Thursday, February 29, 2024

CL draw, character and Arsecast 206

Morning chums!

We’ll start this morning with the Champions League draw and this season, like we have for the last 15 seasons and not just once by fluke like that lot who are sponsored by Sky Sports News, we’ll be at Europe’s top table playing Borussia Dortmund, Marseille and Olympiacos. I think that’s pretty ok, to be honest. Good teams, good games, decent tests, and pretty much what European football is supposed to be about.

There are those who bemoan the fact that United always get an easy draw, playing teams from outer space with no vowels in their name, but who wants to see those teams anyway? Not me, I can tell you. The German side will be a good test, we’ve had our moments in Greece in the past, and Marseille, well that’s a chance to footballistically kick of the fuck out of them as revenge for $amir Na$ri. All fun and games. First fixture is away at Dortmund on September 13th.

And after Wednesday night’s display, penalty saving hero Wojciech Szczesny and Thomas Vermaelen have been talking about the belief they had that they could turn it around. SZCZ says:

I think the only people who actually believed in the team was the team itself. All the players in the dressing room were very motivated and had the belief we could come back into the game and score the important away goal. The last couple of games we had disappointing results but as I said, there was never a doubt in our heads that we are a very good side.

While Vermaelen says:

Everybody was alive, and everybody said we needed to stay positive. We knew that being 1-0 down was nothing – we only needed to score one goal and then they had to score two. We had that mentality in the second-half.

In the absence of the quality we’ve lost, and still need to replace, character and spirit can make up the difference, in the short term at least. And I’m really hopeful that the penalty save might prove to be something of a turning point. If the moment at the end of the Carling Cup final sent us into a spiral of misery and has had us running through treacle ever since, maybe this is the thing that might just lift us out of it.

Sometimes, when you feel everything is going against you, it kind of makes everything go against you. You need a bit of luck now and again – and despite all the issues we have with our team at the moment there’s no doubt that the occasional bit of good fortune has been in shorter supply than coke at John Terry’s dad’s local – so I hope this is a signal that our fortunes are changing. Even just a little bit.

The season is long, however, and with the champions on Sunday we’re still some way short of where we should be in terms of our squad. There are some obvious holes to fill, left back, centre-half, someone creative in midfield, and while I’d like to see a striker come in too it doesn’t look as if Nicklas Bendtner is going anywhere so he might well stay and have a part to play this season. That said, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he were used as part of a deal to bring in one of the aforementioned players.

The transfer window closes on Wednesday evening and we need players. Frankly, we need them before Sunday given the injuries and suspensions we’re carrying but at this stage I’d suggest it’s too late to do any business in time for that game. Speaking at yesterday’s Champions League draw, club secretary David Miles said we’d be going the distance before the window closes:

I think that you’ll appreciate I can’t exactly give you specifics but certainly everyone is committed. If there’s quality players to be brought in I’ve got every faith in Arsene Wenger that he’ll do so.

As you rightly say we’ve got just under a week. I’ve been involved myself in some last minute transfers so until the window actually closes I think that we’re still open for business.

So let’s see what happens. The Mirror is reporting we made a £6m bid for Gary Cahill which Bolton knocked back. Whether the lowness of our bid is accurate, what does appear to be true is that the two clubs talked but they wanted more than we were prepared to pay. Quite how much more I don’t know but it’s probably fair to say the gap was large. Things being what they are we can afford not be penny pinching tightwads but we also know how strictly Arsene adheres to the valuations he puts on players. If the club in question want more than he thinks the player is worth then there’s rarely a deal.

But the reality of our situation where a) we’re in need and b) we’ve got more money than Mr Drummond from Diff’rent Strokes means we might have to reassess how we do business. The world don’t move to the beat of just one drum, Arsene. What might be right for you, may not be right for some.

In general, most players move for more than they’re worth. Might we take one S Nasri as an example? Good player but worth £25m in the final year of his contract? No. I know City are a bad example, perhaps, but look at Aston Villa paying £24m for Darren Bent. Good player but never worth anywhere near that much. If you want a player though, sometimes you’ve just got to accept it’s the market that dictates price and not Arsene’s algorithms.

Our need for a left back is highlighted by the news in The Mirror that we could loan Armand Traore to QPR. Personally, he’s not a player I rate very highly and I think it’s obvious, when Arsene plays our best right back at left back and a rookie at right back in a massive European game, that he doesn’t really feature in our plans. Gibbs brittleosity means he’ll miss games, come back for a bit, miss more games, and more than anywhere else on the pitch some continuity in the back four is crucial.

Arsene will face the press today and undoubtedly he’ll be asked about plans to spend the money at his disposal. Also undoubtedly he’ll say we’re working very hard and if we find the right player we will do it and we’re staying up all night but I think they’re staying up all night dipping MDMA powder and listening to classic house music. I’m happy to be proved wrong there though.

Right, onto this week’s Arsecast and joining me to discuss the week that was is Tim Stillman, of Vital Arsenal and also of this parish. Internet Joe is in there, an old ‘friend’ returns and we’ve got the usual waffle too.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too. To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (23mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.


We’ll have an idea of whose available for Sunday later in the day, keep up to date on Arseblog News.

So, till tomorrow, have yourselves a good Friday.

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