Thursday, December 1, 2022

Aston Villa preview and Emirates thoughts

Good morning, a two pronged blog this morning, football and finance, everybody’s two favourite things.

It’s a trip to Villa Park this evening as we look to build on the last two results, and in particular the one against Montpellier which came with a clean sheet. Last season’s trip there was tricky enough, it took a late Yossi Benayoun goal to take the three points, and although Villa haven’t been great this season, not forgetting manager Paul Lambert is banned from the touchline for this one, I expect another difficult game.

Arsene Wenger is looking for his team to put together a decent run of results:

We had a bit of a difficult period, hopefully now we can come back and show consistency. With what is going on in the Premier League, it looks like the team that can show that quality has a chance. So if we are able to show consistency now we have an opportunity to come back on the top teams.

With a game on Wednesday against Everton I do wonder if the manager might rotate a little bit. There was some talk of Bacary Sagna being rested for the game in midweek so perhaps Carl Jenkinson could come in at right back, and watching the manager’s pre-game press conference he spoke about the need to use Jack Wilshere carefully.

Jack himself says it’ll be Christmas before he’s back to his best but can he, this early in his comeback, do three games in a week? It’s a stretch to think so, in which case the boss will have to look at Aaron Ramsey or Francis Coquelin to fill the gap. As good as Jack is we can’t make the same mistake again and play him fatigued. The responsibility here is as much with the player as the manager, he’s got to be conscious of his own limits too and although he’ll want to play every minute of every game – because he’s that kind of guy – he needs to be sensible.

Up front I can see Gervinho come in on the right hand side in place of Oxlade-Chamberlain who wasn’t great against Montpellier. There’s the argument that he might need a run of games to find some form, and personally I’d give him another go, but I suspect Arsene will play the Ivorian, hope we can get on top of the game, and look to rest people later in the day.

We weren’t at our best on Wednesday night, particularly in the first half, but showed enough to see off opponents who we were expected to beat. The same is true of today. While taking nothing for granted, this is a game we have to be targetting three points from. Things are (hopefully) looking a bit more solid at the back with Szczesny providing a measure of calm that Mannone didn’t, and with the players up front clicking and forging a real understanding, the components are there to do just that.

Villa got beaten 5-0 by Man City last week, you can be sure they’ll be looking to react to that and toughen up at the back. But it’s down to us, how we approach this game and if we do things right then I think we’re more than capable of taking three points.

Meanwhile, as I’m sure you’ve read by now, Arsenal have signed a massive new deal with Emirates to extend their shirt sponsorship until the end of the 2018/19 season. Although the stadium naming rights have also been extended until 2028, it’s still a significant increase in income – from £5.5m a season to £30m a season. To me it looks like a very good deal.

The reality was we were absolutely hamstrung by the deals done with Emirates and Nike in order to get the up-front cash to pay for the building of the stadium. It’s left us hobbled as others have reaped in huge deals as the Premier League has grown in stature, but then we knew that was likely to happen when we made those deals.

I think the club themselves will admit that they’ve been slow to really grasp the importance of commercial income – as outlined in this Q&A from earlier in the year with Tom Fox and Mark Gonnella – but there can be no doubt this is big step forward and shows that the team tasked with improving things are starting to make a real impact. As usual, the timeline of @SwissRamble is worth a look for this thoughts and the bottom line, as he puts it, is:

 This is higher than every other club with the exception of Manchester United’s Chevrolet deal (£45m).

At the very least it means that the need (as opposed to the desire) to sell a top player each season for financial reasons is negated. If we had £30m coming in this summer we probably could have taken a harder stance with someone like van Persie. As it was £24m was too good to turn down, now it’s not so cut and dried. When you consider also that the kit manufacturer deal is up for renewal, and in this market that could bring in another substantial amount of money per season (interestingly Ivan Gazidis referred to Nike in the past tense a number of times yesterday), it means that the commercial side of things can start to have a real impact on the football.

And for me this is the crucial thing: the move to stadium was to help us compete with the biggest clubs in Europe. 22,000 extra seats, increased corporate facilities and all the trappings of the new stadium were supposed to launch Arsenal into a different league, so to speak. But the reality is that we moved into the stadium not long after a team full of stars went a full season unbeaten, and as yet the new place hasn’t had a team which fully matches the plush new surroundings.

This money, and future deals, must be invested in the team. That’s what it’s for. To buy better players, to help us keep our best players, and to create a squad of players who can truly compete for the Premier League and Champions League each season. We’re hanging on by our finger nails this season already and it’s November.

There’s money in the bank already, perhaps not as much as some suggest but there’s definitely cash there to spend on players. We will have more coming, some of the Emirates cash will be made available early, and as such we need to use it. I understand why, in recent seasons, we’ve had to be cautious. It’s been frustrating at times but I understand it.

Now though, these deals which have been a millstone are no longer dragging us down. This desire to be one of Europe’s big boys can only be achieved by properly investing in the squad. And if we increase our chances of winning, as well as being able to compete better in terms of wages, we become more attractive to new players, exciting players. Our existing players, the ones who make their names here, won’t see the grass as greener elsewhere, and, most importantly of all, a better team means fans are happier and you don’t see swathes of empty seats like we did on Wednesday against Montpellier for what was a crucial Champions League game.

Clearly we can’t throw caution to the wind and throw money about like other clubs whose pockets are deeper than a teenage poem (man), but there is now the opportunity to build on what I think is a pretty good core of players and add to it in a way that will make them even better. We’ve had to make do for long enough, thanks to this new deal and others that will follow, we need to flex our muscles a bit now and show that we’re serious about wanting to compete right till the end of each season.

For further reading – Andrew Allen wrote a transcript of the post-press conference chat with Ivan Gazidis. It’s long but well worth your time, adding some real detail to what’s already known.

Right, back to football and there’ll be full live blog coverage of the Villa game, starting around 5.30pm. That means up to the second text updates which you can follow on your browser, tablet, phone etc. It’s newly optimised for mobile too, so check back shortly for another post with all the information and team news, or simply bookmark the default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.

We’ll also be sending important updates, goals, red cards, half-time etc, directly to Twitter from inside the live blog.

And remember, if you fancy betting on the game, Paddy Power will give you a £20 free bet if you sign up and bet £10. Simply click here to register.

That’s it, breakfast time. Come on you reds who will probably be wearing yellow!

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