Transfer-schmansfer, our squad options get me excited

Do you know, in all the commotion and emotions of winning yet another football game and keeping yet another clean sheet, I completely forgot that yesterday was Transfer Deadline Day?

How remiss of me. How terrible that I did not feed the behemoth that is the last day of the January silly season, by counting down the hours like the ludicrously yellow-clad morons at Sky Sports HQ. How evil that I did not give the numerous websites my clicks and hits as they tried frantically to gobble up the last of the heavy traffic before actual football starts to get in the way again for them. I should hang my head in shame.

Or not. Perhaps I should avoid lacing this blog with any more sarcasm, before I create a ‘lowest form of wit’ vacuum, or something. Anyway, I don’t buy that statement – never had – because sarcasm can be quite amusing, I must say.

So yesterday passed with a whimper rather than a bang at The Emirates, the lone Sky Sports reporter inside the Arsenal ground cutting a solitary figure, as he kicked his heels knowing that nothing would be forthcoming this evening. Poor diddums.

Apparently, having got up and seen the papers this morning, the whole day seemed a bit of a blow-out as far as the top teams are concerned. We’d done our business already, Liverpool and United were quiet and the Spuds decided that Aaron Lennon wasn’t worth keeping on the books. Chelski signed that guy who’s hair looks like it is interchangeable with the Incredible Hulk’s (Lou Ferigno version), but that’s about it. Good. I hope nobody got the ratings they were hoping because the bigger clubs stayed away from the party.

Arsène decided to have his a week earlier, which suits me down to the ground. We picked up the necessary depth, so it’s clear now what we have and where we need to get to before the end of the season. We have an emerging Coquelin in the only position with which we’ve struggled all season, plus at least Arsène isn’t freezing out Flamini by never playing him. We might all think he’s not at the level we need at the club, but he’s a decent squad player and so by keeping him ticking over with game time, Arsène is doing the right thing in my opinion, because an injury or suspension to Coquelin means that the Flamster will be called upon again.

As would be expected after a number of positive results in January, the mood on the official website is buoyant, with Giroud, Walcott and Bellerin all getting a mention, as well as big Per explaining about how the Southampton loss was a ‘wake up call’ for the players. There’s no doubt we’ve seen a marked improvement since that lacklustre display, but whilst many will question why it took us until the first game of 2015 to get that kick in the knickers needed, I’m just pleased that we have seen a reaction. We’ve looked very controlled and composed as a team unit since that display and whilst Debuchy has been robbed of regular football, the rest of the first choice back four have been so much better than that day. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact we’ve been able to rest Koscienly’s aching limbs, playing only once a week, but the form of Nacho and Hector over the last couple of games suggests to me that it’s more to do with a settled back four rather than anything else. Quite what that means when the cup competitions and league games all collide at the same time is probably a pondering for another day. But you’d hope that the confidence in the team will help to give the rotated players a bit more of an edge. I supposed the trick for Arsène will be to rotate, but not too heavily, from a game-by-game perspective. Wholesale team changes could disrupt the sturdiness that has been built in the team from the back. But I’m sure he’ll be aware of when certain players need to be rested. One thing I think he believes he has right now, is confidence that the squad players can perform. I’ve been wondering a lot lately if he’s historically not rotated players because he doesn’t really have 100% confidence in them. Yet when you look at the quality of the squad at the moment, it’s hard to see what the best team is, which is a good thing in my mind. If Arsène has faith in 20 players as opposed to 12, he’ll rotate more and they’ll be fresher, which means we get the best out of the team over a longer period. I think he finally has that faith.

It will be interesting to see what he does against the Spuds next weekend. Does he play Özil and Santi? Does Welbeck come back into the team because he will track back more? Or is the raw pace enough to frighten the Spuds to play deep and give our midfielders licence to roam? There are so many permutations, I think I could probably spend all week guessing and counter-guessing myself. But that’s exactly what we want as fans, because that means that the players are in form, they are playing well and there are at least 16 that deserve to play. Just look at Rosicky. How does Arsène get him into the team on Saturday lunchtime?

I’m starting to get excited about what this season may bring. It may have taken over five months, but I’m starting to get really excited.

Catch you tomorrow.

It’s finally happened (in more ways than one)

It’s finally happened. After waiting for so long, Arsenal announced the signing of Gabriel from Villareal for the now standard princely sum of “undisclosed fee”.

