Sunday, December 10, 2023

Stop making things out of no things + Arteta thoughts

Goof mornigh from Monsoon hit Dyblun. Or, to put it another way – having got my hands sorted – Good morning from Monsoon hit Dublin. I have a dead leg picked up during football last night which made getting up the stairs something of a challenge, but I have struggled manfully on to provide you with your blog fodder.

It’s gone pretty quiet, as you might expect, following defeat to Wigan on Monday night, and much of what’s around is pretty mindless. For example, the whole Robin van Persie handshake thing. Which I can’t even believe is a thing. There are GIFs and videos of him offering his hand to Caldwell – granted his ‘wrong’ hand – but once again this obsession with handshaking takes centre stage when it is, frankly, a great big load of old bollocks.

Yes, I know the power of the handshake can, according to Sepp Blatter, excuse racism at the end of a game but if it’s not to provide a cure for insiduous, personal supremacy, is it really such a big deal not to shake hands with somebody? I play vaguely competitive 11-a-side once a week and nearly every week there’s a bloke on the opposition side I couldn’t be arsed shaking hands with. If he’s been a twat all game long then the offer of a hand after the final whistle doesn’t make him any less of a twat. And it’s just not a big deal until the newspapers make it one.

Of course people will suggest players should show ‘dignity’ and ‘not be a sore loser’ but it’s as if football needs its teacups in which to have storms and the handshake thing, whether it’s players or managers, is one of them. I’m just waiting for the FA to review the incident and slap Robin with a three game ban for unsavoury handshaking. Hey, the ref probably didn’t see it.

Then there’s the skipper’s trip to the Barcelona team hotel. Shock horror. He goes to their hotel, in an Arsenal tracksuit, and it’s a thing. It’s not a thing. His former teammate, a certain Mr Fabregas, was probably there, along with an international colleague. It is possible for footballers to do things that normal people do. You know, like visit their friends and stuff.

And this comes after the picture last weekend supposedly showing van Persie and his agent having dinner with a Man City board member. That’s not a thing either. Because if van Persie was going to go to Man City he wouldn’t post pictures on Twitter of him having a meeting with a Man City board member. And if there was some kind of thing going on with Barcelona, he wouldn’t be doing that thing in an Arsenal tracksuit and in full glare of the public who, you know, can see him arrive at and leave from a hotel.

Perhaps it speaks to the uncertainty felt over his future. Maybe tomorrow we’ll see a story linking him with Madrid after he was seen wearing a white t-shirt – an obvioius come and get me to Real, of course – but a more sanguine approach is required so as not to feed the nonsense that’s out there.

Of much more importance is the injury to Mikel Arteta which threatens to finish his season. It sounds more dramatic than it is. ‘Out for the season’ with just 4 games to go isn’t quite the same as that news in early September, but if true it would be a significant blow given the importance of the upcoming fixtures. Arsene Wenger once described Robert Pires as the oil in our engine, and to some extent that applies to Arteta too.

He keeps us moving, his metronomic passing might not be as creative as some people had expected after seeing him play for Everton down the years, but the job he has done has been much underrated. And I loved this from an interview with the Sunday Times last week or the week before. A young Arteta, while at Barcelona, got some words of wisdom from Pep Guardiola:

“Mikel, you have to be happy when other people in the team are playing well around you, it means you have made them better, don’t try and find happiness in your own moments”

Although this was in reference to the ‘pivote‘ (defensive midfield) position Guardiola was so good at, it applies to what he’s done at Arsenal and how he’s performed. He has made others better, as well as contributing well himself. In a season in which we’ve bemoaned a lack of consistency, he really has been one of our best players week in, week out, and his quality and experience has been crucial.

We’ve gone a full season without Wilshere, a full season without Diaby (bar a few minutes), and the games in which we missed Arteta (a spell in January) coincided with some poor results. Ok, there was more to those defeats than his absence, so any stat saying we’ve lost all of our league games without him is pretty misleading, but there’s no question he’s going to be a big miss for these four games which could define not just this season, but next.

How the manager replaces him will be interesting. Diaby is training again but liable to break down at any time, while Aaron Ramsey’s form and confidence (unsurprisingly) is hardly at its optimum level. Yet beyond those two he doesn’t have much choice. This is something we can look at in more detail over the next couple of days though.

Also in the news this morning, Jack Wilshere won’t go to the Olympics apparently. Good news. The Olympics is the handshaking of football tournaments and it’s ridiculous that any professional club is required to let their players take part in the middle of their pre-season preparations. Having spent a year out of the game, the idea of Wilshere going off to train under Stuart Pearce to play in a competition very few give a fish’s tit about is beyond ludicrous.

And that, my friends, is about that. Champions League semi-final tonight between Chelsea and Barcelona should be interesting, if only from the point of view that I’d like Chelsea to be run into the ground before Saturday.

Till tomorrow.

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