Good ol’ Arsène and his Thursday press conferences. They make compiling my thoughts so much easier, especially when there’s a Saturday game, because it means I can talk about what he said at the presser on the Thursday, then focus on being apprehensive about the game on the Saturday. Sunday then becomes a true day of rest. Emotionally.
So there he sat yesterday, in London Conley, probably hoping for journo after journo to ask him about why the team are so fabulous right now. And yes, there was some of that, but mainly it became a competition for the assembled hacks on who can ask the same in a slightly different way the most times.
- Can you tell us about Özil and Alexis’ contracts?
- Would you be able to give us an update on Alexis and Özil?
- Contracts. Özil. Alexis. Thoughts?
- What do you think Alexis’ dogs think about the contract situation?
- Can you tell the fans something about the contract situation?
Blah, blah, blah. We all know the situation. It’s been said. The players are leaving it to the representatives and the club are talking to the players. As I’ve said before, I don’t have a great feeling about either of them, because this all feels a bit ‘draggy’ to me. It has a whiff of ‘final big money move’ about it and whilst the players seem happy enough on the pitch, I suspect a lot will come down to how close we are to winning the league, which I’m still not 100% convinced that mentally the team can. I love Arsène for what he’s done for our club, but I’m just not sure he knows how to build a league title winning side, sadly. And there will be plenty who will point to Leicester, but as far as I’m concerned that was some kind of glitch in the Matrix, because look at them this season.
Anyway, as I was saying, he was asked countless questions about contracts and obviously just batted them away. He’s going to have to get very Geoffrey Boycott at the metophorical crease with these questions though, because they’re going to keep coming every week and he’s going to have to keep blocking them.
At there was some talk about the football at the weekend though, to which the good news is that we might be getting Hector back for the visit of Stoke, ahead of schedule. That’s great to hear because as sturdy as Gabriel has been, let’s not forget that he’s a centre half and when you’re going makeshift with your players, you don’t want to chance fate by playing them too often out of position. So if Hector is ok, having him back will be great.
It’ll be an early Christmas wish for Theo too I expect. He’s not been as effective in the absence of Hector – although he did score against Bournemouth – but you can tell when you watch that he built up a good rapport with our Spanish right back. So I expect he’ll be particularly happy about his return, especially when he sees that first overlap by Bellerin.
The other talk in the presser was about who we might get in the Champions League and Arsène was expectantly bullish. Why shouldn’t he be? Nine goals in your last two matches will do that to the manager. He was asked about Madrid and Bayern and whilst he fielded the question with the ease of an old pro at this, I’m sure when he asks himself the question he would prefer to avoid the two biggest guns in the second place hat. I personally wouldn’t mind Madrid. It’d be something different and by the time the game comes around we’ll either know that this is shaping up to be another groundhog season, or the team will have built up enough momentum for us to go there and be confident of a result. As Arsène himself has said, for us this time, the advantage should be in the fact that the second leg is at home. We’ve seen that not really work out for us before though, as we all know with AC Milan, so let’s not use that as a key plus point just yet though.
As for Stoke, well, the 16 minute video on the official site didn’t really go in to that much detail about the game. That really annoys me and says more about the pathetic nature of the British press. They’re all about the tittle tattle. Why can’t these pressers be conducted like they are in Italy? I’ve listened to a few podcasts that have mentioned that in Italy the journos ask questions about formations, team set ups and the thoughts around how certain players play. Why can’t we have that? Why can’t the journos ask about whether Xhaka is the deep lying playmaker that Jack was supposed to be? Or which combination in midfield Arsène thinks works best at home against teams who set up to frustrate? Or whether or not having two inverted wingers creates too much congestion at times going forward?
Those are the kinds of questions that I’d love to have him answer. And do you know what? I bet he’d love to be asked them too. Because they’re not about the soap opera side of football. They’re about the actual football side of football.
But who am I kidding. Even the big man upstairs – santa – can’t deliver that for me.
And on that note, I’m going to clock off, and finish watching the Grinch on my journey in to work.
Love you all.