Poor old Santi, eh? Not only does he have eight operations in a year to save his ability to walk, play football, etc, but the doctors have to take a part of his tattoo on another bit of his body as a skin graft, to sew him back up again together.
There are plenty of people in the footballing world who it is easy not to like. They exist in every football team and the dislike is magnified when they play for another team. But Santi isn’t one of them. In fact I’d imagine even the most hardened anti-Arsenal fans would have too much hatred in their hearts when it comes to our tiny little Spaniard.
But what’s worse is that the world has also been deprived of his footballing genius for over a year now. That is the true crime. His little twists and turns, his ability to spot a pass and wriggle out of any situation, Santi was one of those that I feel like i’ll only truly appreciate after he’s gone from the Arsenal team. I must confess that it happened with Bergkamp. I loved him at the club of course and I was glad when he was playing, but for me it’s only when I look over the old footage of him that I say “wow” and remember just how good he was.
But let me talk no more like this about Santi, because it sounds like i’m writing an obituary, rather than a sad tale of a year missed in football. Hopefully he can return before the end of the season and finish with a few games nuder his belt.
For the current crop of available players it is a daunting trip to Manchester that we face tomorrow that is in sharp focus and as expected Arsene did his presser yesterday and took the opportunity to give us a team update. The good news is that there’s nothing bad and nothing good to report in terms of returning players. Mustafi is not ready and so it’ll be Big Per who gets the nod but to be honest after he wasn’t named in the squad against Red Star, I kind of expected it, but at least he’s got enough games in his legs now to be match fit.
Because let’s face it, with that City attack we’re going to need as many fit players, with as much grit, as we could muster and an old head who remembers the 2-0 win there a few years back will certainly come in handy.
The blueprint for that victory was built on a strong and stable defensive display that resulted in counter-attacking football and taking our chances. It was Arsenal abandoning the usual ‘attack, attack, attack’ approach to our game. Which is why I’m even more worried now with Arsene talking up having a go at City tomorrow in his press conference. The narrative from the manager yesterday was very much classic Arsene of “we’ll go there and have a go”, “we’ll play our own game” and “we want to play attacking football” and that scares the bejebus out of me I have to say.
It scares me because we’ve heard that rhetoric too many times in recent years and it’s the reason we have some absolutely shocking results that are still in the mind. The better teams are not just better in attack, but they’re better defensively and the “have a go” and “only focus on or game” mentality is one in which we are usually left too open, too gung-ho and then too many goals conceded as a result.
I really hope this isn’t going to be a repeat of the Liverpool mauling earlier in the season. Or the Chelski 6-0. Or the Liverpool 5-1. Or the City 6-3. Or the United 8-2. See – we have enough examples of why “focusing on ourselves” is not exactly the best idea when you go in to these games.
And my frustration here is that no other top six manager does that. None of them other than Arsene will ignore the opposition and think “if we play our game then the rest will sort itself out”. And that’s why you don’t really see the kind of mauling that we seem to get at least once a season. You can bet your bottom dollar that Pep knows everything about every one of our players. About how we distribute the ball. About how we will look to move forward with it. About where the weaknesses lie. He’ll have studied us and have a game plan ready to put us to the sword. Which is why i’m so worried about tomorrow. But I’ll talk more about that in the pre-match thoughts tomorrow morning I think.
The only other real noteworthy thing that came out of the conference yesterday was Arsene talking about how Alexis won’t be sold in January and is fully focused on Arsenal ahead of this game. I don’t doubt he’ll be up for winning the game for his team tomorrow and that means he’ll be giving his all, but the reality on him being sold in January is not something I’m as convinced of. Let’s not forget it was this manager and CEO who had a sudden change of heart on Alexis on deadline day only two and a bit months ago. I suspect this is just an attempt to quell further speculation ahead of this particular game.
Off to do some shopping. The weather is miserable in London so I think that food shopping is the best use of my time with no Arsenal on today.