Monday, November 28, 2022

Champions League, penalties, and more red card nonsense

Morning all.

It’s pretty quiet from an Arsenal perspective, and the reason for that isn’t just the league season or elimination from the cups, but the fact we have no European football this year. It had been a staple of our existence for so long, and while I’m not going to say we took it for granted, this season has hammered home how much it played a part in our day to day lives.

Obviously I want us to be back in Europe next season because that would signify some progression – particularly if we can do the still quite difficult thing of finishing in the top four – but also because it means we have a lot more Arsenal. I will hold my hands up here and happily admit that as someone who writes about this club for a living every single day, the more football there is the better it is in that regard. I don’t mean it’s easy, because there are still plenty of things to think about, to contend with, to come to terms with and all the rest, but when the schedule is weekend game > midweek game > weekend game > midweek game etc, there’s a rhythm to everything and plenty going on.

In the last few weeks we’ve had an 18 day gap between games, and then even when we did return we’ve had another 9 day gap. That’s good for the players and their fitness, and for the manager to work on preparation and organisation, but it’s not much good for us as fans when you’re dying to watch football. If I ever complain about fixture congestion again, feel free to slap me in the face with wet fish (something like a sea bass or a John Dory, not a Blue Marlin – they’re too big and pointy).

Speaking of Europe, I watched PSG v Real Madrid last night, and although the Spanish side were quite bad indeed, you look at the way that game played out and some of the quality on display and you wonder what would we be like even if we did get back into the Champions League? Obviously the summer recruitment would be informed by that, and finishing in the top four would be genuine progress which you would hope to continue by adding real quality to the squad, but after five years out of the competition, it would be a big step up. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see it, but let’s not pretend it wouldn’t be a big challenge.

Kylian Mbappe’s winner was sensational, and speaking of challenges if he was determined to show the world how good he is, coming to Arsenal and firing us back to the top would be just the way to do it … *cough*. Free transfer, should be pretty easy for Edu and Dicky Garlick. *cough cough*

Lionel Messi missed a penalty earlier in the game, and I saw lots of talk about him as a penalty taker. This is a very interesting read from Ben Lyttleton who wrote a whole book about penalty taking which is well worth a read. Messi is truly exceptional in every aspect of the attacking game, but average when it comes to penalties.

There has to be a psychological aspect to it that some players simply can’t get beyond. I always found it hard to understand why Dennis Bergkamp, such an incredible footballer, consummate professional, dedicated to his craft on the training ground every day, never took another spot kick after his miss against Man Utd in that 1999 FA Cup semi-final. I get that it hurt and the consequences of it were fairly huge given they went on to do the treble that season, but to me it’s still at odds with not just a brilliant player but clearly a hugely intelligent man. I guess, for whatever reason, he was unable to compartmentalise that miss, to just put it in the past and focus on the next penalty, but it’s still a bit strange.

Finally for today, the Lewis Dunk sending off for Brighton last night put me in mind of Arsenal, because it’s exactly the kind of decision I would expect to go against us. Which isn’t to say I think we’re Brighton or Brighton are viewed the same way as Arsenal, but it’s absolutely the kind of VAR-inflicted nonsense I would expect to benefit Man Utd. Also, there really does need to be a serious discussion about raising the threshold for red card offences, whether that includes the implementation of a sin-bin system or something else, because too many players are being sent off for very little and the impact on the games is far too significant based on the offences they have committed.

Here’s an interesting Tweet from Ed Avern (who wrote about the Amazon series for us a while back), looking at red card data from the start of the 2020 season until now. It really does tell a bit of a story:

Right, that’s your lot for this morning, take it easy.

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