If’s and but’s on rotation, the league and transfers

A little holiday away from work awaits yours truly here after today’s London grind, so apologies if the timing of the blogs get a little wayward, a bit like a loose Fabregas kick into the centre of a group of players inside a penalty box I suppose.

What a bit of madness that was, eh? But what I think it almost conclusively proves beyond any doubt, is that when you join Chelski you are inserted with an ‘evil serum’ that makes you at leat 25% more dislikable by at least a quarter and in some cases (Diego Costa, John Terry), 100% dislikable.

Oh well, thanks to tomorrow night’s game we can quickly forget about the evil in the world resonating from that part of West London, focusing on the purity of the dominant team in North London. It’s ours don’t you know.

Theo was quoted in the papers yesterday and this morning; saying that there can be no excuse not to challenge next season, that this season perhaps the believe was not quite there but next season with the squad and players we have we simply must challenge. I don’t think you’ll find many Arsenal fans arguing there. What we need is the start from 2013/14 welded together with the finish of 2014/15 and I reckon we’ll be up there. But a lot will depend on the ability to pick your best and most cohesive team and that, in some cases, requires a little bit of luck to avoid injuries for key players. We can all bemoan the hamstring and calf strains that might point to the medical team and/or poor rotation and fatigue of players over a long season, but if somebody decides to Shawcross Alexis, or Martin Taylor Özil, there’s not a lot we can do. Thankfully I believe the squad is capable enough to cover for losses of players from injury for a few games, but mass absences like we saw at the start of the season are not something any team can handle I don’t think, even the evil serum-taking Chelski team of this season. 

So whilst I agree that we need to be fighting better for the title, there’s a big ‘if’ in there depending on injuries.

There’ll be a press conference and some tam news at some stage today, but it will be interesting to hear what the manager might say about rotation. Szczesny perhaps? Gibbs, Gabriel, Wilshere, Walcott, Welbeck maybe? With third all but secured, perhaps you want those players that are desperate to prove themselves so they can get in the final squad and hopefully the first XI, so maybe we’ll get an insight into whether Arsène’s mind is edging towards a bit of rotation. 

Perhaps it is. After all, the team has been playing one game a week for a while and I’m convinced it’s helped with our form for the latter part of the season, so to rotate a little to keep players a bit fresher makes sense in my mind. After West Brom at the weekend we have a full week of recovery and so if Arsène wants to keep his players match sharp then he can do so at the weekend having given a few a rest from Old Trafford and a full week between games.

Anyway, we’ll know soon enough. In the mean time, how about we breathe a sigh of relief that we appear to have finally shaken off the ‘annual transfer saga’ tag that we spent five or so years worrying about, having finally handed it across to Liverpool, who will spend the summer worrying about Raheem’s movements in the off season. I’m not going to laugh, because I still remember what it felt like seeing our players depart, but the unsettling of Sterling could see something of a conversation starter between us and the scousers. Arsène is a known admirer and Theo is in a bit of a contractual dilemma, so if the noises from Camp Walcott are that this might be a difficult deal again, Arsène could decide to cash in. I know it’s not as simple as that and rarely do swap deals materialise, but stranger things have happened in football so you never know.

Besides, if Jose is opening the door to Petr Cech joining Arsenal – assuming Arsène’s keen – then Dick’ll probably have to spend most of the summer chasing Jose around London hotels, so his attention might be away from a nippy winger from Liverpool.

One things for sure; with all of these stories beginning to bubble away, you can tell the press are itching for transfer silly season to start.

Ribena soaked Gerrard love is sickening, but not as boring as boring questions asked to Arsene at his pressers

Very quick rant: when do you ever see such an over-reaction to a player leaving a club like Steven Gerrard? He’s been a wonderful player for Liverpool, but the fact every manager in the Premier League has been asked a question about him, the fact there has been interviews everywhere on his story, as well as the fact it’s Liverpool, seems to have stoked some of the most ridiculous sycophantic hyperbole I’ve ever heard from the media. Forget the cake, forget the player and his legacy, this is becoming over the top now. He was great, but he’s moving on, just like Cantona, Giggs, Zola, Bergkamp, Le Tissier et al. Did they all get the same nauseous treatment when their carers finally wound down? Of course not. Because the media are obsessed with this ridiculous notion of the ‘romance’ of Liverpool, perpetuated with the fact that football punditry is littered with ex-Liverpool players who have seeped through our media like cup of sticky Ribena on your nice new material sofa. More than a minute of his presser spent talking about him. Eugh.

