Morning all and welcome to Tuesday. Now, I feel like I’ve gone on a little bit about the League Cup situation and the postponement lately, so after today I am hoping that I don’t bother to bring it up unless talking about the actual football context, but I do feel compelled to do a little piece on it first thing today after some rumours have been circulating that Liverpool might be investigated in to the matter. I really hope so, because Klopp’s post match interview in which he went on about ‘false positives’ and have a number in the camp is an absolute lie and everybody should see it. Just before Christmas a friend of mine had a positive result and we asked about false positives. “It’s a 99% chance that it isn’t a false positive. False negatives are more common, but not false positives” was the reply. So we are to believe that Liverpool had a load of false positives amongst a squad of circa 30 players? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on, I say. Investigate them, out them and fine them if you have to. I don’t want to advocate booting them out of the competition, because I want us to play those games, but I do want it recognised and Liverpool to be publicly shown up so that in future everyone thinks twice about Victims FC.
Anyway, that’s enough of that I think, because we should focus on the fact that we have a game in the League Cup against them in two days and in all reality it is the only shiny silver trinket we can realistically win right now, so whilst I’ve seen plenty of people suggest that we should be rotating for that game too, I’m 100% NOT in that camp. Maybe it’s because I have enough away points to pick up a ticket to Wembley and that’s a great day out, but I think it is more that seeing your team win a trophy is an amazing experience and getting to a final is an amazing experience. So many teams never get close to seeing their side in a final. I have been fortunate that at 39 years of age I have seen Arsenal lift countless trophies and the hunger remains the same, always. Admittedly in the earlier rounds I’m a little more blasé about it, but when you get yourself to a semi final you have to take it seriously and I hope Arteta is getting the message across to the lads that we need to go hard on it on Thursday, then go hard again on Sunday against the Scum for the NLD.
The good news for us is that I think they will also have to go full strength because of their 2-0 defeat to the Chavs last week and although they have an extra days rest than us and won’t have to embark on any travelling like our players will, they won’t have a full week of refreshment before we play them. So in my mind that makes it all the easier for Arteta to play a stronger team at Anfield and hopefully we get a decent result. A decent result is of course just being in the game. I’d fancy us at The Emirates in a week and two days time for the second leg, but we have to be within touching distance of Liverpool in that game. If we see a repeat of the drubbing we got in the league game at Anfield then you can forget it, so we need to stay in it and close to them in terms of scoreline.
Of course all of that will depend on what team Klopp puts out and given that Liverpool seem to have found the miracle cure for pandemics, maybe they’ve also found a way to regenerate their players instantly, giving him the opportunity to play a full strength side? We shall await with optimism on the pre game chatter from the Liverpool camp.
The only other news that is being shuffled out of the daily red top rags and other media outlets is that supposedly Vlahovic and his team are looking for astronomical money to join Arsenal this January. There have been various reports that on top of the $80million package to Fiorentina, Vlahovic’s agent wants a big signing on fee and £00k-per-week for his client. I guess this is where it gets eye watering but you can see why the agent wants to try to get every single penny he can out of The Arsenal. At that sort of price tag the agent will be saying that Pepe was £72million and is one of the top earners at the club. Aubameyang is on £300k-per-week and it is clear that Vlahovic is the Gabonese strikers replacement. So you could see why he’d ask for that. I’d like to think that Arsenal would go nowhere near that figure though because a) Aubameyang signed that deal as one of the most proven and elite strikers in world football at the time, whereas Vlahovic has only got a couple of very good seasons in a weaker Serie A league, and b) the challenges we’ve had with the likes of Ozil and Aubameyang on that big money would hopefully put off the club from going that far in terms of a financial package. I’d also like to think that lessons have been learned and when you think about the camaraderie within the camp – or at least the looks of it from the outside – you’d like to think that some Billy Big Balls coming in and wanting to throw around his weight via his agent like that wouldn’t go down that well.
So my hope is that Arsenal are keen to get their man, but not so keen that they won’t walk away and explore other options if they need to. There is not just one person in the whole of world football suitable for the role that Arteta wants up top, so we shouldn’t be forced in to an unattractive financial package because of a greedy agent.
The other news bubbling along at the moment is the idea that Wijnaldum on loan until the end of the season is a consideration for Arsenal. This one is a tough one in terms of midfield. If Wijnaldum is just a short-term, emergency signing, then on paper that’s a great one to bring in. Experience of the league, will slot straight in, if he was signed this instant you could even have him on the bench for the game at Anfield. But he isn’t going to want to come along and then not get minutes after our immediate need is fulfilled. Xhaka and Partey are the two main men in midfield and by the time the Burnley game comes around in 12 days time we could have Partey back (Ghana lost 1-0 yesterday in their opening game) and the midfield doesn’t look as much of a problem. Of course an injury to Xhaka or Partey and bringing in somebody like Wijnaldum would be a good move, but if both Xhaka and Partey stay fit between now and the end of the season the number of games we have to play spreads itself out enough that they can play all of them. So if I’m in Wijnaldum’s shoes I’m asking how much game time I’m getting. This season he’s had 10 starts in the French league and three in the Champions League. The reason he is supposedly interested in a short term move is probably to be guaranteed game time. But would he get it at Arsenal? Maybe. Maybe he displaces Xhaka and we look for a Xhaka replacement in the summer, but my gut feel is that Xhaka is one of Arteta’s ‘guys’ and so doesn’t get booted that easily.
It is therefore a tricky one to balance. There’s no doubt we need something, we need it quickly, but after that the need dissipates somewhat. So I am wondering if Arteta just sees if he can try to ride it out over the next week or so. That’s a dangerous game given our opponents and the potential for our season to look like it is turning south quickly if we don’t pick up wins in the next few matches.
All eyes on Arsenal and Arteta.