I messaged my brother yesterday whilst the England game was on. I asked him if he was watching it and he replied “sort of”. He was preparing dinner and it was on in the background and I suspected that might have been the case, as I was doing the same. I wanted to have something on and it just happened to be on as I was prepping a toad-in-the-hole. Otherwise I probably just wouldn’t have bothered. He is the same and although we support different teams in the Premier League, the feeling of apathy we both hold over international football is very clear.
Except I don’t think it’s completely international football, because as I expected WhatsApp’s with my brother, I speculated whether it would feel different if we weren’t in the middle of a season. You see when it’s the summer and there’s an international tournament on, I get a little more invested. Perhaps that’s because there is nothing else on from a football perspective, perhaps it is the wave of national excitement accompanied by warmer summer days and evenings, but I do find myself tuning in to England during the international tournaments. Whatever it is though, that feeling doesn’t even begin to rouse itself during the season and instead I just harbour resent meant that we even have to have a break in the season because of these matches.
So I hypothesized to my brother: “what if they just finished the season a couple of week’s earlier and then played all of the international qualifiers then? Or even started the domestic season two weeks late and just played games at the beginning? Or both?”
To me this feels like it could be a solution to get international football a little more focus and airtime and not have fans like me just seeing them as a massive inconvenience. I’ve seen it as essentially a week away from football this last week. There’s no way I have any real desire to watch England but if it’s on i’ll have it as background noise. It shouldn’t really be that way.
But who am I kidding? The football powers that be would never go for that. It is far too sensible idea for them to seriously consider it. So we continue with these boring and irritating international breaks and this one in particular feels longer than usual because they’ve crammed an extra game in which takes place on Wednesday for England. So the press will still be taking an interest right up until we get manager press conferences on Thursday and Friday this week.
I suppose an up side to this is that Arteta can do his prep work for the Liverpool game in relative quietness. He has had some time to prepare his plan for the coming weeks, as well as think about how to juggle the Europa and Premier League. We have rotated more than any other team in the league I believe (I’m sure I saw or heard a stat about it) and so think theory we should be fresher than many, but I still think Arteta will continue to rotate. I was on the ‘Same old Arsenal podcast’ the other day and Craig speculated that the reason there is going to be even more rotation is that Arteta wants to have a proper look at his players. I think that sounds like a very sensible approach and certainly feels like it could be the case more and more as the season starts to wind down for us. If it isn’t obvious at this exact moment in time, it will become obvious, that the Europa League is the priority and with Slavia Prague on the horizon we have to be looking at that and putting all of our footballing eggs in that basket. The league could – and should – be Arteta’s opportunity to see who is on the bus for next season. So I am hoping we see game time for Martinelli, Nelson, Nketiah, heck, let’s even give Azeez some time in midfield and see if he’s got it in him to act as a decent midfield deputy. Let’s have players who have been on the fringes get some time to see if they can impress and if they do then maybe Arteta can think differently about them.
Of course the danger is that by playing and not playing well if selected, we also kill the confidence of these players, which also either reduces their resale value or doesn’t help their confidence ahead of next season. It’s a bit of a conundrum that the manager has to consider but at this point I think it is worthwhile. This season is quickly petering out and so a few games here or there with some youth in it will do us no harm – whether we win or lose.
Anyhoo, that’s about it from me today. Have a good one and i’ll catch you kids tomorrow.