Anyway, rant over, let’s have a talk about The Arsenal shall we? After all, Arsene was in front of the media yesterday and was asked the usual idiotic questions like “is having Danny Welbeck out injured a blow?” or “Are you close to signing anybody Arsene?”, but at least he gave us a bit of useful information when prompted by a semi-useful question. For example, the team news, which has been firmed up from the ‘Who’s fit?’ news item that appeared on the site on Thursday evening. Essentially, it’s ‘as you were’ from Swansea and although I’ll do more of a stab at the team tomorrow, I’d be surprised if Arsene doesn’t keep it exactly the same as it is. Debuchy, Arteta and the Ox are all still out, which means the main players you’d expect him to potentially bring back in for some rotation won’t be available. But as I said yesterday, we have the players to cope with those losses so I don’t think there’s many of us going in to this game on Sunday afternoon with our fingers chewed down to stubby ends.

It will be tough on Sunday, we all know that, which Arsene alluded to by talking up the ‘symbolic’ nature of the result. A draw would be perfectly acceptable in our race for third, but I just wonder how the game beforehand will shape how we come out, because if Swansea pick up anything at home to City, it means that a win for us puts us back in the driving seat for second. Finishing second and potentially winning the FA Cup would be a remarkable season given the start, so I think the team will be up for it and I think Arsene – whilst cautious in his presser – will be thinking about whether he goes a little bit more aggressive against the Mancs.

Arsene also spoke about the Champions League play-offs and the pressure of not qualifying. It’s always interesting because it’s often been cited as a reason for us not being able to sign players early, but Arsene admitted that the consistency of our qualification that makes it easier for players and I think he’s right, because a player will know Arsenal’s Champions league record and will be pretty confident that he’d be in the group stages if he was at Arsenal. You can say a lot of things about the club, but you can’t argue with the Champions League record. So why do we sign players so late? A question that was never asked and one that probably a lot of us would really like a truthful answer to. Even if it had of been asked, we would probably not have been given a truthful answer from Le Boss, but at least if a journo is asking those types of questions then they’re giving it a chance for Arsene to open up. I suspect that Arsene doesn’t gamble in the conventional sense – with cards and a roulette table – but likes a flutter in the transfer market and that’s why we get our last-minute signings so often in the window. We’ll probably see the same at the end of August this year too.

Anyway, I’ve got a patio set to put together and some ivy to chop, so i’ll take my leave and wish you all the best until tomorrow.

Internal solutions to external questions on transfers; Santi the quarterback

Plenty to talk about today, as Arsene had his pre-match presser and had lots to say on a wide range of topics.

He was asked about doing transfer business early and gave  the standard sort of non-committal answer about not doing early transfer business, but doing the right transfer business, which would surely be all the press could ask for on any question about transfers whilst we’re still in the season. I really don’t approve of the media’s “look what they’ve done, what are you going to do, hmm?” approach to transfers. It’s so ridiculously reactionary and if there’s one thing I’ve learned being a football fan in my time on this earth, it’s that transfers are usually a lot more thought through by all football clubs than the media would have you believe. There’s always multiple factors involved between buying and selling clubs (Le Boss cited the move for Alexis being contingent on the signing of Luis Suarez), but rarely if ever is transfer business bought forward just because another club/rival has made a big statement early in the off season/end of season.

What will be more interesting is how Arsene assesses his existing squad, because the general consensus amongst Arsenal fans I speak to is that we don’t really need a lot. In fact I’m going to go out on a limb here – if we signed nobody in the summer I wouldn’t be foaming at the mouth – because we’ve managed to source solutions internally during the course of the season already. I hate to be clichéd and sound like our Strasbourgian manager, but we have found players that are just ‘like a new signing’ in Bellerin, Coquelin and even to a lesser extent players like Monreal who have upped their game. In that sense, we’re stronger than we were at the beginning of this season and if we restarted the season with this team, I’d wager we’d be a lot closer to Chelski than we are now. There is arguments to be had about the fact United, City and Chelski will all make signings and will all be strengthened, but again without wanting to sound too clichéd, you can only ever play eleven on the pitch and if they buy a host of new players they’re not going to be able to fit them all in to a new team.

