As if there wasn’t enough reasons and incentives to get ourselves out of the Europa League, now we’ve got UEFA stepping in and confirming to Arsenal – which was announced on the official website yesterday – that our away game to Vitoria Setabul is going to take place at 3.50pm in the afternoon in November.
It’s utterly ridiculous because not only does it mean that away fans are going to have to essentially take an additional day off work to travel in the morning on 6th November, but some will probably also have to head out on the Tuesday.
That’s a pain in the arse any way you look at it but that’s just the away fans. How about the home fans? Can you imagine what the atmosphere is going to be like? Unless the home fans at Vitoria are all taking half days, then it’s going to be pretty eerie, because I bet everyone isn’t going to take holiday to get themselves to the game.
It’s just another black mark against a competition which, let’s face it, might as well not exist until the quarter finals. You know in FIFA on the PlayStation/Xbox when you can ‘simulate match’? Yeah, let’s just do that for the group stages, can we? I wonder if Unai would take it right now if he was offered the chance.
Along with ludicrous choices for cup final venues, this competition just feels like it’s becoming more and more farcical. We’re all just waiting for the next time UEFA can ‘banter’ us off. They’ll probably start chucking in ‘power plays’ soon, where the goal gets replace by one the width of the pitch from corner to corner for fifteen minutes in a half, just to test the ‘excitement levels’.
Suffice to say I won’t be going to Portugal which, I have to say, I’m a little sad about because it’s on my birthday and I had been talking to The Management about seeing Porto as a short city break.
I know, real ‘first world problems’ for me personally but if I try to detach myself from that, I do feel for the home fans. There’s something different about evening games and given they’re hardly in this competition every year, it seems a little harsh to be denying their home fans that.
UEFAs reasoning is weak as well. Stating that games on Thursday featuring Porto and Braga mean that policing numbers are stretched. I mean pull the other one, it’s got bells on. Firstly, why can’t they alternate matches home and away that week? And secondly, why not just flex by bringing in support from other areas? What happens in that area normally? Do these teams always play on different days? And what happens when they play each? Do they act differently then?
This is mollycoddling of the highest order by UEFA. They’ll talk up the health and safety issues but the reality is that they just don’t care that much. They didn’t in Baku for the final and where that was located, so what difference does it make now? Of course an additional day also provides additional opportunity for TV coverage and therefore more cash in the coffers. But of course, UEFA are all about the ‘good of the game’, aren’t they?
On a separate and more positive note, last night on the show we got to talking about Matteo Guendouzi, touching on Deschamps and his caution with our mop-haired midfielder. Deschamps has understandably looked to play down his role and instead just urged caution to let him grow at his own pace. Obviously that’s being helped at The Arsenal but it can’t hurt to hear words from the French national team manager about not over-hyping a player. Our own recent history is littered with promising players who never really made that final step up to greatness and whilst we can all be pleased with Guendouzi’s start let’s not forget that he has his off days too.
We also talked about the type of midfielder he is. I joked that there’s so many different types of midfield role these days that we might never know, but talk of him becoming a box-to-box midfielder are interesting from my perspective. If we think about our most recently departed b2b Aaron Ramsey, Guendouzi has a different playing style in my opinion. What I loved in the NLD was how often in the second half he pressed a little higher and was a little more aggressive in intercepting the ball higher up the pitch. That and his vision for a pass and the way he moves the ball around the pitch is really positive. But he’s not that archetypal ‘box-to-box’ right now. Not in my opinion.
For one thing the archetypal ‘box-to-box’ does running in both directions. Guendouzi is looking to play the call forward and he is positive in his passing lines, but he isn’t exactly the best when running back to goal and last season we saw examples of that when he didn’t track back for Rennes’ third goal away from home and he was also ghosted by Pogba in the middle of the park in the FA Cup game.
Of course he can improve these sides of his game and perhaps even with his goalscoring, but I wouldn’t put him down as a box-to-box just yet, not without a little more refining in his game.
He’s a creative midfielder but not a ten, he’s not really a six in the deep lying role and when you compare him to Ceballos who looks more like the creative eight, he isn’t really that. So perhaps he needs to find his position and everyone needs to know it before we have an idea on just how far his talent will take him?
Just some thoughts to ponder on a Tuesday morn.
Catch you all tomorrow.