Thursday, April 25, 2024

Brighton preview + quick Saturday round-up

A quick one this morning because my head feels like there are evil little creatures in it banging away on the pipes with hammers. Ugh.

It’s the FA Cup today and a trip to Brighton. Obviously it’s a big game, given the importance of this competition to our season, but I’d still expect a little bit in terms of rotation. There’s still no Arteta or Coquelin, while skipper Thomas Vermaelen misses out after picking up an ankle injury in midweek against West Ham.

Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky are back though [insert Walking Dead joke here] and both could start, with the manager looking to the latter to have the same impact on the team as he did last season. I don’t doubt his quality at all, I think he’s almost unique in this team in terms of what he brings to it, but his injury problems have stopped him achieving what he should have in the game.

I don’t think there’ll be too many changes up front, simply because we don’t have that many options anyway, but seeing Jenkinson get a run at right back wouldn’t be a big surprise. As for our opponents, I don’t know a great deal about them other than they’re doing well enough in the league and they beat Nouveauchâteau in the last round. But that hardly makes them unique this season as Alain P’arjuif’s men have been, you know, shit.

Arsene Wenger says:

There is a long way to go in the FA Cup and, of course, we will give our best. We will not neglect the game if that is what you want to know; we will be completely focused on winning the game but football is football remember. You have seen that with Bradford and Aston Villa this week.

We take this competition seriously.

In the absence of Arteta and Vermaelen, Jack Wilshere could captain the side today, if he plays. And it was interesting to hear the manager talk about how it was Thomas Vermaelen who handed over the captain’s armband on Wednesday night when he went off:

Honestly, Vermaelen made that choice and I let him make it. It is always interesting to see when Vermaelen is out who he feels spontaneously should be the captain.

I think there’s sometimes too much emphasis put on who wears a little bit of cloth on their arm, but it’s part and parcel of the English game. Captain is a ceremonial position, more than anything, but it’s a role which has been carried out with distinction by great players down the years, and sooner or later Wilshere will be that man for Arsenal. At the moment though it’s nice that his importance to the team is recognised, and he seems to take something from it. He is a natural leader, as the manager says, and not just because of the way he plays.

He’s only back in the side after injury but he’s not slow to tell people what he expects of them on the pitch and I think that’s a really good thing, especially for an Arsenal side where conflict isn’t something you see often. It can be positive, having someone demand more from you won’t make you curl up in a ball and cry. It’s top level sport.

Anyway, it’s a big game today, cup football against lower league opposition can be the slipperiest of banana skins at times, but let’s keep fingers crossed that we’re up for it today and that we pick up where we left off against West Ham on Wednesday.

In other news, Emmanuel Frimpong has joined Fulham on loan until the end of the season. It’s a big move for him and one which you have to feel provides his last chance to show that he’s got a future at this club. The recent spell at Charlton wasn’t particularly impressive by all accounts but this is a chance to show he can do it in the Premier League. Good luck to him.

Wojciech Szczesny tells Amy Lawrence how much the cup means to the players.

And, of course, there were comments yesterday from the manager about transfers, his squad and how he has two good players in each position etc. The conclusion I drew from it is that we’re unlikely to see any new faces before the window closes. It’s possible that he might surprise us but he really doesn’t like doing business in January as the list of recent arrivals shows:

2006 – Emmanuel Adebayor, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby : 2007 – nobody : 2008 – nobody : 2009 – Andrei Arshavin : 2010 – Sol Campbell : 2011 – Ryo Miyaichi : 2012 – Thierry Henry (loan), Thomas Eisfeld.

So the last time we did any ‘significant’ business in January was Andrei Arshavin, coming up on four years ago at this stage. That was a signing which obviously had a positive effect in the short-term but can hardly be deemed a success given where we are now with him. Last season, when we were in a similarly difficult position in the league, Arsene Wenger packed him off to Russia on loan, and that was, essentially, the end of his Arsenal career. He wasn’t trusted or relied upon when the going was tough.

But when you look at the list it just shows you how reluctant he is to make signings in this window. His comments about unfairness and how the number of players can buy should be limited are almost indecipherable. It’s an open market, anyone can do whatever they want, it’s not unfair. And where frustration grows from is the endless changing of message from the manager. One day he’s going to be very active, the next he’s got a ‘complete squad’. We’re busy, then the whole idea of the January transfer window is anathema to him.

There’s an interesting piece on Wenger and Arsenal’s financial outlook by in today’s Financial Times, and it there’s a quote from Ivan Gazidis who told Simon Kuper:

We don’t spend more than we have.

And while that, I think, is the only way to properly run a business, that’s not the problem with Arsenal. It’s that we don’t spend what we do have. If we had no money, or extremely limited resources, then the clamour to improve the team and the frustration when we don’t would be much less. Yet figures show us that there is money for the manager to spend, he simply chooses not to.

So far this month the lack of squad depth has contributed to poor results and the over the course of the season it’s been a factor in us falling 19 points behind the league leaders. The idea that any manager wouldn’t want to improve their team, given the opportunity and resources to do so, is inexplicable to me, so I’ve basically given up trying to make any sense of it.

I think if players were going to be bought they’d have been bought by now and as such I’d be very surprised if we got the chequebook out before Thursday night. Maybe he’s got something up his sleeve but if I had to guess what it is at the moment I’d say it’s a snot dampened hankie.

All going well there should be live blog coverage of the game later on, check back later for a post with all the details or bookmark the default live blog page.

Until then, have a good Saturday.

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