Sunday, September 24, 2023

Weekend review: Injuries, penalty nonsense, legends

Morning all, welcome to a brand new week. Hopefully you’re still feeling good after the weekend’s three points and high jinks. A win like that over Man Utd should absolutely resonate for a few days.

I dared to look at the Premier League table, having resolutely ignored it after the three defeats. It doesn’t look too bad!

At this point of the season you’re looking at everything that goes on in other games and with other clubs to see if there’s anything that might work in our favour. West Ham losing their last fit central defender to suspension yesterday was certainly one of those incidents that might give us a tiny bit of edge when we face them next week.

I don’t really understand why Craig Dawson was only issued a yellow card for what was obvious denial of goalscoring opportunity foul, but VAR had to intervene to give him the red. They’re already without Angelo Ogbonna, Issa Diop, and Kurt Zouma due to injury, so they’ll have to field a mix and match central defence next week – perhaps moving Declan Rice there?

The other aspect of this is that West Ham have a Europa League semi-final to contend with. The first leg, at home to Eintracht Frankfurt, is on Thursday with the away leg the following week. And look, I’m not saying these things make an Arsenal victory inevitable or anything, because we all know we could face a team of Zimmer-framed 90 year olds who haven’t won in 8 seasons, who were served a tray of botulism-spiked chicken supreme the night before, and still find a way to drop points, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. David Moyes rested players yesterday, so it’s clear they’re looking at the Europa League as the priority – understandably so to be fair – so fingers crossed we can make the most of that.

It was not a good weekend for penalty takers whose run-ups deserve nothing but contempt. Call me old fashioned if you will, declare me out of touch or anything else, but the Jorginho/Bruno Fernandes approach to taking penalties just doesn’t do it for me. I have never been or never will be a football manager, but if I were in charge of a team and player did that run up and then missed his penalty, I’d fine him two weeks years wages, make him train with the reserves, then conscript him into the army reserves even though that would probably be beyond my remit.

I don’t even buy into the idea that it looks good when it works. It doesn’t. It looks like you did a stupid run-up and scored. The run-up is still nonsense, putting the penalty into the back of the net doesn’t change that. It’s an affection to make themselves think they’re humiliating the goalkeeper when they score, not the most effective way to score a penalty.

‘But!’, some smart guy might insist, ‘It works for them, and that’s the most important thing!’

‘Well,’ I would counter, ‘If it’s so great how come everyone doesn’t do it? QED. Case closed. I win. Now run along, smart guy!’, and the smart guy would go on Twitter to argue about something hugely complicated with a person who is eminently qualified to talk about it whereas the SG has watched a video on YouTube that a lad from his football team WhatsApp group sent around with a caption like ‘Wow, never new dis’.

Back to us, and it was nice to see some of the legends back at the weekend. Amy Lawrence wrote a nice piece in The Athletic about it (£), and by now I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka with Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry.

A lot has happened at this football club over the last few years, and at times it hasn’t always felt like everyone is pulling in the right direction. Ex-players who work in the media can’t be expected to simply be cheerleaders, it’s important that their views are both honest and accurate, so I don’t worry too much about that side of it. We know Thierry was heavily involved in the failed Daniel Ek bid, which I don’t think had much substance really, and the pandemic and the gaping chasm it created in terms of people’s presence I think exacerbated some of the difficulties in recent times.

However, what must it have been like for Saka and Smith Rowe to have that engagement with players who are so intertwined with the times that we’re so desperate to try and replicate? I don’t think it’s possible that we can do that again, it was a once in a lifetime conflation of manager, players, opposition and the Premier League era, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aspire for something similar. If you don’t have the ambition, you’ll never achieve it, and if some or any input from guys like Henry and Bergkamp can help even a tiny bit, it’s something we – as a club – should look to embrace.

Right, that’s it for this morning. James and I will be recording the Arsecast Extra as always, but a bit later than usual. Keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.

Pod should be out after lunch at some point. Until then, take it easy.

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