Thursday, November 30, 2023

Vermaelen returns, other stuff + Arsecast 306

I’m now becoming expert at turning my alarm off rather than making it snooze, then drifting off and having mad dreams.

I was trying to get on a flight to Edinburgh but Belle and Sebastian had waged war on the world and outside was a post-apocalyptic wasteland and their tunes were playing from the crudely hung Tannoy systems that stretched across the road. The pilot was sitting there weeping and doing damp cocaine from the back of a credit card so I decided I’d go home instead.

Once there we had to fight off scavengers who had been made aware that we had sandwiches and we were bashing them around the head with golf clubs. In the end we kept the sandwiches but when I went to eat one it was all mouldy and the meat inside was gone off guinea pig or something. Then I woke up wondering why I didn’t just get out of bed the first time my alarm went off. And I have a Belle and Sebastian song stuck in my head.

An inauspicious start to a Friday morning you have to say. On the plus side there’s some good news ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Stoke in that Mesut Ozil is back (expected), while Thomas Vermaelen returns to the squad for the first time since the Southampton game at the end of January.

There are doubts over Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal but the whispers are that the former could be involved, and that would be good. I’d have some doubts over Vermaelen at left back because a) it’s a position he really doesn’t like and b) after being injured and having played so little this season, I wonder if it might just be overwhelmingly knackering.

Still, it’s a positive to have him back with all the games we have to play and given his personal circumstances I wonder if he might be super-motivated during this run-in. The likelihood of Vermaelen being happy to play second fiddle again to Mertesacker and Koscielny for another full season is very slim indeed, so we might be looking at his final months in an Arsenal shirt.

Meanwhile, the boss praised the performance of Joel Campbell in midweek but said he’s yet to make up his mind about the young forward’s future with us. Asked about him in yesterday’s press conference, he said:

I will decide that later. Why not? We bought him to bring him here, He looks like he has adapted a bit better to the physical side of the European game. We always knew that he had the talent to create something special. He did rely a bit too much on that. He has learned the toughness of the European leagues.

A couple of goals at Old Trafford in the return leg, a crunching tackle that ruptures the spleen of the little boy inside the Dutch Skunk, and I reckon he’ll be all set.

Meanwhile, interesting thoughts from Arsene Wenger on the Premier League being the best league. He says it’s the best because:

… it is the most level league. There is not the difference of quality – for example, between Bayern Munich and the rest of the German league.

So, if the marker for ‘best’ is ‘most competitive’ then he’s probably right. It is a league where anyone call pull off a shock result, unlike the Bundesliga where Bayern haven’t been beaten for who knows how long at this stage? Spain is a bit more competitive than usual this season but that’s, perhaps, because Barcelona aren’t quite as good as they were and Real Madrid are a bit better than they were, and Atletico Madrid have the new Julio Baptista scoring goals so it’s quite even.

But are the best teams in Europe from the Premier League? That’s another question and I think we’d have to admit that they’re not. Bayern, Madrid, Barcelona, they’re still the teams to beat. The Premier League might have effective teams, teams that can grind out results, but I don’t think there’s any team you could say is the best in Europe (or even close to being that).

It’s not long ago the Premier League used to be a two-horse race as well. First between United and Arsenal, then United and Chelsea. Now you have City in there, Liverpool are having a great season, the battle for the top four involves more clubs than ever, so with all the money that’s been pumped into the game from broadcasters, perhaps there’s something to be said for the Premier League as a ‘product’ (sad, I know), that other leagues just don’t provide.

Finally, have a read of Tim Stillman’s latest column – it is good. And I celebrated afterwards by running the length of the blog before sliding on knees in front of a stand full of Adebayors and van Persies.

Right then, time for this week’s Arsecast, and I’m joined by Julian H from Gingers4Limpar to discuss Ozil, Giroud, player rest and more. There’s some TalkShite radio and the usual waffle.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here 27mb MP3).

The Arsecast is also available on our SoundCloud channel, where you can leave comments and such, as well as via the SoundCloud app for iPhone and Android. You can now also find it on the Stitcher podcasting app for iOS and Android. Or, you can listen without leaving this page by using the player below.

And that, my friends, is about that. I’m going to try find a better sandwich. Till tomorrow.

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