. It is massive. We are still in two competitions, just three points behind United in the league and with a game in hand. Maybe now that we are out of Europe, we can be stronger in the league, concentrate on that more, and really push on to try to win it.

It’s funny, just a couple of weeks ago the word ‘quadruple’ was being bandied around. Of course it was fluff, anyone who really believed we could do that was living in dreamland, but we were in four competitions. The expectation was that we would have achieved something the club hasn’t for [insert growing time frame here] but the shambolic end to the Carling Cup final put paid to that.

Barcelona was always going to be a tough task and we can feel a little aggrieved at the manner of our exit while still acknowledging that they are a fantastic, if immensely dislikable, side. And then to Old Trafford on Saturday. Unless we get a result there we go from quadruple to … erm … onetuple. And however you want to dress it up about being able to focus on the league it’s hard to imagine it does much good for the confidence to go out of three competitions in such a short space of time.

I agree with Jack, Saturday’s game is massive, not just for the FA Cup, not just because it’s Arsenal v United, but because we need to rebuild some confidence and we need to keep as many chances at winning something alive as we possibly can. If we get past United, into the semi-finals, the traditional big names are not there. I realise, having lost the CC final against Birmingham, we cannot be presumptuous in any way but it would provide another decent chance at a trophy.

Still, that assumes we’ll get past United who, I suspect, will realise that another defeat at the weekend might shake our confidence even further and will play as strong a team as they possibly can. From our point of view absences seem likely. There’s no word yet on the injuries to Cesc or Wojscez, or anyone else who might have picked up a knock on Tuesday night. I don’t expect either of those two to play.

Arsene’s press conference takes place today so we’ll have updates on that. It will be interesting to see what we’ll do if Woj is out for the rest of the season as is feared. Vito Mannone is currently injured, we know Fabianski is out, so that just leaves youngsters James Shea and Emilio Martinez to understudy Manuel, and the former is out on loan for the next couple of weeks anyway.

There’s some precedent for being allowed an emergency signing. Last season Man City were allowed bring in Sunderland’s Martin Fulop on loan after Shay Given was injured and former Arsenal keeper Stuart Taylor continued his fine tradition of always being injured just when he might have had a chance. Hopefully it won’t come to that and Wojscez©® is fit sooner rather than later but it’s definitely an issue at this moment in time.

There was more bad news on the injury from regarding Thomas Vermaelen. After being close to a first team return he’s had another setback, scar tissue from the surgery causing a problem apparently, and we’re unlikely to see him again this term. In the Mirror piece above he’s quoted as saying:

I don’t know when I will be able to play again. No date has been set for my comeback – but it will not be in March.

When you consider he might have back from a broken leg quicker than this it’s a rotten injury to have. It’s not a blow that he’s out for a longer time now, the blow was losing him early in the season. Clearly all the specialists he’s seen have failed to fix the problem and until we get some definitive news about his return we’ll have just carry on without him. And it’s such a shame for any player to miss that long with injury.

Hopefully we’ll get some clarification from Arsene today, as well as the other potential niggles and knocks, meaning we can turn our attention to the FA Cup on Saturday.

For today’s that’s about, back tomorrow with the Arsecast. Until then, have a good one.

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