Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Team news, Mourinho and finances

Morning, a quick Saturday round-up for you.

Team news ahead of tomorrow’s game against the Mugsmashers is that Mathieu Flamini is the only one to returning, meaning Thomas Vermaelen remains sidelined. We’ll also be without Santi Cazorla who is ‘ill’ and won’t be available.

That’s a bit of a blow, you have to say, because he’s been our most dangerous player in recent weeks. He’s scored and created quite regularly, so being without him tomorrow weakens us. With a desire to see a few changes, however, it could open the door for Lukas Podolski who has cut a frustrated figure over the last month or so.

Since his return from injury he’s been used sparingly, or not at all sometimes, and the two goals he scored against Coventry weren’t enough to convince Arsene Wenger he was worth a place in the team against more difficult opposition … like Southampton. But with Cazorla gone, Giroud knackered and a very real need to add something a bit different to our attack, this could be the perfect game for him.

As we know he hasn’t played a great deal but he still has 5 goals to his name this season, and those 5 goals have come from just 6 shots on goal. That’s some early season Chamakhian strike rate right there, but in games where a touch more efficiency in front of goal could be the difference between 1 point and 3, maybe that’s something he could help with.

Meanwhile, at his press conference yesterday morning, the manager was asked why it was only himself and Manuel Pellegrini who openly said their teams could win the title this season. His reply (and you can watch the presser here):

It’s fear to fail.

He was asked to expand on that, and said:

If you’re not in the race you cannot lose it, if you declare yourself not in the race you cannot lose it, it’s as simple as that. I think just that our job is to be ambitious and to try to win, and if we do not win to take full responsibility for that. It’s as simple as that.

Hardly anything outrageous in what he’s saying there, but when it was presented to Jose Mourinho, he pretty much lost the plot, saying:

He’s a specialist in failure. If I do that in Chelsea, eight years, I leave and don’t come back.

I don’t think it’s possible to say that 8 years without a trophy at a club like Arsenal, with the standards that Wenger set before, isn’t anything other than a failure, really. But again it lacks context. Did Mourinho have to manage a club building a new stadium? No, he came into a club which drastically, and permanently, altered the football landscape in England and Europe.

As David Dein said at the time, “Roman Abramovich has parked his Russian tanks on our lawn and is firing pounds 50 notes at us.”

This is a club that came to watch Arsenal play Lokomotiv Moscow at Highbury and did so just to present a £50m bid for Thierry Henry. As The Gent put it yesterday, Chelsea begat City and all of a sudden football clubs were the new toys for the super-rich. And the timing couldn’t have been worse as Arsenal locked themselves into a new stadium project and commercial deals that would hamstring us for years.

Mourinho’s comments yesterday were a perfect summation of the man: classless, infantile and precious. I’ve seen people suggest that Arsene shouldn’t try and engage in mind-games with ‘The Lord of the press conference‘, and that Mourinho, somehow, was the one who came out on top of this encounter.

But his hugely over-the-top reaction to some innocuous comments by Arsene Wenger – which didn’t even mention him specifically – shows he’s the one that been riled, not the other way around. I can guarantee you Arsene Wenger does not give one single shit about what Mourinho said. It won’t bother him in the slightest and such public dismissal of the manager from the Portuguese won’t have gone unnoticed in the Arsenal dressing room either.

Asked by another journalist if Mourinho’s risible horse analogies and the rest were a way of distracting people from their title challenge, Wenger said:

It’s very difficult to distract people when you’re top of the table.

All this shows is that for all the disenchantment of this week, Mourinho views Arsenal as a serious threat. Otherwise he wouldn’t bother with this kind of stuff. I like to see it, I have to say. If harmless comments like the one Wenger made yesterday, again not directed at him specifically, can provoke this kind of reaction, what might happen if someone says something to really upset him.

Perhaps the opposition managers might start wearing protective goggles when they face Chelsea, lest ‘the Immense Provocateur’ get his gouge on again. Anyway, it’s all fun and games this, part and parcel of the tightest title race in years, and you can’t help feeling there’s more to come. Stamford Bridge next month could be tasty, to say the least.

Finally for today, the club announced their financial results yesterday. More details here. I’m no Swiss Ramble but it all looks very healthy, and with the new deals struck with PUMA and Emirates, not to mention a handful of other more minor partners, the commercial income, which has been something of a millstone, is going to improve things considerably.

There’s the usual guff from the chairman about how all due financial support will be given to the manager to improve the team, but you just wonder why, as they trumpet all this new money coming into the club, alongside that massive new TV deal, no consideration has been given to doing away with the 3% rise in ticket prices which seems more and more unjustifiable in the context of these results.

The financial benefit of such an increase doesn’t come close to the goodwill that would be borne out of rolling back on that decision. I know goodwill doesn’t pay wages, or add to transfer funds to buy top players like Mesut Ozil – maybe it’s naive to even think about a football club in non-business terms these days – but it goes a long way maintain the connection between the club and its supporters, without which it simply cannot exist or succeed.

Till tomorrow.

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