Loan players will come back and will need to be assessed. I suspect that Poldi will be moved on, but the futures of Jenkinson and Campbell are less clear. Interestingly Arsene said he would talk with Carl about his future when the season finishes and with the Harlow-born lad already making noises about needing to play more regularly, Arsene spoke about the possibility of another loan deal. Now, apologies for me being all speculative and slightly conspiracy theoryesque, but I wonder if Arsene is looking at Debuchy’s injury-hit season and his age and wondering if in a year’s time Jenkinson might be a better option at right back with another season of first-team Premier League football under his belt. If Arsene had a mind to sell Carl I would have thought he would have been a little more cagey in his response when asked yesterday, but he seemed to be quite open about the fact that next season might mean another loan spell. That says to me that he thinks the right back has a future at Arsenal. As for Campbell, I’m really not sure how he’s going to feature in this Arsenal team. There’s no doubt that Walcott is next in line to play at the moment and he’s not even getting game time, so unless Campbell is ripping up trees in Villareal (He hasn’t scored for Villareal yet I believe, nor registered an assist), then I can’t see how he’s going to play. He signed a new deal in January before going out on loan, but that was surely to protect his value.

So whilst many are looking at a ‘keeper, central midfielder, striker and for some, a central defender (don’t get that one personally myself), I would be surprised to see that many signings.

What I think will happen this week is that Arsene will rotate a little bit. He sort of set up this Monday’s game for that yesterday, by saying that over the last few weeks all of Theo, Kieran and Jack haven’t been at 100% since returning from injury, but they are now at that level, so it just feels like he might give those three in particular a run out. And hey, if that happens on Monday, I think it will be a good thing. We need to keep players fresh and rotated and believing that if they pay well enough, then they’ll get a regular place in the team. Players are all fighting for a place in the cup final too, so I think there will be a little bit more desire to impress if they are given minutes. The fact that Arsene admitted he’s also quite happy to rotate says to me that we might see a bit on Monday. I know there will have been an element of a leading question from the press to get that answer from him, but I still think he’ll try a bit of a shuffle. Just have a feeling is all.

One player who will play, regardless I believe, is Santi the magician. His form this season has been sparkling and I’ve referred to him a couple of times already as the perfect ‘quarterback’ for us. Sitting deep he is able to pick passes that we haven’t had for a while – maybe ever in that deeper lying position, but alongside Coquelin he has been a key component in our success since the beginning of January. Talk of him moving overseas back to Spain at the end of the season is fanciful I think. Arsenal won’t let that valuable asset go. He’s got a couple more years with us I suspect, before he inevitably heads back to his homeland and by then you’d hope that one of our other younger players will be looking to step up to that role in the team by then.

But we can worry about that another time. For now, we have a non-Arsenal weekend and the desire is there to watch Crystal Palace and Chelski beat Manchester United and Liverpool respectively, thereby guaranteeing our automatic Champions League spot next season. See thee soon.

desert of arsenal nothingness and ‘keeper speculation

So here we are folks, standing in the middle of metaphorical desert of football nothingness, with the oasis of Arsenal delight miles and miles away in the distance. It’ll take us at least until Monday to get to it, so I hope everyone has bough provisions?

I have, thanks to Arsène, who spoke at his pre-match press conference and in doing so has allowed me to feast on some content with which to read, review and think about.

On Thursday we got the team news, but yesterday Arsène was asked a range of questions from signing new goalkeepers, to Jose’s jibes, as well as Nigel Pearson’s madness. As usual the old pro answered them with little controversy, but I did like his response to the Pearson metal breakdown, as Arsène showed a bit of solidarity with the Leicester manager. Yes, what Pearson said was bizarre, but some journalists are sensationalist seekers and will only look to poke the hornets nest to see if they get a reaction. I was listening to the radio and the presenters were talking about that particular story and how Pearson’s behaviour was a disgrace, but when you have some journalists goding managers so they can get a soundbite, I do find it a bit rich that the media can then pretend to own the moral high ground. Perhaps such journos that pose the boring questions – ones like “do you need a new ‘keeper?” or “what do you think of Jose’s comments about Arsenal not winning the league and that being ‘boring’?” – should take a look at themselves if they are going to get a bit offended when a manager bites back?

Arsène is clever though. After he was asked what he thought about Jose’s comments, rather than fuel the fire further, he gave a quite perfect response which wasn’t directed at Jose enough as a soundbite but was disguised enough so that everyone knew he thought the Portuguese is disrespectful. Which he is. 

