Morning. I can’t believe it’s Friday. This has been such a long week it feels like three weeks from next Tuesday. Anyway, here we are, and first things first.
Arsenal v Everton
We have a football match tonight. Not the most important one, all things considered, but with a European semi-final on Thursday it would be good to go into that with even a bit of momentum.
We’ll be without both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, which probably means a start up front for Eddie Nketiah. The other options are Gabriel Martinelli, and Folarin Balogun. The former has been used most often from the left, and the latter has never started a game for us, so I suspect it’ll be Eddie.
Given the way we’ve set up with Lacazette dropping deep into midfield to link up, we’ll have to play differently tonight because that’s not what Nketiah does. I suspect it’ll mean a return to midfield for Granit Xhaka with a more conventional full-back (Cedric) on the left. There are still doubts over Martin Odegaard who should not be risked if there’s any possibility of him missing Thursday.
What’s happened this week shines a bigger spotlight on this game than it would ordinarily have had. Everton’s statement in opposition to the Super League was hard to argue with – and whether they would have accepted an invitation is a moot point. If they are more fired for this evening because of that, that’s just something we’re going to have to deal with.
We don’t have a lot to play for in Premier League terms, but after a difficult week, a good performance tonight would be welcome.
Mikel Arteta v The Press
Such is the depth of feeling about the Super League proposal and our ownership’s involvement in it, I suspect there are some who would only have been happy if Arteta had stood on a box, rung a bell a few times; announced the idea was stupid; insisted Stan and Josh should be imprisoned in a tiny cell for the rest of their lives, forced to listen to Maroon 5 on a tinny phone speaker; and then flagellated himself with a cat ‘o nine tails until his back was a shredded mess. And even then there’d be some saying ‘Is that all mate?’.
I thought under the circumstances he did pretty well, all things considered. He said the right things about competitiveness:
I think the competition and the ability to participate has to be earned and that has to be earned on the pitch. I will always believe and defend that.
The main reason why we are here is because we have the uncertainty of winning or losing, and we can dream. We can dream about winning against anybody, earning the possibility to be in a better place, and as well, the risk of being in a worse place, and that’s what keeps everybody alive.
About the fans and their objections to it:
This has given a big lesson and it shows the importance of football in the world. It shows that the soul of this sport belongs to the fans and that’s it.
When the fans have to come out and talk they’ve talked really loud and clear. They’ve sent probably the strongest message that has ever been sent in the football world.
About the fans right to protest against the owners:
The fans have to express, that is their right and they have to do it freely. For me, what it shows is the power and the capacity when they show that determination and passion to achieve what they want. If we can use this with our fans to support the team, I think that will be incredibly powerful and it will make us much, much stronger. So it’s time to leave them to express themselves and now, somehow, we have to engage them again, get them closer to us and believing in what we do. If we do that, we’ll be in a much better place.
And if an apology had been forthcoming from the owners:
Yes, absolutely. Obviously they have the maximum responsibility of running the football club and this is what they said. They apologised for disturbing the team, not having the capacity or ability to communicate in a different way earlier and explain the reasons why. They wanted me to pass on the message to the players. That’s all you can ask for. The way they’ve done it, I have to accept it completely.
If there are those unhappy that he didn’t go in two-footed on Stan and Josh, I get it. Who wouldn’t want to see that? But let’s also be realistic. My first thought about his press conference performance (to use that word) is that he realised he was the first person from Arsenal to face up to all this publicly, and that while he could make his objections clear, he also needed to try and not add fuel to what has been a pretty intense fire – one that is still burning. It should have been the ownership to do this first, but we all know what they’re like, and when they did appear it was ‘behind closed doors’.
Arteta had to attempt to keep things as even-keeled as possible. Remember, he is just an employee like anyone else, like the many KSE have canned during this pandemic, and even the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola – far more experienced and much more powerful/secure in their positions at their respective clubs – stopped short of outright criticism of their owners. So to expect that from Arteta is unfair, in my opinion.
I got the sense he was angrier and more frustrated with all this than he was letting on, but for various reasons he had to keep his counsel. Also, while not making any excuses for him, has any first-time manager ever had such a chaotic start to their career from things which are completely and utterly beyond their control? It’s incredible in the very real sense of the word.
Josh Kroenke v Fans’ Forum
There’s a full transcript of what went down here. On the one hand, you have to at least acknowledge his presence, I wasn’t expecting to see anyone from KSE given their cowardly handling of all this. On the other, how can you take anything he says at face value?
There was an suggestion that Arsenal were put in a position that meant they had to make a snap decision about whether to join or not. I don’t find that remotely credible. As such everything else said by Josh Kroenke about rebuilding trust (trust we never had – well played that man!), repairing damage, and all the rest, was essentially hollow. Not to mention the things he did say only laid bare how little he understands about the club, the game, what fans want, and everything else.
At least he was left clear about how so many Arsenal fans feel. However, it still leaves us in an insidious position where we’re owned by people who still want a Super League in some format, whose relationship with the fanbase is utterly broken, and whose words speak far, far louder than their actions – and it should be the other way around.
There’s discussion of this meeting with Akhil Vyas from the AST on today’s Arsecast.
Fans v KSE
There are protests planned outside the stadium today at 6pm. They have been endorsed by the manager, as outlined above, and ahead of the game the team will likely encounter them as they come to the stadium. I would just say that whatever our frustrations with them this season, this is a protest about Stan, Josh, KSE and what they tried to do this week. A move which would have drastically affected the future of this football club.
I think the likes of @RedActionAFC and @AST_Arsenal will have more details on what exactly what’s happening and when, and how people can get involved if they’re able. If you’re going to attend, make your voice heard, but also remember there is still a pandemic – be safe, take care for yourself, and of others.
Podcast v Ears
Here is today’s Arsecast. I chat with Charles Watts of Goal, and Akhil, as mentioned above. All the links you need to listen/subscribe are below.
Enjoy the pod, catch you later for the game.