Was it just me, or did Arsene seem like he was in a bit of a mood in yesterday’s pre-match conference? I mean, he was a little monosyllabic in some of his comments, more so than I would have expected. I get that you don’t want to give the media hacks too much to re-hash to their agendas, but it felt like he was a little grumpy yesterday. Normally you get one or two jokes from Le Boss, but he kept it to just the one yesterday with a comment about the fifth official having a seat and a nice book. A fair comment actually, because our game in midweek proved they are as useful as a chocolate teapot.
I suppose given the scoreline at home against the Belgian champions he was entitled to be a little grumpy. He was effectively shafted over by his team when they decided to push on to get a fourth goal but ended up conceding a third. I’m pretty sure Arsene wouldn’t have specifically said ‘EVERYONE FORWARD!’ with a minute to go. Whilst he must take some of the blame for his substitutions and the mentality of the team after we conceded the second goal, the players have been a bit shielded from blame thanks to the manager I think.
So we had a short presser and a grumpy-sounding Arsene with which to try and dissect thoughts on team morale in the camp. Arsene says the morale in the camp is very positive and that it is just the media that perpetuates the negativity. I understand that to an extent, but it’s hard to agree with him on the positivity if I’m honest. A positive and happy team would most likely be a confident one and you can’t argue that we’re playing with bags of that stuff. Sure, they might all be smiles and laughs when on the training ground practicing with each other, but deep down they will all be hurting and their confidence will have taken another blow on Tuesday night. It’s why I am a little fearful of the game tomorrow. The team has shown that confidence takes a long time to get back and can be shattered quite easily, so you do wonder what blowing a three-goal lead will do to them. Hopefully it will spark a response that sees some players step up.
One player who could help to be that catalyst is Theo and, despite the understandable caution from Le Boss, I do hope he gets significant game time tomorrow. The benefit that Theo has through his injury is that he will not have been affected by the indifferent start to the season. He is coming in with a blank sheet of paper and can paint whatever picture he wants through his contribution. He’s that kind of explosive player that can unlock games and in between his two big injuries last season and the season before he showed that he has matured into one of our biggest threats in front of goal. With him and Alexis the hope is – particularly away from home – that they can exploit that little bit of extra space you get to run in behind defences. Arsene was non-committal as to whether Walcott would start, but I hope he is starting sooner rather than later. Wenger was clear in his articulation not to expect a guy who has been out for 10 months to be the saviour, but I still think that his place in the team will give other players a lift and, when you’ve just been held back by a frankly average Anderlecht team, to have a player come in and pick you up is a welcome boost.
Understandably Arsene was also respectful of Swansea, talking about their style of football, which I think will also be a benefit for us. Swansea’s form has been patchy too this season, so it will be interesting to see how they line up. They will invariably play a passing game, but will they be a little bit more cautious, or will they treat this game as a ‘freebie’ and come at us? Either way, I’m not sure which is more beneficial for us. IF they come at us, it will prove the sternest test of the makeshift back four so far this season. If they sit, we could see another drab draw trying to break down a stubborn opponent. I don’t know about you, but I’ve just had about enough of my fill for draws this season.
Just finally before I knock off for the day, how about this situation with Joel Campbell, eh? Arsene was asked about whether he’s happy and said something like ‘you should ask him. I hope he is always happy’, then when later Joel Campbell was asked about it he confirmed he wouldn’t be leaving in January. I wonder if there is something going on there. Campbell has shown glimpses of a good player in the small cameo appearances he’s been getting, but in the last few games he hasn’t really been anywhere near the first team. Why? Is this one of those situations where Wenger just doesn’t fancy him? OR is there a plan to integrate him later on in the season? Remember that he did the same with Benayoun when he was on loan. He barely started for Arsenal until the latter part of the season, then he became a regular player for the club. I could never wonder why and a lot of people I spoke to felt that Benayoun was the biggest waste of a loan fee ever. But eventually he came good and maybe that is the situation with Joel? Or maybe Arsene will offload someone like Podolski in January and that will free up some space for the Costa Rican to get involved. Either way, it looks to me that he’s not getting anywhere now and so I suspect that unless his career takes a Benayounly turn after Christmas, it might be his last at the club.
Catch you tomorrow you sexy people.