Apologies for the lack of blog yesterday. A sleepless night and a five hour train journey meant sharing my thoughts with you would’ve been an unpleasant situation for us both. Fortunately, I am now slightly recovered, and feeling rather better. About everything, in fact.
This morning I’ll cycle up to the Emirates for my first live game of the season. In fact, work commitments have prevented me actually getting to games since around March. I watched our end of season collapse on the television, or through my computer/fingers.
The summer hasn’t been any easier on the eye. But tomorrow lunchtime, when I’m confronted with the full horror of Liverpool FC and their fans, all I will care about is that the eleven men in red and white triumph over the eleven men in whatever hideous away kit Liverpool’s marketing men have concocted for this season. And that, really, is what football ought to be about.
For ninety minutes, I’m calling a truce with my angst. All I want to do is beat Liverpool. I’m even calling a truce with Samir Nasri, who has been surprisingly recalled to the squad. It shows how stretched we are when the manager is prepared to risk a £23m asset just hours before he’s due to leave the club. The fact that Tomas Rosicky has joined Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby, Gervinho, Alex Song, Kieran Gibbs, Armand Traore and Johan Djourou on the sidelines has forced Arsene to reconsider Nasri’s position, and I now expect him to start in a midfield trio with Emmanuel Frimpong and Aaron Ramsey.
It’s certainly a change of position from when Arsene said he was only prepared to use players who were 100% committed to the club. And it’s a change brought about, quite clearly, by desperation. Arsene said:
“You do your job until the last day of your life at the Club – the rest is speculation. That doesn’t interfere with your dedication and the way you do your job.
Nasri is in the squad. If I decide to play him he will play. When you are professional you play until the last day.
Everywhere I have worked in my life I have made sure that until the last second of where I was I did the job properly. He is paid this month by Arsenal Football Club so why should he not play?”
Nasri’s impending move to City has seen his relationship with the Arsenal fans very quickly and very publicly disintegrate. There will doubtless be those in the Emirates crowd who want to vent their frustrations at a player who has reneged on a new deal at Arsenal to double his money elsewhere. My advice to you is this: save it for when he comes back with City. There’s no need for a negative atmosphere around the ground on a day when teenagers like Carl Jenkinson and Emmanuel Frimpong could be making their first league starts for the club.
The team will most likely be:
Szczesny – Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Jenkinson – Frimpong Ramsey – Walcott Nasri Arshavin – Van Persie (c)
Japanese winger Ryo Miyaichi, having completed his paperwork, is also in contention and is likely to be on the bench. Interestingly, there’s been no talk of whether or not Nicklas Bendtner could be involved, perhaps in one of the wide attacking roles. I wouldn’t be adverse to giving the Dane a game, although his lack of match practise might be a worry.
Regardless, it’s a line-up that tells you a lot about the state of the squad and where we require strengthening – especially when you take Nasri out of the equation too. I was encouraged by the news that Arsenal made an enquiry for Lucho Gonzalez - an experienced, quality player – albeit one whose form has dipped in the last twelve months; but seriously, why would Marseille allow one of their best players, who cost them €18m two years ago, to leave on loan? Much like when we bid only £10m for Phil Jagielka, I think we were being optimistic at best, and naieve at worst.
It doesn’t look like we’ll be getting Juan Mata either, with the Spaniard now set to sign for Chelsea. That’s a shame: he’s a great player and would’ve been a good like-for-like replacement for Nasri.
One player who has signed is Joel Campbell. The teenage striker will now wait to hear if he is awarded a work permit before the club decide the next stage of his development.
It’s a huge game today. Our first two matches have come with creditable results, if uninspiring performances. This is a different kind of test, against the team a whole host of pundits have predicted will supercede us in the race for Champions League qualification. It’s an opportunity to make a real statement, and give both the players and fans a much-need boost ahead of a very difficult week in which we travel to Udinese and Manchester United.
Arsene looked as fiery as he ever has done in his press conference yesterday, swatting away journalists with defiant rhetoric. He’s clearly been riled by those hacks and fans who have openly questioned his decision-making this summer, and feels he has a point to prove. As supporters, we should consider that a good thing. Three good results in the next eight days would certainly silence many of his critics.
Come On You Gunners.