The scenes at Wembley yesterday evening, as England and France came together to remember the victims of the Paris attacks, were very moving. The French national anthem belted out, the colours blue, white, then red, followed by an impeccably observed minute’s silence.
It was clear to see some of the French players, our own Laurent Koscielny one of them in particular, were affected greatly by the occasion but obviously more by what brought them to this point. The football was secondary, I didn’t watch, England won, and I think you can legitimately ask if it was fair on a sporting level for it go ahead.
Ultimately though, it was more about showing that people will overcome, that those who try to instil fear and division will be thwarted by the majority of us who are good and decent and compassionate. What happened in the 90 minutes was irrelevant really, the fact that the game was played at all was a light in the recent darkness.
Sadly, in Germany the scheduled friendly against the Netherlands was called off because a ‘concrete security threat’. The details of this are unclear, rumours on social media about how the potential device was to be used were never any more than that, and I suppose that in itself highlights another way in which the terror can be spread.
I don’t think there’s anything malicious about it, but even aside from events like this people will share and RT things without thinking. We know how quickly rumour and misinformation can go viral, and that then presents a further challenge for those trying to actually manage a situation. I don’t know if there’s any way of dealing with it though, it’s human nature and that’s an ever-evolving thing.
We can follow events from the relative safety of our own mobile devices and like rubbernecking at a car-crash there’s an innate desire to find out what’s happening. Any scrap of information is seized upon and lent credibility through sheer force of numbers rather than genuine accuracy. I also think that distance will be used as a tool by those whose aim is to cause mayhem and disrupt, so it’s now incumbent on authorities at every level to understand the digital world far better than they do now.
The game between Belgium and Spain was also called off because of security concerns, highlighting further that what happened in Paris has obviously planted a seed in the minds of all us who want to go out and enjoy what the world has to offer, be it sporting, entertainment, shopping, just living. And that’s going to be exploited more and more often, I fear.
Finally on this, if you haven’t seen the Twitter account @ParisVictims, it’s a beautiful, poignant, heartbreaking tribute to the people who lost their lives, and to those they have left behind.
So, the international break is now over and the finals of the European Championships next summer in France complete. Zlatan scored twice for Sweden as they drew 2-2 in Denmark and go through, while Ukraine beat Slovenia and also qualify. The draw for the finals takes place on December 12th.
Alexis played the full 90 as Chile went down 3-0 to Uruguay. I didn’t see it but had an overnight email from Christian (thanks) to say: “I just want you to know that Alexis was at his usual level during the 1st half of Uruguay vs Chile: running, dribbling, tracking back, sprinting … no sign of his calf problem and he looked 100% fit.”
Which is good news, but obviously his fitness will have to be assessed on his return. I don’t think there’s any question that we need to manage him well over the coming weeks, especially coming into that period when we play so often and without any real chance of rest. The Premier League is clearly our priority this season so it seems unlikely he’ll be given time off against West Brom on Saturday, even if we do have the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin due to return.
The midweek game against Dinamo Zagreb looks more like one in which the manager can use the depth of his squad and allow Alexis a bit of time to recuperate and rest those weary muscles. The danger, of course, is that his importance to the side and the inability of those bubbling under the first XI to make a genuine impact thus far, will significantly affect the outcome. I still think it’s something we have to do for the longer-term benefit of our domestic season though.
Anyway, lots more on the football that lies ahead of us – and there is a lot – over the coming days. We can start to look ahead to Premier League and European action, and our continental participation is going to be quite the story over the coming weeks. Can we beat the odds and qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League or find ourselves shunted downwards into the Europa League? We’ll find out soon enough.