Wenger on Elnenny, Monreal and the starman + FA Cup draw

Morning all, sadly yesterday was no moonage daydream, but the world keeps spinning and we have to get back to the business of Arsenal and football and all that.

The manager held his press conference ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Anfield, and there’s not much in the way of team news beyond the players who were rested for the FA Cup coming back. It’s still too soon for Alexis Sanchez, and from what Arsene was saying they’re really making sure that he’s fighting fit for the rest of the season when he returns.

“If you ask Alexis, he’s always ready to play, even when he’s injured”, he said, but suggested that he could be involved this weekend against Stoke, which is obviously a positive (assuming Charlie Adam doesn’t try and snap his neck like some kind of ogre again). Tomas Rosicky is back in full training, and that’s good news. Heading into this stage of the season in the position we’re in, having as much experience as possible will be important, and even at 35 years of age, he’s a player who can add something to this squad right now.

He and Jack Wilshere possess the ability to burst through the midfield lines, especially handy when you’re playing a side who like to pack their own half, and while I think we’re likely to see him in short, cameo appearances for the most part, it’ll be good to have him back. I suspect tomorrow might be too soon, but we’ll have Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Flamini in the squad again for what the manager says will be a ‘ferocious’ game, but we can touch on that in the blog tomorrow.

By the by, I did have all the Arsenal player names added to my browser dictionary, but a hard drive crash and no Tomas in recent months meant I had to re-add him today. The suggestion from the spell-checker, ouch:

Tomas Rosicky spellcheck

Meanwhile, there was an update on the imminent arrival of Mohamed Elneny from FC Basel. The deal has been complicated by red-tape, work permits and visas, not any dilly-dallying from an Arsenal point of view over fee or wages. The new work permit regulations saw the player fall outside of them, so there was an appeal and that has be taken into account, but the manager was confident it would go through this week, saying:

I expect movement this week, yes. I think this week it can happen, we are positive. The situation should be sorted out. There’s a lot of work permit problems and special paperwork to do and the visa. We hope to finalise it this week.

There has been some frustration that it hasn’t happened more quickly, of course, and if you really want to be difficult you could criticise the fact we’re buying a player whose circumstances dictate this kind of delay, but even if our need for a midfielder has been pressing, it’s worth remembering we’re not buying him just for this January. He’s not simply to fill a gap for a couple of difficult weeks, but obviously a player the manager rates and thinks he can contribute in the long-term.

All going well, this is a player who can be part of squad and team for years, so while having to wait a few extra days because some pencil-pushers in the Home Office require extra paperwork for his visa is a bit frustrating, it’s not the end of the world. Hopefully it’ll be done this week, and he can play a role between now and the end of the season.

Elsewhere, weekend reports that Nacho Monreal had signed a new deal with the club were more or less confirmed by the boss, who said:

We’ll announce that at some stage, when it’s finished. It’s not over the line completely but we’re not far.

Good news as far as I’m concerned. Monreal has been far and away the best left back in the Premier League this season, probably one of the best in Europe, and the way he’s made the position his own should be an example to any player. He battled with Gibbs to start, and it looked as if the England man had won out, but when he got his chance again the quality and consistency of his performances meant that he simply couldn’t be left out of the team.

It’s also good to see that we appreciate the value of a player who will be 30 next month. We’re no longer the Logan’s Run of football, dispensing with guys who can still play a major part simply because they’ve reached an age at which they have no resale value. The new deal is expected to take him until 2019, which isn’t to say that he’ll definitely stay that long, but it means that we can decide when it’s time to call it quits. If he can maintain this level of performance though, who’s to say he won’t go that far?

Finally, I saw some football writers complaining yesterday that Arsene Wenger was asked about David Bowie at his press conference yesterday. Clearly those people have never been to an Arsene Wenger press conference, because almost every week he’s asked about stuff that has nothing to do with Arsenal. Whether it’s a world event, politics, something that’s going on at another club, football in general, or something completely random, his opinion is always sought.

When you read what he said about David Bowie, you can understand why. Perhaps, rather than ‘take to Twitter’ to bemoan the so-called irrelevance of it, we ought to step back and enjoy it, because there will come a time when there is no Arsene Wenger in the Premier League, and regardless of what you might think of him, his wit, intelligence and perspicacity will be missed.

Then we can return to the halcyon days of ‘Well, I’ve ‘it it and and it’s gone in the back of net’ stuff that at least is about football, because that’s what we all want, right?

And almost finally, the draw for the 4th round of the FA Cup was made last night, we have Burnley at home which isn’t a bad one, all things considered.

Finally finally, please make sure to check out this week’s Arsecast Extra in which Gunnerblog and I discuss the win over Sunderland, the performances of Alex Iwobi and The Jeff, as well as answer lots of questions, chat about robot monkey camel jockeys, and there’s a new regular noisy guest on the show to take over from our dear departed friend Lorry.

You can listen on site here, via iTunes (please feel free to rate/review the show), and via Acast. Thanks for listening, more from me including a full Mugsmashers preview tomorrow.


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