Happy Friday to you all, and football is back tomorrow. Hurrah. I am genuinely excited, as well as being a little bit trepidation, somewhat worried about our handbrake, yet persistently annoyed about why my glasses always need cleaning. What is going on with technology that someone can’t invent smudge free lenses? This is 2017 for goodness sake.
Arsene Wenger met the press yesterday and he was asked pretty much all the things you would expect:
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Despite the Ox’s vaguely passive aggressive statements since joining Liverpool, the manager wished him well and thanked him for his contribution down the years, before saying that his departure would open up the door for promising young players like Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock.
To be honest, although the Europa League was hardly on anybody’s bucket-list, I’m kinda looking forward to it because it will mean different opposition, but also a need to use our squad to its fullest. We play Cologne on Thursday, just three days before a trip to Stamford Bridge, and I suspect there will be heavy rotation and a chance for some youngsters.
Given that the senior players have been so disappointing at the start of this season, the idea of seeing a couple of homegrown kids get an opportunity to impress is something I can get right behind. I’m not suggesting they’ll make everything better, but at least it’s not just more of the same.
Alexis Sanchez: Understandably he wouldn’t be drawn on that whole trying to sell his best player on deadline day thing, but insisted Sanchez would be committed, focused and back to his best soon:
I have no doubt about Alexis’ mind or mentality. He needs to come back to full fitness, which he wasn’t at Liverpool. It was his first game. He had a negative experience with Chile, but he’s strong mentality and hopefully, he will soon be back to his best.
Hopefully. Like hopefully Wenger can get his team in shape. Hopefully he might pick Lacazette and stick with him. Hopefully Kolasinac will play on the left now. Hopefully Mustafi will shake off the doubts being allowed leave must have created. Hopefully we can find a midfield system that actually works. Hopefully we can start to look like a team that knows what it’s doing.
There’s a lot of hopefully at the moment. I hope our hope tank gets filled right to the top with premium hope which turbo-charges our Girodyne SRB42 sublight engines and we can get ourselves going again. I never really had any worries about what keeping Alexis would do to him until we made a bollix of that deadline day thing, and I now think we’ve got a bit of a challenge on our hands.
Still, if social media tells us anything, he seems in a positive frame of mind.
Fans, criticism, media and support: Again Wenger insisted it was too early to make definitive judgements about his team, and suggested the media ‘work hard’ to make fans critical of what’s going on:
You [either the media in general or the one journalist who asked the question] work very hard to get our fans on our back!
I believe our fans are naturally with us, and that they were disappointed is completely normal. We are in part of the season where we want our fans behind the team. They can come out of this game and come to a quick conclusion, ‘Ok we are not good enough’, or they can say let’s see what’s happening and stand behind the team and that’s what we want.
See, while I accept there are certain people who enjoy a good moan, even when things are going well, I think most fans would prefer not to be critical of their team. They want to get behind them, enjoy what they do, and back them 100%. But fans are not cheerleaders, if they see a team that can’t be arsed – like we did at Anfield – they’ll react accordingly, and that’s what sparked the criticism.
It wasn’t the reporting, the analysis, the commentary or the punditry: it was the performance and result. Of course that then allowed certain sections of the media to make hay, because that’s what they do, but let’s not try shift any of the blame here.
If the team give their best and work hard, people will be a lot more understanding of bad results. It’s not to say they’ll enjoy them, but they’re easier to process in those circumstances. Wenger is right, the season is just beginning, but Anfield is hard to take in isolation because we’ve seen that kind of performance before. It’s up to him and his players to put things right, and if they do they’ll find life a lot more comfortable.
Santi Cazorla: There’s some good news in that the Spaniard is starting to run again after having eight operations on his ankle/Achilles. The manager believes it’ll be after Christmas until he’s ready and I hope that he can get back onto the pitch and perform at a high level again, because a career and a talent like his does not deserve to end with chronic, persistent injury.
Meanwhile, Premier League clubs have voted to close the transfer window before the start of next season. It only applies to buying players so it’s possible to sell to another league where the window remains open. I think this is a good idea, and long overdue. It’s unlikely to change the way clubs operate, there’ll still be that kind of last-minute scramble because of the very nature of the market itself, but at least it provides some clarity once the football begins.
The next steps are obvious. Firstly, the harmonisation of this throughout Europe, and secondly closing the January window so we have more focus on the football, fewer distractions, and it may lead to more creative management. For example, if you’re short and you can’t buy in January, you give a chance to a young player, repurpose an existing one, or change your team around tactically to cope.
Plus there’d be less Sky Sports transfer bollocks and yellow-tied blusterloons, and that’s definitely something everyone should get behind.
Right, time for this week’s Arsecast which you can find full details of here. I chat to Daniel Storey of Football 365 and Michael Cox from Zonal Marking. Listen and subscribe below.