So our reward for the huffing and puffing against BATE Borisov is a couple of games against Rennes of Ligue Un and I think on the face of it, none of us can be too sad about that, because on paper I suppose they are one of the weaker teams.
The thing is though, we did kind of make a bit of a fudge of the first leg against BATE, so I’m not as blasé about the French side as I probably was against the Belarusians. Arsenal are a great leveller after all, especially with our defensive line.
There’s also a spicy little narrative with Ben Arfa and Emery meeting up again. The Spaniard fell out with Ben Arfa in a big way at PSG so I doubt there’ll be too many hugs and pats if they come across each other.
There’s also that chap Niang who looks like a decent player and will certainly test our back line with pace. But ultimately we should be expecting to progress and then we get down to the sharp end of the competition.
Infuriatingly for me I’ve got to head out to Asia for the second leg and the first leg is a rubbish time too so I’ll have to be creative with work in order to get myself somewhere to watch the game. Let’s just hope that the team do the business in the first leg this time.
Those timings are a joke though I have to say. 5.55pm is good for nobody. It doesn’t look good on TV when the stadium is still filling up as the match kicks off and if you think I’m just being a bit ‘nimby’ about this, then what about our group game against Sporting, which had similar times? The stadium was half empty at kick off and in pursuit of the almighty dollar UEFA are making their product look weak.
The other thing I wanted to touch on today was the Mesut Özil thing. It feels like he’s becoming as polarising as Wenger. You’re either pro Özil or anti Özil. He either plays brilliantly or he’s uninspiring. That’s what I saw from John Cross yesterday but if I’m honest, he was neither a rubbish nor brilliant. He did some good stuff, he did some not so good stuff, but he’s still got to find his form and that will take some time.
It’s interesting that all of the players are starting to come out in favour of him playing again. Sokratis and Iwobi have already made some comments and to me that says that perhaps the players were looking at the situation a little closer. If you don’t think a well liked player like Özil being out the team doesn’t have an impact on the team then these small comments probably speak volumes.
I suspect he won’t start on Sunday but I’d be giving him more game time. Get him on against Southampton and Bournemouth and if he – or the team as whole for that matter – don’t perform then Emery should look for other solutions. Maybe that’s formation, personnel, who knows? But we should do it knowing Özil is a cog in the whole team. Granted it’s a shinier cog than others but it’s still a cog. Let’s see if we can get all of the cogs working together better, eh?
I think I’ve pretty much exhausted that particular metaphor so I might just leave it