Thursday, March 23, 2023

Sagna has doubts while Coq wants to play

It’s Friday. Hurrah.

Today sees the first round of internationals take place as teams, you know, play against each other and stuff. And there’ll be some goals and corners and yellow cards and red cards, but they’re not all made out of ticky-tacky and they won’t turn out all the same.

From an Arsenal point of view you can see the players on duty here and we’ll be keeping everything crossed that they come through tonight, then Tuesday night, without any problems so they can continue their start to the season with the real football, the football that people actually care about. Players, being away from home, often use international breaks to make known some dissatisfaction that they probably wouldn’t while at the club. It could just be that they’re talking to local press so they don’t fear incorrect attribution or misquoting.

Certainly Bacary Sagna has had a bit to say, even though he’s not playing for France thus rendering my previous paragraph a load of old bollocks but it’s committed to paper now and I’m not going back and changing it. Anyway, he’s disquieted at certain things, like the sale of Alex Song which he says he didn’t understand at all, and the fact that Clichy and Nasri have won things since departing. Speaking to L’Equipe, he said:

Everyone knew Robin was leaving. But Alex? He’s 24. He had three years on contract. I still don’t understand. He’s a huge loss.

When the two best players go, you ask questions. Fans come up to me in the street, I understand the frustration. Like them I don’t understand everything.

He then made some vaguely non-committal statement about his future and ‘destiny’ before being asked if anyone had spoken to him about a new contract. He said:

No, nobody. I’ve one year left at the end of the season.

Now, regarding the comments themselves, I don’t really know how he can be criticised for them. If we, as fans, have openly questioned some of the decisions made during the transfer window, then we can’t expect the more self-aware players not to have some concerns too. It is their teammates and friends being sold, after all. If we have doubts, why can’t they?

Ideally, those doubts wouldn’t be made as public but I don’t imagine that Sagna sat down and said ‘Today I will talk to a journalist about my concerns over Arsenal’s transfer policy’. I suspect he’s answering questions put to him in a pre-arranged interview and I guess he’s just being honest and making public his worries about the way players are sold and seemingly not replaced. But this is the same Sagna who was lauding Diaby after his performance against Liverpool so he’s hardly sitting at home self-harming himself in the face because of it all.

The more cynical might suggest his contract situation has something to do with it. He’s got a little under 2 years of his deal left, so it’s hardly the most pressing issue of all time, but perhaps, after two broken legs in a season, he’s looking for a bit of security. And maybe that’s why there’s been a lack of an offer from the club who are waiting to see how he recovers. The bottom line for me though is that Sagna is a very, very good full back and an important player for this team.

If he’s not entirely unconvinced by the shape of the squad or because we’ve sold some of our more high profile players, that doesn’t make him any different that you or I or anyone else who feels we might be a bit light this season. But good results and performances will help convince people, not just fans, but players too. A few more wins and clean sheets under our belt and I don’t think Sagna will be as worried as he claims to be, and if he’s got a new contract then I think it’ll be pretty quiet from that direction. It’s all in the game, yo.

Meanwhile, after players praising his contribution, Arsene Wenger is the latest to give props to Steve Bould for his work on the defensive side of our game, while qualifying it slightly. He said:

We have played two teams who didn’t really attack, but he is doing a good job. We continue our training regime. He has taken over from Pat Rice for the defensive job where he is doing very well.

Will we finish with the best defence in the league? I hope so!

And I guess that’s the manager urging a bit of caution. Despite the obvious improvement it is only three games against teams who are relatively goal-shy and we are going to face far sterner tests in the coming weeks. It’s great to see the new focus the team has on its defensive work but until we come up against teams who can really attack and have players who offer something more dangerous than the Uruguayan Bee Gee or Stephane Sesseggenessegnon then it’d be wise not to get too carried away. So far, so good, however.

Elsewhere, Francis Coquelin says he’s determined to take his chance at Arsenal this season but also that at 21 years of age he doesn’t want to spend most of his time on the bench. Which is a pretty understandable point of view, he wants to play football, and wants to play football at Arsenal, but if he has to go somewhere else to play, he will. I’ve got no issue with that at all, I don’t know how anybody could criticise a player for wanting to play as often as possible, but I’d like to see him develop further and make a breakthrough with us.

The manager had enough trust in him to play him against West Brom on the final day last season and when Song left we didn’t buy another defensive midfielder (I realise many of you will have missed this particular bit of news, sorry if it’s a shock this morning). So perhaps that was deliberate to allow room in the squad for Coquelin. I do like him as a player, I have to say, but it is a kind of make or break season for him. Good luck to him.

Right, that’s really about that. Just time to let you know the winner of the Santi Cazorla print competition is, by virtue of the RNG, Samuel Good. Well done to you, I’ll be in touch and we’ll get the print sent out to you. If you missed out, they’re available to buy from the artist’s online store here, and jolly nice they are too.

Finally, the eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed there’s no Arsecast this morning and you can blame that entirely on the Interlull. The idea of re-hashing the transfer window and all that was about as appealing as sticking my head up a highly flatulent walrus’s hole. It will return next week when there’s real football to talk about.

Till tomorrow.

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