When I say ‘finally happened’, it has a few meanings of course. Firstly, given our general knowledge about the transfer for about a week now, it was finally announced after Villareal had confirmed it, Joel Campbell had made his switch and Gabriel himself had said goodbye to the Villareal fans. He seems to have had quite a bit of affection given to him, especially as he’s only been at the club for 18 months, so hopefully this bodes well for him from an Arsenal fan perspective. It does make you chuckle that Arsenal left it until yesterday to announce, eeking out this to get maximum excitement tinged with frustration. Then a little bit more teasing with the ‘check out Instagram account for Gabriel’s number’. Crafty PR Devils. I’ll not begrudge them that though, especially as a marketer myself, and especially because we know how much stick the club gets when bad news is dealt. So let’s just smile and be happy that we have our man.

‘Finally happened’ also relates to the fact that after searching for a centre half since Thomas Vermaelen departed the Arsenal shores for sunnier climes, we got that additional centre half we’ve all been craving. We now have somebody who can (we hope) come in when Koscienly starts to creek and, by the sounds of it, has similar attributes to our established Frenchman. Let’s all bear in mind, however, that Koscienly needed a year to ‘bed in’ to the team too before he started to become the player we all know and love today. So we need to appreciate that as Gabriel adapts to the league, he’ll make one or two mistakes. The hope is that his character shines through and he doesn’t wilt as his Arsenal career progresses.

So we have our man. We have a centre half and in Calum Chambers, a perfect young up-and-comer, who can deputise for both Per and/or Kos as well as partner Gabriel if we did suffer a crisis in central defence. It’s interesting that Arsène has fixed this glaring hole in our squad, but did not do so last January with a striker signing, but perhaps that was because he had big plans in the summer? A £12million outlay (guessing figures here as I’ve seen no specific definitive one from all sources) on Gabriel would suggest that he’ll probably not venture in to the market for a centre half in the summer, so perhaps in hindsight you could say that whilst we were damaged by not signing a Giroud squad replacement last January, perhaps it was for the ‘long-term’ best? We did sign Alexis after all.

So here we are then. An issue resolved. Who’d a thunk it? Not only that though, but I’m looking at our squad on paper (dangerous at the best of times I know) and I’m thinking that we’re almost there. The most obvious position that you’d say we need another body is in that holding midfield role, but in terms of January, there’s probably few out here who would sell for anything less than double time. There will be those that will advocate the ‘pay anything for a Schneiderlin now’ approach, but with Coquelin improving every game, where’s the logic there when you can more easily prize someone like that away in June if Southampton don’t make the Champions League?

Nope, I think we’re done with our business this January and all-in-all, I’m quite pleased with the fact we’ve acted. Sure, Gabriel could be a Squillaci-in-waiting, but let’s not forget that Squillaci was a relatively cheap signing. In general, when you pay over £10-12million for a player, they do tend to be half decent. So let’s have more faith than trepidation with this one.

Whether he’ll make it in to the match day squad on Sunday is something the manager will have to ponder. It’s getting to the stage where our squad is so stocked with good players, that there are very good ones that aren’t even making the bench, so perhaps he’ll sit out for now. I guess it depends if Chambers o Bellerin start on the right at the weekend. But that’s for another days blogging I think.

A quick word on Joel Campbell, whose contract extension and loan signing was quietly slipped in to the press release about Gabriel. Clearly Wenger has seen something in Joel and told him to go out to Spain, play more football and push himself back in to the first team next season. It’s a shrewd moe from Arsène that makes Arsenal’s hand very strong. Perhaps too, it has been further influenced by Walcott and the contract situation. With Walcott’s expiring in summer 2016 like Campbell’s was, we could potentially be losing him if he plays silly-buggers with the club, so by signing a long term deal with Arsenal, Theo will know that Arsène and Arsenal have another option to call on, which makes his hand weaker in trying to maximise his wage demand options. I’d be interested to see how Walcott reacts to that for the remainder of the season.

Tis a happy day. We seem to be building a bit of momentum, players have returned to the squad, new players have been added to improve the quality. We might even see one or two happy people on Twitter. Heck I’m going to go all out: EVERYONE ON TWITTER WILL BE HAPPY!!!

