We had Hector sign his deal recently, then yesterday all the noise coming out of the club centred around Emi Martinez signing his agreement to stay at the club for an extended period.
It’s clear that those at the club who matter rate him quite highly, but I always find these types of deals for goalies weird. The reason I say that is because the career of a ‘keeper is so different to an outfield player. For an outfield player you get to your best football probably from the ages of 26 to 30. Thereafter you start to lose a bit of pace and injuries kick in. But ‘keepers probably don’t hit their peak until 30 at least and they play on longer because they’re not as susceptible to injuries. So when you see a young player of 22 or 23 sign a deal it feels weird, especially when they’ve only made 10 appearances for the club, as Martinez has.
The goalkeeper position is also one that is so specialised, that he can probably not expect to challenge for a first team slot for another two years at least. Cech is 34, Ospina is 28 and as a result, Cech shouldn’t really start to be on the wane until he hits 36. So Martinez probably has another two years of being moved around a bit on loan if we don’t make it far in the League Cup. But he seems happy enough and as somebody who has always dreamed of playing football but never actually made it at any kind of level, you’ve got to be pleased for him that he’s living the dream. Let’s see if he can really challenge the current ‘keepers within the next couple of years.
Elsewhere there’s still some fallout from the PSG game, but I kind of don’t really want to dwell on what the players say too much about the team character, or anything like that, because I’m more concerned about what the manager is doing at the moment. It’s clear he doesn’t seem to know which players are a good fit for which game and at the moment we’re feeling a little disjointed. I suspect the game at the weekend will be another really tough one for us, because Bournemouth will be tough to break down and look to catch us on the counter. We’re not playing well and it’s hard to know exactly why that is. I was discussing it on a football Whatsapp group yesterday. One of the chaps questioned whether our players were knackered physically or mentally. I’m not sure that it’s a physical thing, because although Arsène can’t pick his best team yet, the benefit of this rotation is that players should be fit. Mentally too, I’m not sure why it might not be working, because if you think about the undefeated run we’ve been on we’re hardly in a ‘spiral of negativity’.
As far as I can make out – with my very untrained eyes – Arsène is trying to fit players for specific games, but he’s getting those selection decisions muddled up in my opinion. Of course, were he to be sitting next to me on this Metropolitan Line train (firstly, that’d be weird, because he’d be miles away from the training, ground, his house or The Emirates), he’d no doubt rightly remind me that he’s been a football manager for a lot longer than me. Indeed he has, but that doesn’t mean everything he does is right and it certainly doesn’t mean everything I think is wrong. It’s easy to say with hindsight I know, but to me it seemed obvious that Xhaka should have started against a pressing United midfield. He would have been more composed on the ball and we certainly wouldn’t have given it away as much as we did. Conversely, with the midfield as it was against PSG, they pop the ball around in triangles in midfield very well, so I wonder if even Elneny would have been a better option than Ramsey. Ramsey closes space, but he’s not a ball winner, so having the Egyptian in the team felt to me to be a better option. So I’m surprised that we’ve seen the combinations that we have against the opponents that we’ve played.
Let’s take this weekend as an example. We’re expecting to have plenty of the ball on Sunday, right? So how about a player who could distribute the ball well (Xhaka), alongside one who will close space and also add to the attacking options (Ramsey)? But will Arsène go for that? Who knows. Many have speculated about that potential combination, but we’re still yet to see this partnership for any length of time. I have no idea why. With the other combinations not working in Santi’s absence, why hasn’t this one been given a chance?
Perhaps it will. Perhaps this weekend we’ll see both players in the middle against a team that we should be beating at home. But we’ve drawn our last three home games and not looked convincing in any of them, so if the manager doesn’t settle on a successful formula soon, we might find this is another ‘race for fourth’ season once again sooner than we would have liked or expected.
Right, you’ve had enough of me for one day, no doubt. See you tomorrow with some post-presser thoughts.