Talking about football after people have lost their lives under a terrorist regimes faux ‘holy war’ seems a little trivial this morning. Last night I watched the BBC News at Ten and held my wife a little closer, hoping that the frequency of these types of cowardly attacks does not increase across Europe, because innocent lives are being taken because of religious extremism. It simply isn’t fair that there were a collective of people that left their houses in the morning and will never return home.
Football is escapism at times. Because it operates within its own bubble, it allows people to melt away from the travesties of life like what happened in Brussels yesterday, so whilst I write this very conscious that there are other things in life more important than the team you and I support (family, friends, happiness in life, etc), it’s important to show to these evil takers of life that they shall not affect anybody. All they do is harden the resolve of people.
So, with that in mind, I turn towards the announcement by Mesut Özil that he was happy at Arsenal and with Wenger and that stories that he wanted the manager gone by the summer were farcical.
Of course the stories were farcical. The very idea that a player can have that much influence over Arsenal Football Club means that this kind of drivel from the Current Bun was always going to be a fabricated concoction from a newspaper desperately trying everything to retain its dwindling circulation figures.
I did find it interesting that he – or the PR company that run his account – felt the need to even respond to the rumours anyway. Most of the time the players can ignore that kind of rubbish. But we’re getting to the end of season number three and our Mesut has not won a league title in any of those. He probably won’t this season, if we’re all honest, so what does that do for our chances to retain him. So whilst publicly he will of course back the manager – which of course he should do – privately I do wonder if there are questions that will be raised.
Özil is 27 going on 28 and I believe he has a contract until 2018. Whilst that gives the club an element of security for the immediate future, Özil may be wondering what lies ahead for him if we continue to fall short, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that the noises have already started. If I was in Özil’s position, I’d want to know what our chances were next season for seriously competing. It’s clear that this season has not gone according to plan, that the squad has not been good enough (and a little too brittle at times) to mount a sustained challenge across multiple fronts, so when your career is short you need to think about being selfish. Ancelotti is in at Bayern in the summer and he has coached Özil. Real Madrid have a buyback clause. These might all sound a little far-fetched, but we only need the noises to start around May time, for them to grow louder and louder over the summer months and escalate into another summer of uncertainty like we thought were all behind us.
That’s the worst case scenario. I get the feeling – from reading some of his interviews and hearing some journos close to the club talk about how happy he is – that it is not as likely to happen as is unlikely to happen. But if we’re in the same position this time next season? Well, that becomes a different matter entirely, one which feels all to familiar with a player reaching the final year of his contract. We need to make sure we surround Özil with world class players and so I hope the club are already sounding out people in key positions for us in the summer. You won’t hear Arsène Wenger talking about it publicly, but there needs to be an army of scouts and analysts building the case for a number of high-profile, world-class signings. Actually, scratch that, they don’t have to be high-profile at all. Just make sure they are quality, that they add value to the playing staff and most importantly that they bring a better balance to our play. Leicester have shown that as long as the sum is greater than the parts, you can be successful, so that’s what we want to see next season.
Right, what else is going on then, eh? Not a lot. Danny Welbeck is apparently doing a specialised England training routine on his own. I hope that involves gently walking on a treadmill, whilst being draped entirely in bubble-wrap, within a padded room. With the way he’s playing at the moment, we could really do without him going down with a serious injury, so I hope Roy sees sense and either doesn’t play him, or just gives him some token time at the end of the game. Roy can run Theo into the ground as much as he likes, but just leave ‘Dat Guy’ alone, will ya Hodge?
Germany play England on Saturday evening, so at least we’ll get a couple of glimpses of Arsenal players this Easter weekend, but I hope that’s all they are – fleeting glimpses!
Righto, that’s me for another day, so stay safe and have a good Wednesday.