Let’s see how log it lasts. :-)

Cheerio for now.

Entertaining Boro, chuckling at Nayim

Yesterday we learnt our fate in the FA Cup and after a brief sojourn down to the south coast, it’s more home comforts, after a home draw against Middlesborough was announced.

Given all of the teams that still remain in the competition, it could have been easier, especially as Boro are playing well and look like they could be fighting for promotion to the Premier League this season. But equally we could have seen an away tie to Manchester United or Liverpool, so I’m not going to be too disappointed. Ultimately, with the quality that we have in our side, we should be able to progress to the sixth round.

When you look at the team’s in the pot for the fifth round there are few that should really have us quaking. United and Stoke (away) would probably be the exception, but that’s only because of our own terrible records against those teams, rather than any real measure of their actual quality. One just hopes that we can navigate our way past Boro with more ease than Moneyschester City did. So there’s definitely a worry there for us.

I just hope we don’t get shafted with another shabby kick off time. I’d love to see a good, old-fashioned, 3pm FA Cup tie this season, but after so many of the ‘big’ teams were knocked out, it feels almost inevitable that we’ll get one of the Friday, two Sunday’s or Monday night kick off. The TV companies can wax lyrical about the ‘magic of the FA Cup, but I’m pretty sure they’ll look at what ratings they can get, rather than showing a ‘romantic’ tie like Derby County versus Reading. But maybe I’ll be surprised. Maybe.

That’s the main talking point from yesterday, as the Gabriel Paulista deal still appears to be working through the motions before it’s all officially announced, with a couple of ex-pros like Nayim coming out and saying they’re not quite sure whether he is of sufficient quality for The Arsenal. I have to say that did make me chuckle when I read that headline on Sky Sports. Nayim. That ex-Spurs player. Passing judgement on why a Villareal player won’t work in Arsenal’s style. Maybe he watches Arsenal a lot, eh? Or maybe, just maybe, Sky needed somebody for a soundbite that will stir up debate. I think it’s called ‘Talkshiting tactics’ or something like that.

Well, whatever it is, I’ll pay it no more mind. Let’s just say that it’s always difficult to work out whether a player is going to be brilliant or turgid based when they’ve come from overseas. Koscienly was a nobody from the lower leagues that many thought would struggle after his first season. Look at him now. Equally, Mario Balotelli was a proven quality player in the Premier League and Serie A, yet he’s still waiting patiently for his first Premier League goal. We’ll just see if Gabriel can show us a few glimpses of his quality this season, then assess his effectiveness this time next year, eh?

The other rumour knocking around yesterday (and Sunday too I think) was that of Asier Illarramendi, who I think Ben quite fancies a bit of. The rumours are a of a summer move, which would probably make sense given the contract situation of two of our holding midfielders, but not knowing enough about the guy I can’t really tell you if he’s a significant improvement on Schneiderlin, so I can’t even tell you which I’d prefer. However, I am aware of his reputation and if he hasn’t been getting in to the Real Madrid team this season, then a deal could probably be brokered a lot easier than a hostile response from Southampton, which we’d inevitably get if we went hard for Schneiderlin. We wait with bated breath until the summer i suspect.

Catch you later, baked potayter.

Find Wenger’s kidnapper

This country I reside within is beings severely punished at the moment. How else can you explain the ridiculously cold weather that we’re having to endure? I mean really, 2’C? Madness!

I tell you who else is mad: Arsène Wenger, that’s who. I think the present cold snap has frozen his transfer deflector shields, because yesterday he was asked a direct question about a player who doesn’t play for us and is not on the verge of signing, and essentially admitted that if we get the work permit situation sorted the deal can be done.

Who are you and what have you done with Monsieur Wenger? That must be some sort of silicon infused android, because Arsène is normally way more guarded than he was yesterday, so I’m thinking that we have to start a man-hunt for Arsène’s captor. Think about it: defensively resolute against the champions at the weekend, admitting to transfer business that the android himself said was 50-50, then next thing you know he’ll be wearing a baseball cap on the touchline and publicly chastising players in the post-match presser. The evidence was there in his press conference yesterday too, identifying the strikers and singling out Joao Teixeira by the looks of the official site transcript of his conference yesterday. Arsène Wenger. Looking at an opponent and their weaknesses. And looking to nullify them. People: this is not a drill – a mans life could be at stake here!

