Morning all, a quick blog for you as I’m heading down the coast a bit to make the most of the sunshine and to frustrate myself on the golf course.
Arsenal have a list of the 16 players who will be away on international duty, and that feels like the most players we’ve lost for quite some time. It is, very obviously, a consequence of having a squad packed with young, talented players who are needed by their countries, and it also puts me in mind of what Mikel Arteta said a while back about the need for these players to play every three or four days.
The schedule is relentless. If you’re good enough, you have to play domestic, European and international football – with some off-season demands thrown in as well. We can still worry about them being tired or fatigued, but the stark reality of this profession now is that there’s no room for that. It sounds completely absurd, of course, but it is what it is. Your club needs you. Your country needs you. Your club needs you again. And so it goes.
One man who has an unexpected call up during this Interlull is Gabriel Jesus who has been brought back into the Brazil squad after Antony was withdrawn due to very unpleasant and disturbing allegations made against him. They require investigation, so our man is back in the Brazil squad for the first time since the World Cup (I think).
Again, it’s one of those where you might worry a little bit because if his recent injuries, but perhaps this could be a useful thing for Arsenal. He hasn’t played much this season because of that minor surgery he underwent, so if he gets competitive minutes for Brazil, they could be useful to get him closer to match-fitness. I thought he was really good when he came on against United, and while the goal will be the thing people remember most, I was really impressed with the strength and skill he showed in wide areas. A couple of times he received a long ball on the touchline, under some pressure from a centre-half right behind him, took it down, and made something happen.
I think what Eddie Nketiah has done so far this season has been pretty decent, and it’s brought him an England call-up, but I think Jesus gives us things he just can’t. So, let’s hope this Interlull is useful for him and for us, and he’s 100% ready to go on his return.
Something I mentioned on the Arsecast Extra yesterday, but which didn’t make the post-game blog, was Sky Sports’ coverage, which had former referee Mike Dean front and centre. Before kick-off, they cut to a view of commentator Peter Drury with Gary Neville beside him, and sitting there alongside them, grinning like a Cheshire Cat that just got back from Jurgen Klopp’s dentist, was Dean.
I found it really jarring that they he was there in the first place, not least because of his comments the other week which now appear to have been brushed under the carpet, but because it immediately changed the narrative from two of England’s biggest clubs playing an important game of football, to RefWatch©® – and how tough it was going to be for Anthony Taylor.
During the game, when Kai Havertz should have had a penalty, Dean was adamant it was a spot-kick, until such time as VAR got involved, then he did a gradual 180 until he backed the decision of his ‘mate’ who overturned it. Then, afterwards, before they’d even had any real discussion about the actual football, Dean was pitch-side with presenter and pundits to be questioned about the penalty again, the offside, and more.
It’s just really weird to me that they have leaned so heavily into this, especially as the ex-players involved are more than capable of providing analysis of those decisions. What is is they say, a good referee is one you don’t notice? That’s never going to be the case any more if this is the kind of coverage we’re going to get. And how can what Mike Dean says be taken at face value anyway, given he admitted he deliberately ignored foul play in order to protect his friend. As I’ve written previously, if he’s admitting that in public, what has he not said? And how commonplace is this?
Then you see a story about how Howard Webb and Michael Owen are going to present a regular TV show which will release audio/video from VAR decisions, and it all feels even more weird. On the one hand, transparency in decision making is welcome, but on the other it feeds into my suspicion that Webb and the PGMOL want to be part of the worldwide celebrity culture that surrounds the Premier League. As for doing it with Michael Owen, a man whose punditry is about as insightful as a shoe, give me strength.
I watched Fulham boss Marco Silva rage against a decision made in their game against Man City at the weekend. There was a clear offside, the goal should not have been given, and he complained about people who don’t know anything about football – i.e, the referees and VAR officials. It’s impossible to argue with Silva, but now they’re going to be part and parcel of the coverage, baked into every game, and now unavoidable. Maybe it will work out, standards might improve with greater scrutiny, but it all feels a bit odd to me.
Right, I’m gonna go. If you haven’t had a chance to listen yet, the Arsecast Extra is here, while on Patreon our Premier League round-up, ‘The 30’ is available now too.
Have a good one.