The question on the ‘keepers may have been batted away well enough, but I do wonder if Arsène is considering his summer options, because whilst Ospina has done ok he hasn’t exactly set the world alight. He just hasn’t done anything wrong, rather than make any worldie saves that make us think “yep, there’s a real gem there”. I don’t have anything against the guy and I certainly don’t want to be categorising himself in a class of ‘keeper he is clearly better than, but he feels a bit Almuniaresque to me. When Manuel first started displacing Jens as the number one, he was ‘okay’ in goal. At first many of us had no real problem with him, but he never made those world class saves that you don’t expect somebody to get to. Those are the ‘keepers that are the best; the ones in which you say out loud “how did he get to that?”. That’s what it feels like with Ospina to me. So I wonder if Arsène will decide to stick or twist in the summer? I guess we can worry about that in June after all the proper business has been concluded.

Speaking of which, you’d have thought we had a week off by the official sites reckoning, because there are no real comments from Arsène about our Monday night opponents. Le Boss must surely have spike. About them but I haven’t watched the video yet and so can’t really be sure, but maybe because the game is taking place on Momday he’s thought ‘hey, it’s fine, I’ll do my research on Sunday’. Come on, we’ve all been there with our homework, haven’t we, so let’s let Arsène scribble down his tactics on lined paper on Sunday evening and be done with it. We are in form and maybe he’s earned a weekend of relaxation (although we all know he won’t ), so let’s let him have it, then hopefully go and win on Monday. 

We need a win. We need to finish strongly this season and that is important to ensure momentum going in to next season. Arsène spoke of that yesterday too, as well as the poor start to the season this time around. He’ll be acutely aware that we need to hit the ground running in August if we want to win the league, so finishing strongly this time around will mean more than just a good points tally and potentially automatic qualification. 

Anyway, I’m off to find something to do for the next two days, so I’ll see you soon.

Sorry Thierry. You’re wrong.

On Sunday it appears that, post the 0-0 stalemate between the forces of good and evil, Thierry Henry took the time to make suggestions that:

A) Arsenal could never win the league with Olivier Giroud

B) Arsenal would need to bring at least another goalkeeper, central defender, central defensive midfielder, before they would be able to realistically compete with Chelski or Moneychester City.

Having not seen the post match ‘analysis’, I am perhaps not 100% appropriate to fully comment, but as this is my blog and you’re somewhat of a captive audience I thought I’d give you some musings anyway.

First and foremost, to Thierry, who has been my hero and still remains one to this day. That status will oat likely not change and although he may say things I disagree with, I cannot help but smile when I hear that chocolatey smooth voice, so please don’t think that any Sky Sports conditioning will put me off the great man.

Having said that, it was surely clear to everybody that he’s been told to crank up his controversy gauge, by perpetuating the standard stock phrases when it comes to Arsenal. Common phrasings that include “they need more leaders”, “they need to be stronger and not be bullied in the middle of the park” and my personal favourite “they need a whole new spine in the team”. I love that phrase because it is symptomatic of the English media and the need for root and branch change every time a team like ours has any kind of set back – no matter how small.

Oh, hello and Smith, how are you? You’re backs still aching? Hmm. And the herbal teas I suggested didn’t work? Ok, let’s put you down on the waiting list for a new back, for that’s the only real option I think we can offer now. Chiropractor? No, no, no, it’s a spinal transplant for you I’m afraid.

I simply can’t abide comments when they are clearly made to drum up some interest down a clearly trodden path and were it not from Thierry, I probably wouldn’t have given the comments a second thought, because I am acutely aware that I am adding fuel to the fire by talking about it – giving Sky exactly want they want.

His points are, as you’ll probably have guessed by now, incorrect by my reckoning. Olivier Giroud, for example, has an excellent scoring record this season and we have suffered the most in the three months out in which he had broken his leg. I’m not going to suggest that his scoring record this season will have continued throughout if he’d have stayed fit, but I think we’d be in a stronger position if he’d have been available for three quarters of the season, as opposed to two thirds of it. 

It’s not all about scoring goals Thierry, you know that, right? That being the case, surely you and everyone else can see what Giroud brings to the team in addition to his goals, no? He’s an excellent link up man and can provide a perfect attacking pivot point to bring others – like Alexis – in to play. His impact during the FA Cup semi final was very obvious in the second half and he has been providing that focal point for two years now.

Can we win the league with him leading the line? Absolutely. Can we win it with him alone like we tried to do last season? Certainly not. We tried it and our lack of squad depth made for painful viewing as we hit March 2014. I hope that was what Thierry was getting at; that we need another like-for-like for when Giroud isn’t available.

