Wilshere talks + storms in empty vessels

Morning all,

it’s one of those in-between days, not quite close enough to the Fulham game to focus on that but pretty much everything that’s needed to be said about Schalke has already been said. Still, a few bits and bobs going on, starting with Jack Wilshere. He’ll miss the game at the weekend due to suspension, and it might be a blessing in disguise (although we might wait until 5pm on Saturday to decide that).

Given the lack of options in there at the moment with Ramsey, Diaby and Rosicky all injured, it would have been a huge temptation for the manager to play Wilshere again. And when you consider that fatigue and being over-played was a factor in his original injury issue then some caution is no bad thing. Jack says:

I am gutted to miss Fulham after being out for so long. It’s disappointing to miss any game but if I think about it another way, maybe it will be good for me to have a little break and come back for the Tottenham game.

I am feeling better after each game. It’s a long season, so I need to take it easy a bit but I am looking forward.

Tuesday night was his first 90 minutes since his return so while it’s always good to have your best players available, sometimes being forced into having a rest is no bad thing. You get the feeling Jack would run through walls to play football, that enthusiasm for the game and pulling on the Arsenal shirt is a fantastic thing, but common sense has to come in to play also.

There are various reports suggesting Wilshere will be called into Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the international against Sweden next week, another reason why having this particular weekend off might be useful in the long term. On that, I hope that Hodgson is sensible. Playing Jack for 45 minutes, or even as a 2nd half sub, would probably be good for him. Back in the national team fold after so long, it’d be another boost for his confidence, but obviously, as we’ve seen from other managers, lashing him in there for the full 90 wouldn’t be at all welcome. It strikes me that Wenger and Hodgson have a pretty decent relationship – certainly in comparison to Arsene’s dealings with most national team bosses – so fingers crossed there’s common sense all round.

Jack also spoke about Theo Walcott, hoping his England teammate would stay at the club:

Theo has been great. His future is down to him and the boss to sort out. I hope he does sign. He has been great for us. He’s an English lad and great to have around.

It’s now getting to the stage where it’s impossible to mention Walcott without his contract situation being part of the conversation. Asked after the game on Tuesday if he’d been benched this season because of his contract situation, Walcott’s snippy reply, “You’ll have to ask the manager that question, I can’t answer that,” is more than open to interpretation, even if Wenger himself denies that’s the case.

The way I look at it is that this is a situation which could have, very easily, blown up in the summer in a hugely negative way. We might have been in a position where it was almost impossible for Walcott to continue at the club but, for the sake of expediency, much of what was wrong was kept under wraps. It meant that the relationship between the player and the fans did not break down, when it could have, and Walcott’s stats and goals have been useful for Arsenal this season.

If we accept that a footballer, any footballer, in Walcott’s position, is unlikely to sign a new contract when the lure of Bosman opens up doors and bags of money that are impossible to resist, then all Arsenal can do is ensure that proper steps are taken to replace him. It might well be a case that such a move is made in January, Wenger has previously frozen out players who are coming to the end of their deals and looking to leave on a free. It happened to nice guy Edu, and to Sylvain Wiltord, and it could happen to Walcott.

There are questions that have to be asked about a player in the final months of a deal. Is he fully committed, will he give you 100% knowing an injury could scupper any potential deal – and of course there are questions to be asked of why, yet again, a player is allowed reach that stage of a contract. The club will take most of the blame but it does take two to tango. You can’t discuss something with nobody.

So to my mind the best thing we can do is use Walcott when we need him, get Oxlade-Chamberlain fit again, look to the transfer market to boost an area of the squad which really does need more depth, and when the time comes we’ll let him go and move on. If, by some miracle, agreement is reached in the meantime, then all the better, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Elsewhere, there’s more crisis and drama and turmoil over Lukas Podolski who is, depending on where you read it, DEMANDING to play as a striker. He says:

I’d rather play centrally up front. On the left I have to do a lot of defensive work, constantly running up and down. I am not a classical winger.

Hardly a demand, is it? There must be a new factory somewhere producing massive quantities of teacups they can fill with storms. I can understand his desire, he probably wants to produce more at the top end of the pitch than to defend, but perhaps in the imminent return of Kieran Gibbs might bring a bit more solidity to the left back position and allow him to do that. In the meantime, file this one under ‘hysterical bollocks’.

Speaking of which, I have to take issue with the proliferation of articles in the press recently about how Arsenal supporters ‘deserve better’ and so on. While I think we all agree improvements can be made in many respects, it’s a bit patronising to read that kind of stuff from journalists who a) are happy to run with the hysterics, fresh from the teacup factory and b) genuinely don’t give a shit about Arsenal supporters or what we ‘deserve’.

This caring, sharing, ‘we only want what’s best for you’ narrative is tedious and condescending, not to mention a lazy curation of the complaints and issues found on the web each day. That’s not to say some of these complaints don’t have merit, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is anything other than the latest journalistic plat du jour. They can do one.

Finally, congratulations to Owen Westwood and Adan Shennan who have each won a pair of tickets to Arsenal v Fulham this weekend with thanks to Thomas Cook Sports. Thomas Vermaelen scored Arsenal’s equaliser last season (cancelling out the own goal he’d put Fulham ahead with).

Till tomorrow.


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