Good morning and welcome to another Friday. Where on earth are the weeks going? They’re just flying by.
We have FA Cup action tomorrow, and the team news from yesterday’s press conference is that Theo Walcott is back in the squad and, well, that’s about it. Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Debuchy are in full training from this week, and of course we’ll be without Granit Xhaka who is suspended for four games.
The Swiss international was obviously the subject of some discussion yesterday because of the red card and midweek incident at Heathrow airport. Starting with the latter, Arsene Wenger said he has spoken to him about it and that he denies completely the allegation. To clarify, it does seem like something happened, but Xhaka insists he did not say what he was alleged to have said.
The manager gave his backing to the player also, basing it on what he’s seen all season rather than just from one or two little incidents:
I can only talk about him from what I’ve seen since the start. He’s had a fantastic attitude since he arrived here on a daily basis. Sometimes you don’t know how players behave on a daily basis, but I must say he has been absolutely marvellous to handle on a daily basis.
Commitment, focus, dedication. I’ve never heard any bad noise about him.
He then addressed the issue of his red card, and while he feels it was somewhat harsh, said that he has a bit to learn when it comes to tackling:
He’s not naturally a great tackler in his decision making. I think he’s quite intelligent on the pitch but it’s more the way he tackles that is not really convincing. He doesn’t master well the technique of tackling.
I would encourage him not to tackle … to stay on his feet. That’s the best way to deal with it. Tackling is a technique that you learn at a young age, you can improve it but when you are face-to-face with somebody, it is better you stay up.
And that’s really it, isn’t it? There’s a very simple solution, and that’s not to dive in. Beyond changing his name to Marcus Rojo, something which seemingly gives you licence to jump in with two feet and never get sent off, it’s a pretty simple problem for Xhaka and the coaching staff to sort out.
He obviously has a few weeks to get it into his head properly, and hopefully we don’t miss him too much in that time. If he comes back with this particular flaw ironed out of his game, then I think we’ll see a player who can really cement his place in this Arsenal team over the next few months and years.
As for his own disciplinary issues, the manager said he’d be accepting the FA charges of misconduct, but rather than send a letter to explain his actions, he has requested a personal hearing. From what I understand that could take place as early as today, so there should be some clarity to the situation sooner rather than later.
I suspect he wants to turn on a bit of old Arsene Wenger charm to try and diffuse the issue of his coming together with Anthony Taylor, and says that there need to be clearer guidelines for when managers are dismissed from the technical area:
The only thing I can say is that when I was sent off I was surprised, and I was in the tunnel because I thought I had the right to be in the tunnel. Because the last time I was sent off wrongly, 2009, I had to go into the stands at Old Trafford, I didn’t know where to go.
Nobody tells you what you have to do when you’re sent off, you don’t know where to go.
Whether that is going to be used in mitigation for the incident in the tunnel I’m not sure, but we don’t have long to find out. I stand by my prediction from yesterday and I still think he’ll get 3-4 games off the touchline and a hefty fine, but let’s see if Arsene can glamour them a bit and have that reduced.
For some extra reading this morning, Tim Stillman takes a look at the issue of safe-standing, and how it might be implemented. It’s obviously very early days in a discussion which is particularly sensitive in English football for very obvious reasons. There’s also a link to the survey from the AST so if you haven’t already, take a couple of minutes to fill that out. It’d be great to see Arsenal at the forefront of something that could go a long way to improving the atmosphere at stadia in the Premier League.
Time now for this week’s Arsecast, and to chat about the Premier League title race, China, the rampant commercialism of the game, player hashtags, Arsenal’s season, and tons more is Ken Early from Second Captains. It’s a fairly in-depth chat, so there’s not as much of the usual waffle but there’s still a bit of the usual waffle, a brief Southampton preview, and some Holy God FM.
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 the Arsecast directly, use the links below the player.
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Right, that’s that. The Gent will be here later with his weekly review as ever, news throughout the day on Arseblog News, and we’re back tomorrow to preview the FA Cup clash with Southampton and all the rest.