As you might imagine, when Burnley applied yesterday for their game against Watford to be postponed, there was media outrage.
“Teams must be made to play, even if they don’t have any players they should be made to go about the town, rounding up lads like we all had to do when we short players for our Friday night five-a-side. There’s probably even an app for that,” said a man employed by a TV station who now have to find a replay of a ready-made highlights show to fill the gap in their schedule for the 12 people who would have watched the game live in the first place.
“It’s the fans I feel sorry for,” said another TV pundit employed by a broadcaster who regularly re-schedule games at the last minute, ensuring that supporters who travel from one end of England to the other have no public transport in order to get home and whose previous train tickets are now invalid.
“How long can we tolerate this wrongdoing? It is a crime against all those who love football and I bet this was a plan devised by Arsenal to take the heat off them,” said a bang-average former player turned Twitter hot-take merchant who deactivated his account when people replied to him reminding him of his career achievements, then activated it again urging people to be #bekind because he’s a mental elf.
“This is wretched calumny of the highest order! The very integrity of the game, nay … sport itself … is threatened by this refusal of Burnley to participate and they should suffer the vile consequences”, wrote a Chief Football Writer at a daily newspaper as Burnley’s fifth postponement of the season was confirmed.
There were phone-ins, think pieces, petitions, and funding campaigns for Zoot Droggery, Burnley’s biggest American fan who left his home in Kalamazoo three weeks ago and who had crossed the Atlantic on a sea-trawler just to see this game. There was uproar, an outcry, clamour, bickering, ructions, bedlam, disorder and a right to-do.
Oh wait. No there wasn’t. Funny that.
Arsenal have one game in 20 called off and there’s mayhem. Burnley have their fifth game postponed and it’s crickets. On a serious note though, our next Premier League fixture is at home against Burnley on Sunday, and as it stands I guess it must be in some doubt. Hopefully they have players fit and available again by then, but you never know. All we can do is wait and see.
Elsewhere, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has returned to Arsenal from Cameroon after his AFCON journey was cut short. Gabon coach Patrice Neveu said, “For the health of the two players, we have taken the decision to let them return to their clubs so that they can receive in-depth treatment.”
This follows a bout with Covid after which there were signs of cardiac issues, suspected Myocarditis perhaps, but it was decided he needed more analysis. Obviously this will be a worry for him and the first thing to say is that hopefully it’s not serious and that he, and his teammate Mario Lemina, are ok.
On a personal level it must be very disappointing, and the former captain’s last 18 months have been quite difficult. He’s had Covid, there was a bout of Malaria, some personal issues and, of course, his recent disciplinary problems. AFCON was a way of getting away from that, a good tournament might have recharged his batteries but that’s not to be right now. An interesting aspect to consider, not just in the case of Aubameyang, but the 11 other Arsenal players who tested positive for Covid of late – and across football in general – is whether or not there’s an impact on their physical capacity after they’re sick.
There’s not a lot of research out there, but there is some, and it seems to show that performance is affected. Even if footballers are of an age and a physical profile that means they’re very unlikely to suffer the worst effects of Covid, there are going to be some who struggle. Steve Bruce spoke about some Newcastle players who had contracted the virus last season, saying, “People didn’t recover. Everywhere I looked, people were shattered, tired, sick. What’s the long-term effect? It threatened a couple of players in particular, the illness.”
As for what’s next for Aubameyang, I don’t think we should rule out some kind of rapprochement between now and the end of the season. I don’t have much confidence that a deal for Dusan Vlahovic, or any other forward, will be done before the end of this window, and that leaves us in a difficult position. Any striker available on loan in January probably isn’t a striker that would make a great deal of difference, so is the best option to mend some fences, use what we have, and then assess at the end of the campaign? It’s a tough one because we don’t know what it would take for a ‘truce’ in this scenario, but if we’re being pragmatic and if we have to use every available bit of the squad to keep pushing for a top four finish, it has to be a consideration.
Interestingly, as we prepare to loan Pablo Mari to Udinese and Sead Kolasinac is reportedly close to a move to Marseille, it looks like we’re clearing the decks a little. Two non-homegrown players will depart, so it could be a case that we’re making room for an arrival or two. Hopefully there’s something doing in the market between now and January 31st, but I’m not really expecting much to happen this week.
Ok, I’ll leave it there for this morning. There’s a brand new Arsecast Extra for you below if you haven’t had a chance to listen already. Till tomorrow, take it easy.