Monday, January 17, 2022

Gervinho, Arteta and the Park mystery grows

Hello and welcome to Tuesday.

Encouraging news re: Fabrice Muamba last night. Obviously there’s still a long way to go for him but fingers crossed he can continue to make progress. All credit must go to those healthcare professionals who have done so much for him, and continue to do so.

I do wonder if this incident will have any long-lasting impact on the game, perhaps in terms of closer screening of players. The more you read the more you realise it’s not as uncommon as you would think, young, healthy sportsmen (not just in football), suffering catastrophic and instantaneous heart attacks. Thus far Muamba has been one of the lucky ones, but maybe there’s a need to do more, if that’s possible.

It might well be needle in a haystack territory in terms of the numbers of problems it might discover, but those would be very valuable needles to find. The worry, of course, is that sometimes these problems cannot be detected – Muamba has been screened four times since 2008.  In the meantime we can do little else but keep up the good wishes and let the doctors and nurses continue their excellent work.

Aside from that, the show must go on. It always does, and we’ve got to start looking ahead to tomorrow night’s game against Everton. It’s an evening on which Chelsea (away to Man City) and Sp*rs (home to Stoke) also play so there could be plenty of movement in the league table. We’ll have had nine days since our game against Newcastle and although there’s no team news just yet, I guess it’d be fair to say that the heavy legs will have been well rested at this stage.

Assuming everybody’s fit then we have to be looking at the same starting XI as began the game against Newcastle. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should keep his place on the left hand side. Despite a quiet first half last week he grew into the game more in the second, and he looks more likely to produce something at the moment than Gervinho who appears to have an African Cup of Nations hangover.

The Ivorian says he’ll get over it though:

It was a disappointment with the penalty, as the team suffered, and in hindsight it was one of the toughest moments of my career. But I’ve had lots of other hard times. Missing out on a big title was hard, but I’ve had other setbacks in my career and come through them.

The challenge he faces now is winning back a place in the side from a revitalised Theo Walcott and The Ox who is showing his potential more and more regularly. Yet this is a far preferable situation for the club to have to deal with than players being selected by default because there is no other option. Competition for places is always healthy, in my opinion. It either brings out the best of those who want to play, or weeds out those who don’t have the heart for the fight.

Gervinho has been frustrating at times, but has also chipped in with some decent goals and assists for a player in his first season in English football. It’d be great to see him rise to this challenge and contribute more.

Meanwhile, the return to Goodison for Mikel Arteta will be bitter-sweet, and it’s something he’s looking forward to:

I really can’t wait to go there, and I hope I’ll get a good reception because I gave Everton everything I had in my time there and I love the club. Everyone there was great to me and, even though I left, hopefully people understood. There’s no reason for any of us to be unhappy with each other.

While I can’t speak for Everton fans, it hardly registers as one of the most acrimonious transfers of all time, and they got good money for a player approaching 30. Of course the only way he’ll really enjoy it is if Arsenal head back to London with three points, so fingers crossed on that front.

Elsewhere, a rather odd situation and story is developing regarding Ju Young Park. The story of him delaying his military service emerged last week and now his lawyer is quoted as saying:

Additional negotiations about his transfer fee between Arsenal and AS Monaco only concluded recently, and AS Monaco asked us to make it public after the negotiations came to an end.

There’s a suggestion in L’Equipe today that because of this delay in his military service, Arsenal will have to pay Monaco a further €3m. It all sounds very weird and perhaps there are other clauses that are based on the amount of appearances he makes, which might go some way to explain the reluctance to use a player that, on paper, probably should have played more this season.

I don’t know if there’s a press conference today ahead of tomorrow’s game, but I wish somebody with access to the manager would ask him the questions about this deal. Why hasn’t Park been used more (aside from the fact that van Persie’s form would keep most players in the world out of the team)? Why are Arsenal paying more for a player that we don’t play? Why weren’t the terms of the deal iron-clad at the start?

The more we discover, the more this appears to be one of the strangest transfers of Arsene’s reign. For footballing reasons it seems unlikely his future lies with us, yet we’re going to pay another lump of money now? Very odd. Somebody please ask the questions, the truth is out there.

Right, that’s yer lot, have a good one.

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