Let’s start today’s blog by extending a little bit of sympathy to The Ox, as Arsene surprisingly confirmed yesterday that he’s had a knee injury and will now be out for between six to eight weeks. From an Arsenal perspective this impacts us little; he was, after all, injured for the latter part of this season and even before then his form wasn’t great. But from a personal perspective all players want to play in international competitions and so the fact that he’s now out of the Euro’s will probably be a bit gutting for him.
My only hope is that he uses the time to rest up, get better, have a think about what he needs to do to break in to the first team next season, using the time away from training/playing to really think hard about how he can fulfill all the potential we’ve seen in fits and starts over the last few years. He’s very much liked at the club, but he’s also a little bit of a joker, and he doesn’t want his position in the team to be known as a jester instead of one of the key players. Anyway, I hope he’s trying to stay positive, because I think he could be an amazing player for us.
As for the rest of the press conference, Arsene was asked about the importance of the City game, not least because it would secure third and also not affect the scheduling of next seasons pre-season preparations, but also because it leaves the door slightly ajar for Arsenal to finish above the Tiny Totts. Personally I think that ship has sailed though. I don’t think we’re playing well enough, fluid enough and with enough confidence, to suggest that we’ll beat City. I know City are pretty down-and-out themselves at the moment, but I suspect they’ll be well up for it tomorrow. Proper send off for Pellegrini and all that jazz. I also don’t think the Spuds will lose or draw against Southampton this weekend, which would effectively mean we’d be relying on Newcastle to absolutely smash Tottenham by seven goals, whilst we’d need to probably smash Villa by seven on the last game of the season, to affect the level of swing in goal difference we’d need. So I think second place is pretty much done. And I think Arsene – having watched the presser myself just now – believes that too, but is just putting a brave face on it.
Personally I couldn’t really give a monkey’s about it. This season, from January onwards, was about winning it or being an also-ran. That is what we are so what really small victory would it be to finish above Tottenham? It wouldn’t make me feel like this season has been any less of a failure. It wouldn’t make me think that Arsene is now capable of winning the league, sadly, because I think his time is unfortunately up. But I don’t want to get in to the why’s and wherefore’s of why the manager should go. It’s been said too many times and by too many people. I just want to get the next two games over and done with, say ‘to hell with you’ for this season and then start working out how on earth we’re going to get excited for 2016/17.
One things for sure, Arsenal won’t be changing their possession-based football style, despite Leicester winning the league without having the ball much this season. Arsene congratulated the foxes, as you’d expect, but he did through in a ‘but’ which suggested that he wasn’t sure that it will make many teams change their style. And I think he’s right. Certainly for the more recognised ‘bigger’ clubs. Arsenal, Man United, City, Chelski, the Totts – all of these teams face sides that just don’t attack them at home. They sit deep and look to break on the counter. Leicester have played like that all season and it’s worked for them, but they’ll find more teams letting them have the ball next season, so it will be interesting to see if Ranieri will be forced in to changing his teams’ approach. As for Arsenal, West Brom, West ham, Stoke, etc, are all now going to start coming to the Emirates and having a go at us. They will do what they’ve always done, which is to sit deep and use pace on the counter. So it would be impossible for Arsenal to adopt the same mentality. It would certainly make for some of the most boring football ever seen, i.e. two teams playing defensively for 90 minutes!
There was a couple of other points from the presser that I wanted to pick up. Firstly, it sounded pretty obvious to me that Arsene knows there’s probably something going on between Arteta and Pep, because when asked about it he even admitted that is a possibility. He said Mikel is out of contract and so is welcome to speak to anybody at the end of the season. Normally Arsene would say that we would be talking to him about what we could do, or be giving him an opportunity to coach, but he pretty much said ‘no jobs available at the moment’ in the presser, so I think the Spaniard will seek pastures new.
Secondly, which I am kind of reading in to a little if you’ll indulge me, he was asked about getting a striker and dismissed it quickly, saying we are not focused on transfers. But the way he dismissed it was not like you’d usually expect. Normally I’d expect Arsene to say something like “we have Welbeck, Giroud, Walcott, Alexis can play up front” etc, etc, but he just said he’s not thinking about it now because there are games to play. But I don’t believe that. I believe he is definitely out there looking. He has to be. Especially when you look at where our biggest fault has been this season. We’re 14 goals shy of Tottenham, for Christ’s sake, so it’s certainly something I think he’ll have to address in the summer. He’s also stated he did not know the future of Theo either, in the recent past, so I think we’ll see some movement. That’ll be something that I think will please everybody, to be fair.
Anyway, it’s my old mother’s birthday today, so I’m going to head out in to her garden and do that rarest of things for an Englishman – spend it bathed in sunshine at a weekend.
Cheerio until tomorrow.