Squad depth. That’s what we need in order to win a league. Have we had that for the whole of the season? Nope. Do we have it now? You betcha. Gabriel, Chambers, Bellerin, Coquelin. All players who were not really in contention or in any of our thoughts at the beginning of the season. Chambers, the only player who was in the first team squad in August, was supposed to be our right back cover! But all of those players have kicked on a gear or two and each one has ensured that the Arsenal team that finishes the season is a darn sight stronger than the one that started it.

Do we need a bit more fine-tuning? Of course. But let’s not forget that without the above mentioned players I the side and playing as well as they have done, we suffered an autumnal injury crisis that during one week we had no fewer than 15 first team players injured.

So no, I can’t be having the comments that we need a complete overhaul, because as a fan I feel we’re closer to the best team in the league than we’ve ever been before.

Sorry Thierry, you’re wrong fella.

Reading, Milner and Walcott

It’s the waiting that kills ya, I’ll tell ya that much, because this working week has already dragged and it’s only Wednesday.

With no Arsenal on during midweek, the footballing options were limited to listening in on how the Championship is going, versus enduring the Champions League. With no Arsenal representation there, there’s no way I’d want to watch Juve/Monaco, so I opted for a programme about calorie counting. See what no football midweek does to me???

The Reading game was interesting yesterday though. With not a lot to play for in the league, up against what looks like Champions Elect Bournemouth, I was expecting Steve Clarke to field a weakened Reading team yesterday. Instead he appears – although I couldn’t name the usual Reading first XI so perhaps I’m not the best point of reference for this particular set of assumptions – to have opted for a full strength team bar Pavel Pogrebniak. Reading have played plenty of games already this season (given the nature of the Championship) so to see their team playing whilst our boys would have been rested up ahead of this Saturday’s game, is certainly a plus point for me. Hopefully we benefit from a bit of fatigue from the Royals on Saturday. I know that even with a fully fit and rested squad we should still beat a Reading side who aren’t exactly pulling up trees form-wise, but as I’ve explained on this here blog before, I like to take comfort in any small advantage our team is afforded. Psychological or not.

As for what else is going on in the world, it all appears to be very transfer-heavy at the moment. I guess we’d all kind of expect it really. We’re in mid April, the season is winding down for some teams and as the number of games reduces for most of the top-flight teams, the papers need to fill their column inches. So stories of Milner to Arsenal and Walcott new deals to fend off Liverpool begin to take a more central stage. The Milner deal is a strange one. He’s a good player and has operated across a number of positions in Moneychester City’s team, but I’m not sure if he’s the type of midfielder we’re looking for, is he? After all, he has operated in a more forward-lying midfielder role every time I have seen him – where we are plenty stocked – where as what we are surely looking for is a longer term successor for Arteta and Flamini, to compete with Coquelin at the base of the midfield. I’m happy to be corrected, but I didn’t think that was a position that Milner occupied for City, especially given the signings of Fernando and Fernandinho. Perhaps Arsène will look to shift Milner’s recognised position to that like he did Arteta? Stranger things have happened and Milner does have that combative and snappy nature, so it’s not something that would be unheard of.

As for Theo, well your guess is as good as mine, because talk of new deals are almost irrelevant from a fans perspective if he doesn’t get on the pitch. With each passing game it feels more and more like Theo’s Arsenal career is a dwindling flame, a candle with very little wick left and unless something drastic happens and Arsène starts playing him more often after Walcott changes his game to become more of an all-round influence in matches, he’s not going to be part of the club’s long-term future. If he were to sign a new deal now, it really would be to ensure he’s still got plenty of spare change in his pockets, because it certainly won’t be for the position on the bench he’s occupying!

I hope it does get sorted out and I hope Theo does sign a deal. He may not command the regular starting spot he would have done 18 months ago, but when you have a player with the pace and ability to finish as he does, it is always an asset. The squad is looking strong all over the pitch at the moment and with the summer looking like the least disruptive to squad harmony in over a decade, this contract saga just feels like a bit of a blot on what should otherwise be a good period in Arsenal’s history.

Loanees show how fortunes change quickly in football

There’s still another three days before Matchday is upon us and, perhaps unsurprisingly, all is quiet. So quiet, that talk about Cazorla wanting to return to Spain has seen a ripple of interest across the tinternet. Santi grew up near Real Oviedo and has said he’d like to go back there one day before he retires. 

