Thursday, November 30, 2023

Fitness – Emmanuels – Airport Halls

So the team continue in Germany, working hard on fitness and probably doing lots of running. Is there anything worse than just running?

I always, always hated pre-season when I was playing proper league football. Doing laps of the pitch, or doing that running when you’re in pairs and when the coach shouted ‘1’ it meant touch the ground with your right hand, ‘2’ with your left, ‘3’ up for a header, ‘4’ was ‘back men to the front’ and all that. And after an hour or 90 minutes of running you might, just might, get a 15 minute game of football.

I never did, and still don’t, see the point of running unless it’s with a ball, or after a ball, or after someone with a ball so you can take the ball off them. Or kick them. I’m easy like that. I suppose, if I were being paid tens of thousands per week I could learn to live with it but still.

Sure, I get that it’s for fitness and if I were in charge of Arsenal I reckon I’d be quite George Graham in my approach. I’m aware my own personal outlook is not necessarily the best way of going about things so I’d have them running up mountains with backpacks full of bricks, doing sprints, giving them 30 seconds rest and possibly, depending on my mood, having them chased about the place by wild animals. Maybe the insurance costs for that would be prohibitive but I’d have the fittest team of all time.

Anyway, that’s what the team are doing this week. The base fitness work which will hopefully see them reach their optimum by the season start. It’s not like the old days, the players are more professional, more athletic in general and not coming back from their summer holidays with a stone and a half of fish and chips and ale to lose from their gut, but this work is important and although some of them openly dislike it as much as you or I would, it’s got to be done.

While they’re put through their paces it looks like one or two, or maybe more, could be on their way this week. Obviously there’s the Cesc issue ongoing with Barcelona still saying they’ve got until the end of August to do a deal. Which, frankly, is a load of bollocks. There’s simply no way it can go on that long and with pre-season nudging ever closer to the actual season something’s gotta give one way or the other.

Top 3 Eboue penalty ...

There’s also talk that Emmanuel Eboue could be on his way to Galatasaray for a fee of about £4m. I’m no Eboue fan, and I won’t shed any tears if he does go, but it’s interesting that his name is amongst those departing. simply because he was given a new contract towards the end of last year. Of course this was before he gave away a penalty in the 37th minute of injury time against Liverpool, just moments after we’d scored the goal to put us ahead.

Our end of season collapse had little to do with him, really, but that contribution simply added to the litany of disastrous ways in which Arsenal threw away points. I suspect, on top of the other issues he had (the diving, the play-acting – even in that Liverpool game there was a horrible moment where he simply fell over as they attacked), it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Even for Arsene Wenger, who had more patience with Eboue than any man on earth, it was enough.

£4m would be good business and although it might leave us a bit short on experience we have Jenkinson who is clearly earmarked for some amount of first team football this season. And when your experienced players make the same kind of mistakes that Eboue made throughout his Arsenal career I don’t think it’s too much of a risk to give someone like Leeroy a chance in his place.

Also on the way out, highly rated youngster Jay Emmanuel-Thomas who is apparently on his way to Ipswich. A fee of £1m seems like pretty good value to me, provided Paul Jewell can get Thomas to back up his undoubted talent with some hard work and dedication. It was telling last season when Arsene Wenger spoke about him. When it came to his ability he was unequivocal, the player had bags of it, but he openly questioned his work ethic:

I believe he can play against anybody and score goals but then again you must earn your place and on a daily basis he must show you have the hunger and quality.

It seems those words went unheeded. As Arsenal beat Sp*rs in the Carling Cup at White Hart Lane, he spent a large part of the second half, and extra time, warming up on his own. He wasn’t brought on. A little message from the manager there. Again it seems he didn’t take the hint. A loan spell at Cardiff was a chance for him to show he had what it takes and while there were glimpses of his techincal ability the lack of hard work was all too apparent.

I imagine Arsenal will include a hefty sell-on clause – having brought him through the ranks and educated him for so long we’d want reward if he came good. He has long been lauded as one of the best young talents at the club but he need only have looked at Jack Wilshere, almost two years younger than him, to see how important it is to back up that talent with real effort and desire on the pitch. Some might say he’s never been given a chance but the maybe he’s never worked hard enough to be given that chance.

Elsewhere, an Henri Lansbury tweet – since deleted – raised some doubts over his future, which would be a shame. He certainly does have that hunger on the pitch and with the manager likening him to Ray Parlour it would have been nice to see him make the breakthrough. I definitely think he’s got something about him as a player. Maybe there’s still time and maybe we shouldn’t read too much into messages on Twitter.

Nicklas Bendnter continues his discussions with unnamed clubs, Manuel Almunia is free to leave as well, but the manager says he will ‘fight’ to keep everyone else at the club. However, you can’t have departures without arrivals so hopefully the spaces in the squad being freed up by those who are on their way will be filled sooner rather than later.

Stop laughing. More tomorrow.

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