Friday, October 7, 2022

Get me a European beer and a ham sammich

Morning all.

The Champions League group stages are complete and the draw for the knock-out round will be made on Monday. As we finished second in our group the teams we can potentially face look a bit daunting. It’s going to be one of Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Porto or Monaco.

I think we all know it’s going to be Bayern Munich (or Real Madrid or Barcelona but probably Bayern). Such is the consequence of letting a 3-0 lead slip against Anderlecht but given everything else that’s going on right now I find it hard to get overly vexed about who we might play in February in a competition we don’t realistically have any chance of winning. I’m much more concerned about the game this weekend in a competition we don’t realistically have any chance of winning.

Still, there’s the potential for a couple of interesting away trips. I’m such a glutton for Barcelona for that I’d be more than happy to see Messi, Neymar and Suarez try to get some goals against our injury hit back four of Bellerin – A shoe – Lamp – Vermaelen’s essence. Get me an Estrella and a Flauta Ibérico from Viena and I’m down with all of it. Obviously from a footballing point of view Monaco or Porto would be much more favourable but when it comes to the luck of the draw we simply don’t have any, so I’m steeling myself for some hot balls. So to speak.

Also, what an achievement by plucky little Man City to get through their group. Obviously things were very difficult for them without having two shillings to rub together and their managers have had to scrimp and save, looking down the back of the sofa for spare change, to bring in the odd player here and there for a bargain prices. Well done to you little scamps, you’re an inspiration to us all.

From our point of view we now have to look forward to the weekend and the game against Newcastle. As I said yesterday, going into this one on the back of a good result against Galatasaray will, hopefully, restore some bit of confidence after what happened at Stoke. Of course much will depend on who is available at the back, but you’d like to think the midweek rest for some will ensure their availability. Kieran Gibbs didn’t make the trip to Turkey, while Laurent Koscielny will have had 10 days rest since he last played (Southampton 1-0).

Whether that’s enough to get him ready for Saturday remains to be seen, but if he was back and able to play a couple of games, then hopefully we can get him fit enough for this one. Then we have eight days before our next game away to the Mugsmashers and for all their troubles this season that’s still a game you want Koscielny for. At that point we might have to start nursing him through as the games come every few days, but that’s a bridge to cross when we get there.

After that the timely and efficient purchase of another central defender as soon as the transfer window opens will … pffff … hopefully see us … ahahahahaaaa … sorry … will hopefully see urrrrrrrggghhahahahaahahaha …. no, I can’t do it. Best crack open that jar of Vermaelen’s essence and tell Lamp to get himself match fit (he can play DM before you ask). We’ll get more team news later today, no doubt, and more again in tomorrow’s press conference ahead of the Newcastle match.

Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey says the team have got to find some consistency over this festive period, saying:

We have a busy couple of weeks coming up now and hopefully we can take full advantage of them, and hopefully take maximum points throughout December now. It was important to bounce back from the defeat and we did that. But we’ve got to keep our form going.

It’s an interesting time of year. The games come so quickly that the complexion of the table can change dramatically in a short period of time. Obviously that works both ways, but hopefully we can pick up some good points.

Elsewhere, Joel Campbell says, after his first European start, he’s happy at Arsenal and that he wants to stay:

I’m confident that I’m developing as a player and I’ll work step by step and work for my chance. I’m happy here, I’m learning every day and hopefully my chance will come.

It’s been obvious that Arsene Wenger hasn’t fancied him much this season, but then that’s true of players like Lukas Podolski and Tomas Rosicky too, and they’re established performers. My feeling is that because things have been such a struggle the manager has tried to stick with his best players as often as possible. With all due respect to the trio I’ve mentioned, they’re not obvious first team starters, but I do wonder if his reluctance to use them has been exacerbated by circumstance and it got to a point where he felt like they were not much more than last throws of the dice in games we needed to rescue something from.

Perhaps the performances on Tuesday night might instill a little more confidence in the manager as to their usefulness. I mean, I still don’t see any of them as realistic starters when everyone’s fit – maybe Podolski depending on the opposition – but having contributed well to a good win away from home they might get more minutes to have an impact. Ideally, they’d be coming on to help augment a result rather than rescue it, but that’s a glass that’s well over half-full in the worst metaphor I’ve ever made.

Right, that’s that. Tim Stillman’s column will be here later on, I’ll be back tomorrow with an Arsecast and all that entails.

Until then.

ps – Gunnerblog’s only gone and done it again.

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