The bigger picture + Arsecast 226

Later this morning Arsene will meet the press for his pre-Aston Villa press conference. And beyond the normal information we get from one of these gatherings, I have to say I’m really curious as to how it will go down.

It’ll be the first time he’s faced the media since Sunday’s defeat to United and that reaction to his decision to take off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He can’t not have been affected by it. I know when you’ve been at the top of the game for as long as he has you need to develop something of a thick skin, but you’d need to have a hide like a double-elephant for that to bounce off you.

And while I’m pretty sure that’s going to be a major talking point for the ladies and gentlemen of the fourth estate – as it has been for Arsenal fans all week long – I hope that doesn’t become the focus because for me it clouds the real issue. While we rant and rave / discuss sensibly and with decorum the decision it changes little. It was one moment in a game in which we had chances to score, it might well have had a bearing on the winning goal and I’ll have to take slight issue with those who say it was tactical genius by Ferguson to bring on Park.

He might well be quick-thinking and astute but it he didn’t look at The Ox coming off and make a decision based on that. The reason he made the change was because Rosicky kicked Nani up in the air and the shit Michael Jackson got injured and had to come off. That their goal came down our right hand side and had some Arshavin involvement wasn’t a surprise but nor was it anything other than decent play by Valencia.

Update: I’m a bit wrong about that sub, oh well, it wasn’t important anyway!

If the decision by Arsene was one he got wrong, then he got it wrong. People let him know they thought he got it wrong. Fair enough. It happens. And it’s always struck me as a bit over the top when a manager chucks a player on who then scores to hear that decision described as ‘inspired’. What about all the times he throws on players who contribute nothing? Anyway, here I am talking about the substitutiuon again because it’s easy to talk about it and not so easy to talk about the bigger issue.

Which is that Arsenal have gone through January without picking up a single league point. I know there have only been three games but isn’t that far more worthy of debate that one single moment in a match, however momentus it felt at the time (because of the reaction more than the decision itself, let’s face it)? I’d much rather hear what Arsene has to say about our current run of form, how we’ve lost league points and how the lack of a left back has contributed to that despite him saying it would be ‘stupid’ to lose points due to a player shortage in that area.

I’d like to hear why it is that when we’ve had a pressing need for players, not just at the back either, a club with the resources of Arsenal could only bring back a 34 year Thierry Henry on loan. I know people are quick to blame the manager – and he is far, far from blameless – but I can’t believe Arsene looks at that squad and doesn’t want another striker.

I can understand his reluctance when it comes to full backs, we’ve been over the difficulties of getting a decent player on loan or having a bloated squad when players are fit again, but Arsene loves strikers. He loves forwards in general. He’s collected them and hoarded them throughout his Arsenal career and now, at the most challenging time in that career, he’s got one striker he trusts and knows he can count on. One.

Look, maybe he’s gone a bit bonkers and, like a starving Scooby-Doo who sees a gigantic sandwich when he looks at Shaggy, he sees Romario and Gerd Muller when he looks at Park and Chamakh. But maybe, just maybe, there’s more to it than that. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, is it? And that’s not to make excuses for him, only to try and find some explanation as to why a manager, for whom scoring goals has always been more important than defending them, has allowed his squad and his team to become so goal shy.

That said, unless there’s some extraordinary circumstances Arsene will always be loyal and protect the image of the club, the same way he protects the players, but it’s still a question worth asking, in my opinion. And while we can sit here and look at the January transfer window and think of a wide variety of reasons why no signings have been made (its January, players won’t move ahead of Euros, summer targets etc etc), there’s one very simple and very good reason as to why signings could and should have been made: it’d make us a stronger team for what remains of this season.

Arsene is the one in the firing line, we know he makes all the decisions regarding football, but a question worth asking is if the manager and the board are working in tandem, in perfect harmony. That’s not to suggest there’s any massive problem but the summer illustrated our shortcomings in relation to transfers and how we manage our squad. We hoped that lessons would be learned, that it would makes us better and more efficient, but maybe those issues remain. It’s all conjecture, I realise, but I think these are areas worth exploring, at least.

In today’s Arsecast, Amy Lawrence joins me to discus the week that was. Obviously the Ox/Arsh incident is high on the agenda, and how that might have changed the relationship between manager and fans, but Amy also asks why, during a difficult time, we’ve heard nothing from up above, nothing from Stan Kroenke and whether or we ought to expect from him.

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 (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (23mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.


And finally, in brief, some good news as Bacary Sagna returned to full training yesterday, and if you haven’t seen it already, after Harry Redknapp’s admission he can barely read or write at his trial, we have an exclusive copy of Sp*rs team sheet from last weekend.

Right, press conference news and more throughout the day on Arseblog News. Back tomorrow.


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