OUTRAGEOUS! ‘CAZORLA WANTS ARSENAL EXIT’ is the story headline I could fire across the blog to see if I can scoop myself a few thousand extra clicks. But we both know that what Cazorla said – he’d like to play for his boyhood club, but it will be difficult to do so in the short term – is something that shouldn’t really surprise anyone. If anything, it’s nice to see a player have an affection for a local team and express a desire to go back and appreciate his roots. I couldn’t imagine something like that being said by a mercenary like…oh, I don’t know…Samir Nasri or somebody like that. 

So let’s have Santi for another three years and then when his star is fading somewhat, but he can still light up his local club, let’s grant him his wish and let him go in peace. That’s my hope anyway. He’s got a few more trophies to try to help us win yet. Hopefully starting with this season.

So yeah, pretty quiet at the moment, so much so that I scrolled into the news archives on the official site this morning, to check out what’s happening with our loanees. The younger players appear to all be getting minutes under their belt, which is always useful from a development perspective, but some of the more senior players out on loan appear to be stagnating somewhat it seems. You know how people say a year is a long time in football? Well nine months is just as long it appears, as you only have to look at both Podolski and Campbell to see how rapidly your stock can fall. Poldi arrived in Italy with a big reputation for goal scoring and a fanfare from the Inter faithful. They had bagged an international champion with a loan deal from another top European team and he would help to steer them towards greater victory. Fast forward from January this year and Poldi is an unused sub against Hellas Verona. 

Poor old Stevie Gooner Oaf, he who so resolutely stood by a player with a fantastic goal scoring record and clear eye for goal, but with little else to warrant his inclusion in the Arsenal or Inter team, is surely on the verge of a return back to Germany in the summer. I’d be surprised if Arsène even sent him a plane ticket as far as London if I’m honest. It’s clear – as the Arsenal team goes from strength to strength – he will not see action in a red and white London shirt ever again. Unless he fancies rocking up at Brentford or Charlton.  It may have seemed a strange move at the time, but it’s hard to argue Arsène’s very sound logic right now. 

We all loved him for his personality and ability to connect with the Arsenal fans, but with each passing match week it appears Lukas is looking more and more like a busted flush.

So too, it appears, does Joel Campbell. Remember how he was the saviour of our offensive problems in the first couple of months of the season? Much gnashing of teeth and exasperated hand gestures were thrown Arsène’s way when he refused to give more game time to the Costa Rican – a player who had excelled during the World Cup – yet he too finds himself an unused sub for Villareal and is at a stage now in which each passing week looks like he’ll probably be moved on permanently. And will there be any return of the gnashing teeth? Doubtful. That new deal he signed was clearly one designed to ensure maximum return on investment from a revenue generation point of view from Arsenal, but once again I doubt you’ll find too many Arsenal fans tutting in the direction of Le Boss methinks, because as Arsenal (actually top flight football fans in general, but we’re only concerned with ourselves so, y’know, what-evs) fans we’re all amateur accountants and a bit of cash for a player out on loan whilst the team is doing fine without him is fine by us.

That’s what victories and success affords you I suppose. Rather than the very convenient “well there’s an option on loan that we’re not even taking advantage of” being used as a sharp stick to beat the manager with, talk turns to how much cash we might get from players out on loan and how that might be invested in the team.

Football is very much a creature of the ‘here and now’ and the old cliches of ‘you’re only as good as your last game’ just serve to emphasise how quickly things change. It’s why the rewards are so high, as are the risks, I suppose. You only have to look at the seemingly inevitable departure of Pelligrini at Moneychester City to see that. So predicting the next generation of talent, of when a player has fulfilled his potential and is ready to become a first team success, is so hard. It’s easy for me, with my ability to forget what I have said six months ago and to seem like the managers decisions are baffling, but for Arsène everything is on record and his mistakes are recorded and replayed by a million eyes. The rise of Francis Coquelin seems obvious now to me (perhaps you too), but if you’d have asked me at the beginning of the season who would make a bigger impact on the first team – Coquelin, Campbell or Podolski – even I with my affection for Le Coq, couldn’t have placed him top of the list. He might not even have made the top two.

Still, at least I’m not the Arsenal manager, eh? Otherwise we’d all probably be in trouble!

That’s enough from me for one day. I have a beautiful sunny day ahead of me that I won’t bother taking advantage of thanks to my role as an office desk jockey. 

Cheerio for now.