There’s only one way we can find out if it’s the real Arsène: give him a really long coat with a zip. If he does it up first time, we bullet the evil android in the head and start the search immediately.

There are plenty of suspects. Ivan Gazidis, looking to finally have some control and therefore investing some of his sizabel bonus on the technology to build an Alien-style part human, part machine. Jurgen Klopp, who is looking for an exit from his Dortmund nightmare and has also invested some of his annual chunk of change on developing the technology. Hey, maybe it’s Dick Law, who is fed up with being given the run-around by 18 year-old prospects and has kidnapped Arsène and will never release him, just get ‘Evil Arsène’ to do his dirty work so all he has to do is to turn up and collect a player from the airport.

Clever Dick.

Of course I jest, but the important thing I guess, is that we are making serious moves in the market and we’re doing it almost a week before the transfer trapdoor slams shut until June. I just hope – and suspect it’s the case – that we have other options on standby in case we don’t get the positive response from the Home Office that we’re looking for.

The team news ahead of the weekend has some question marks, but I think I’ll leave the pondering on the eventual line up until Sunday morning, because I suspect a few players will be rotated. Arsène already admitted that Özil would start and with Santi in what Le Boss described as ‘the best form of his career’, it seems strange that our record signing has to contend with FA Cup appearances to show that he can get back into the side. It’s a strange and beautiful situation for Wenger to be in and, if Mesut runs the game on Sunday, it makes it delightfully more difficult for Arsène to choose who starts the following week. I’m sure he’s not worried about that in the slightest though.

He also didn’t seem too fussed about the Coquelin contract situation either, so hopefully that will be wrapped up soon, because we lose quite a few midfielders in the summer and even with Coquelin, we still need another defensive minded midfielder in my opinion. I just hope Le Boss’ confidence that the deal will be done isn’t just a smokescreen like the Flamini situation the first time around that we had him.

There’s plenty more Arsenal stuff that I could be babbling on about today, but I’m running out of time as my Met line train hurtles towards Finchley Road and ‘Nosignalsville’, so I’m afraid I must cut my ramblings short and hope you have a less frost-laden day than I am having.

Out.

Arsenal hear me on Bielik; what does defensive strengthening mean for Chambers?

It appears I must have some sort of political sway at Arsenal HQ, because after my plea for the Bielik deal to be announced, low and behold the young fella turns up on the official site as a confirmed signing.

I do find it interesting that young plays – boys really – that come from other clubs are given the same ‘new signing’ treatment that big money players in their prime get. Yesterday we had pictures, and official announcement and whilst there hasn’t been any kind of interview or comments from the 17-year-old yet, it wouldn’t surprise me if we don’t see those over the coming days.

Perhaps part of it is driven by the clear lust of fans like me wanting to see that a deal has been done for supposedly one of the hottest young prospects in Europe in his age group. At 6ft 2′ and still only 17, there’s room for Krystian to be a big player in more ways than one at the club, but I do wonder what pressure it puts him under now that the deal is done. After all, Jack Wilshere came from the youth ranks, et was not afforded any kind of fanfare when he signed his professional terms with the club at 16.

I think it’s probably unlikely that Bielik will be in with the first team straight away, despite what Arsène says, so he’ll probably go into our youth setup. So what will the relationship be with the younger players who are probably earning less than him, yet still have the same goal: to make it in to the first team? Will he have to endure extra knocks in training, or in under-21 games? Or will he play under-18 football for the remainder of this season? All is to be revealed, obviously, but I guess what I’m getting at here is that his path to glory may be more difficult because of the very nature of his arrival; a £2.5million price tag for a young superstar whose bones still probably haven’t stopped growing.

Maybe I need to think less about this sort of stuff. After all, Aaron Ramsey arrived at Arsenal for double that fee at 17 and look where he has managed to get to. Sure, that was a road that had his bumps, much like Bielik’s will surely have along the way, but if his character is strong like Ramsey’s, then we’ll have quite a player on our hands I’m sure.

