Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Here we go again …

Euro 2020 ended on Sunday, Arsenal’s pre-season begins today. I hope you have enjoyed that one day of rest and are now ready, refreshed and recharged to do it all again.

We play Hibs this evening at Easter Road, and for those of you who are Arsenal members, check your email for a message about how you can access the pre-season games via the official website. You have until midday today to redeem a voucher code, so get on it asap. Otherwise, they are selling access packages.

I don’t see this evening’s game on any schedules elsewhere, so I guess this is the only place you can watch. What you’d say about the games in Scotland is that they are the very epitome of training games, the kind of pre-season fixture which doesn’t count for anything one way or the other (as long as something bad doesn’t happen in terms of injury). They are fitness exercises more than anything else. Suffice to say that we won’t doing a ’17 things we learned from Arsenal’s 8-6 defeat to Hibs’ on the site tomorrow.

A quick look at the training pictures shows many familiar faces, with only Nuno Tavares a new addition, along with a couple of young players from our double barrelled Academy contingent. Is there a club in the world which has a better collection of young players with hyphenated surnames? Having promoted the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Emile Smith Rowe, we still have:

  • Brooke Norton-Cuffy
  • Tyreece John-Jules
  • Jack Henry-Francis
  • Peter Bjorn-Johnson
  • Chris Aka-Boossy
  • Harvey Harveson-Harvington III
  • Steve (his surnames are silent and can only be expressed through the medium of interpretative dance).

Things have yet to start really moving in terms of the transfer market. Maybe it’s because of Euro 2020 and the Copa America, maybe it’s just a slow burner this summer, but it’s now the 13th of July and our first game is on the 13th of August. There is plenty to do between now and then, but because the window doesn’t close until the end of August, it’s inevitable that some scenarios are going to play out right until the death because that’s how the market operates.

As much as we want to do our business nice and early and get everything sorted before the season begins, the reality is a little different. It would be good to get a good chunk of it sorted out, and I do expect some things to happen relatively soon, but as I’ve said before, a lot of the things we want to do are a bit complicated. For example, if we want to move Willian on, we have to find a club willing to take him and his gigantic wages that he would earn with us for the two more years he’s under contract. It’s our fault that it’s difficult because of the deal we gave him, but it doesn’t make it any easier to sort out.

The rumour mill is pretty quiet too, especially in terms of outgoing deals. There was some chatter last week about a £12m bid from Crystal Palace for Eddie Nketiah which we supposedly rejected because we’re holding out for more. In this current climate though, how much more can you get for an almost completely marginalised player in the last year of his contract who has rejected a new deal? I know there’s the ‘English tax’, but £12m for Eddie (assuming there were some add-ons included), sounds pretty decent to me.

Of course it’s hard to know just how much truth there is in these reports. I think as fans we’re hardwired to believe or add credibility to the things we don’t like (perhaps borne out of mistrust). So passing up a reported £12m for a fringe player sounds a bit daft, but maybe the offer would amount to £12m if Eddie scored 20 goals a season for three successive years, made the England squad and got to 500 appearances for Palace. In which case it becomes much more understandable that we’d knock it back.

Anyway, when you consider Eddie, Willian, Maitland-Niles, Hector Bellerin, Alexandre Lacazette, Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka, and more, there is plenty for Edu and Richard Garlick to sort out while Mikel Arteta works with the players and prepares for the new season.

Finally, it was great to see the overwhelming outpouring of support for Bukayo Saka, as well as Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford following the racist abuse they were subjected to after the Euro 2020 final on Sunday. I know there’s a lot of focus on social media and their role in this, and I understand why. These platforms provide racists a way to connect directly to the players they want to abuse.

I’ve said before I don’t think they do anywhere near enough to manage this problem. When you can get automatically banned for using the C word, but escape without censure for actual racism or blatant discrimination, something is very wrong with their moderation. The fact is, they could do a lot more if they wanted to, but they don’t because it is a) expensive, b) time consuming, and c) would have a negative impact on the size of their subscriber bases if they were to ban people for contravening their vague terms of service.

I don’t suppose it has occurred to them that size isn’t everything. There is value in a platform which is well run, inclusive and which doesn’t indulge the worst instincts of the worst people. In the end though, social media is just a conduit. It doesn’t cause racism, it’s simply an outlet through which those disgusting thoughts can be expressed.

Obviously the problem is societal, and I can’t sit here and provide a handy answer. However, it’s been great to see the wider football world condemn what happened to those three players on Sunday, and for some of those involved in the England squad to call out the hypocrisy of politicians who were gleefully piggy-backing on the success of the team having previously contributed to the febrile atmosphere around taking the knee etc.

That feels different. Encouraging. Where it goes from here, I don’t know, but when you see a footballer calling out the Home Secretary, you know something significant has changed.

Right, that’s it for this morning. Enjoy the game later if you’re watching it, and we’ll have more here tomorrow.

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