Right then. A quick Saturday round-up for you.
The team news ahead of tomorrow’s game is that Cesc, Nasri and Diaby are all out, which means Aaron Ramsey will continue. We all know what that means but the manager was playing with a straight bat at yesterday’s press conference. The annoying Scottish bloke from Sky was trying, and I mean really trying, to stir things up because of what happened last season. Arsene was having none of it:
I think if you respect Aaron let him prepare the game and play his game. I have nothing special to say. He has a long career in front of him, so the earlier he plays in Stoke the better it is. The only thing that is important is to focus, to play well and win the game.
I would not like to go into that debate at all because I don’t think it’s very healthy, especially not from you.
Withering. He’s right, of course. It’s one thing for those of us with an Arsenal bias to wax lyrical what it all means but clearly Sky’s agenda was to get Wenger to say something so they could make a big deal out of it. It would be fair to say, having read some Stoke websites yesterday, that there’s an amount of tension bubbling under this one. The last thing it needs is for someone with the might and influence (like it or not) of Sky to try and turn this into something more than a game of football.
Of course it’s significant but it just came across like they wanted a scandal. No surprise, really, but there you go. And Arsene is right, the sooner Aaron plays there the better. He might well be on the end of a not-so-pleasant reception from the Stoke fans but I’m pretty sure he won’t care. I mean, if you’re affected by people stupid enough to boo you because you had your leg broken by one of their players then you won’t go far in professional football.
Then the annoying Scottish bloke tried to stir things up regarding Jack Wilshere and the England U21 situation. He asked Arsene if he was unhappy that Jack Wilshere had gone against his wishes and declared his willingness to play in the tournament nobody cares about this summer. Of course, Jack never did any such thing, nor did the manager tell him he didn’t want him to go, and Arsene said:
I would never say that. You cannot ask Jack if he wants to play – do you really think he will say no? I don’t think that’s realistic. The question raised by him playing are the consequences for the country.
He then chucked the ball straight back into Capello’s court, saying:
I would ask Fabio Capello to consider the consequences of a boy who is 19 years old who has played around 50 games at the end of the season, who has played for the first team and then a tournament on the back of it. What will the consequences be for the next season?
For me the bottom line is this: the only beneficiary of taking Jack Wilshere to this tournament is Stuart Pearce and the England U21s. There’s nothing for the player to learn, there’s no benefit to Arsenal – who may be without his services for the start of next season – and there’s certainly no benefit to the England senior team. They’ll also have to do without Jack for the early season internationals, and there’s the danger that without proper rest (and that doesn’t just mean giving him his holidays late), he might struggle with form and fitness next season.
Essentially, Stuart Pearce is saying that the England U21s are more important than Arsenal, more important than the England senior team, and more important than the proper development of one of the finest young players England have produced in years. Clearly something’s not right there and if Capello has any authority, or any sense of doing the right thing for the England team and the player, he’d veto Jack’s selection. I won’t hold my breath though.
Meanwhile the boss says he’ll talk to Nicklas Bendnter in the summer about his future. Acknowledging his chances were limited this season, he said:
I hope he wll stay. I will sit down with Nicklas at the end of the season to see how he feels.
Around this time last year the manager was asked about the future of Eduardo and said:
He is very important but I will assess that situation and sit down with him before the end of the season, you want to see as well how he feels.
I guess that’s that then. In a way I do feel for Bendnter a bit. The system we play means his chances of playing in his best position are minimal when van Persie is fit, and for a guy asked to play out of position he’s got a reasonable amount of goals this season. And in seasons past also.
The underlying feeling, however, is that the self-belief we know he has, and that he’s happy to remind us of, masks a shortfall in application. That if he really, really wanted to, he could work harder, try harder, on the pitch and in training, and that’s a factor in what’s happening to him now. The chance late on against Barcelona could have been the making of him, instead, when the time came he was found wanting, and on such things do careers rise and fall.
Right, a full preview of the game on tomorrow’s blog. In the meantime have a good Saturday.