Happy Saturday to you, here’s a quick round-up of what’s going on.
The first thing to mention is that Gabriel has been left out of Villarreal’s squad for their La Liga clash with local rivals Levante. Considering he played midweek, and that he’s not listed as one of the players missing through injury, I think we can make the assumption that things have progressed between the two clubs to the point where it’s in nobody’s interest for him to play tonight.
There’s not a huge amount in the Spanish press about it. Marca says ‘it’s a question of hours’ but I think that’s just one of their favourite phrases. You can barely read any story in that paper without seeing it. I suspect they use it all the time in the office.
“Is it time to go home yet?”
“It’s a question of hours.”
“When will you finish that story?”
“It’s a question of hours.”
“I’m so lonely and my life is shit.”
“It’s a question of hours!”
“What? You’re no help.” *throws self off tall building*
Anyway, I think we’ll find that the Arsenal jet is on stand-by ready to whisk Gabriel to Valencia airport to take an EasyJet flight to Luton where Dick Law will Hailo a cab to take them to the training ground. Should he pass a medical and not be discovered to have a broken back or something, then the only thing stopping him playing for us will be the work permit thing, and I suspect that’s going to have people on tenterhooks until a decision is made.
Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger has been talking about Mesut Ozil who on Sunday, after months out, is likely to start his first game since the injury. People have been commenting on how much stronger he looks since he came back, and while the manager says he’s been working out, his comments on physical strength are kinda interesting:
It is not only down to pure strength when you play football. It is down to when to switch your strength on and the timing of your switch on. I know players like Claude Makelele, for instance, were not monsters, but when he went for a challenge he had the technique to use his strength in a very efficient way. It is a technique more than a power.
A guy who spends a bit of time in the gym kills his co-ordination and becomes more rigid. Winning a challenge is down to flexibility and co-ordination, switching on all the muscles on at the same, right, time. That is not down to lifting weights.
All the same, having that bit of extra power won’t do Ozil any harm. There have been times when he’s been bundled off the ball a bit too easily, but it’s also worth pointing out that some of that is down to the physicality of the game in England. Even a big, powerful bloke like Olivier Giroud would get knocked over then sit there and complain about it rather than using his strength to give a bit back or just get on with it.
To my mind it’s only since his injury this season that we’ve seen Giroud fully focused on his own game (which seems to be working out with 6 goals from 7 Premier League starts this season), and he’s much bigger guy than the German, and in his third year in England.
If Ozil can now combine his undoubted ability on the ball with a more robust physique, then that can surely only be a good thing. As for the big question of where he’s going to play, Arsene said:
I see him behind the striker or on the flank, where he doesn’t like to play. I prefer him central. In our team it’s very flexible anyway. When you play on the flank, you can move inside. We usually have one player who is more a winger and another more midfield.
So that’s as clear as mud. I do wonder, though, if much of the early season angst about where Ozil should play was less about that specifically, and rather a method of understanding why the team itself had failed to click. Spirits were high after a good summer (bar the defender thing), and a convincing win over Man City in the Community Shield.
Performances, however, didn’t match that for various reasons, and that Ozil on the left was a significant factor in this was an idea regularly mooted. I think he’s better more centrally, no question, even Arsene Wenger says he prefers him there, but he played ‘on the left’ for a Germany side that won the World Cup, so I don’t think it’s asking to do something that’s so far out of his comfort zone that he can’t produce there.
As he’s now got to get ahead of Santi Cazorla in the form of his life for that more central role, I think it’s incumbent on Ozil to prove he’s the man for the job with performances, regardless of where he’s asked to play. I don’t think it’s beyond him by any means, and I’m sure he’s going to play a key role between now and the end of the season.
Finally, a little birdie has given me some info on next season’s kits. Home is obviously red and white, but the away kit is being listed as ‘ ‘black/gold’ and third kit ‘anthracite’. Make of that what you will. I don’t have any pictures yet, nor do I know what the ratio of gold to black is. It might be more gold than black, but given manufacturers propensity to create leisure wear more than actual football kits, we could easily see a black shirt with gold trim. More on that as and when I get it.
Right, that’s that. Back tomorrow with a full preview of the Brighton game. In the meantime, have a good Saturday.