He does look a little like an even henchman from a Batman movie. Don’t know if that’s just me or not…

There’s not really masses going on in terms of news today. There’s quite a bit of chatter about Gabriel Paulista, but as I rarely watch Spanish football and haven’t seen Villareal even once this season, I can’t really give you an informed opinion I’m afraid. If said player does arrive though, one would assume that he’d be looking to get more game time than that of a fourth choice centre half, so you’d expect Chambers to play that role as deputy to the deputy centre half. With Bellerin impressing at right back, he might find his game time limited, but given the number of games he’s already played this season, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. He’s shown he is a very good defender, one for the future, but we’ve relied on him too much and we need him to develop in a way that he isn’t run into the ground by the time he hits 21. Confidence plays such a massive part in football and we don’t want his dented.

So perhaps we’ll see Chambers alternating defensive responsibilities with Bellerin over the next three months, which will be good for both players, as they know that there is competition in the team but equally they have a chance to play more games. Much like we don’t want to throw Bellerin in all of the time, we can alternate his frequency of appearances in the first team.

This all goes to show that all of this juggling, when you have such a big squad, isn’t as easy as it looks I suppose. You have to balance between the hear and now and the future of the club when you’re in a position like Arsenal. We need to give young players enough exposure to the first team so they grow into first team regulars, but at the same time not too much exposure so that their careers are – as Arsène would say – ‘killed’.

Who’d be a football manager, eh?

Arsène does Mel, Jenks stories are false and agreeing with Walcott (to a point)

Morning you lot, I hope you’re enjoying your Wednesday and are just happy that we’re slowly but surely making our way through this working week. All’s still quiet on the Western front, which means no signings announced, not even a 17-year-old who the club has confirmed has had a medical.

I mean what’s going on here with Bielik? Is he still in school and hasn’t secured a note from his parents yet? Has somebody kidnapped him and are waiting on Arsenal to pay up to a kings ransom for his release? Arsène Wenger is not Mel Gibson people. He may have that kind of money, but he just doesn’t look good in a kilt with blue and white facepaint. Plus I’m pretty sure he’s not a raving anti-Semite either.

Anyway, whoever has taken Bielik and is playing ‘keep-away’ with him from Dick Law, can you give Dick his Bielik back now please? Remember how much he cried when you did the same thing with Campbell? Nobody wants a weeping Dick.

If you read the transfer talk the gutter press hash together worse than a Mondeo/Volvo estate ‘cut-and-shut’, you’ll possibly have read that Arsène has ‘slapped’ a price tag of £12million on Carl Jenkinson to ward off his East London suitors. Quite why Arsène needs to denigrate Carl by physically sticking a label on him is beyond me, but putting aside some quite funny visual imagery of Le Boss as a used car dealer based in a London Colney showroom, I suspect that this story is nothing more than hypothesising mischief making from the red-tops. Jenkinson has had a good season, Arsenal are down a first team right back, plus I’ve seen David Sullivan respond to a few West Ham fans on Twitter in the last few months about how the Jenkinson loan deal should probably be made permanent.

We know Arsène is a pragmatist and I would be very surprised if he decided to cut the loan short and throw in the towel so early in Jenkinson’s career. As long as you show willing and effort, Arsène always gives longer than most managers for his young players. Just look at how long Senderos was given before Wenger decided he was a busted flush. So I suspect they’ll be no decision made until the summer, whereby Arsène will take a call. One wonders if, now that Bellerin appears to be being used as the right back of choice, we won’t see him improve to a point at which he’s had 20 games under his belt by the end of the season and has improved in a similar way in which Coquelin has improved with game time over the last few weeks. If that is the case, then I expect Arsène to have his plans influenced on the future of Jenkinson, but if Bellerin isn’t able to step up in the coming months Arsène still has the option of sending him out on loan and bringing Jenkinson back into the fold to fight with Debuchy for a place in the team.

The only other stories that appear to have come out over the last 24 hours appear to be from both Walcott and Giroud, the latter of which has said that he models himself on Schevchenko, Jean Pierre Papin (what a player he was) and of course Thierry Henry. Ollie: if you could take a few pinches of each of those players’ footballing essence and sprinkle it over your maple and pecan crunch in the morning, that would be a-ok with me. Just try to avoid the Headbutty, will ya?

He’s shown an efficiency in front of goal this season that I think has been lacking in previous seasons. Last year he did well, but he was always slightly lacking in that ruthlessness to be one of the best in the league, I felt. I don’t know whether or not it’s got anything to do with the competition he’s now got, but he seems to have suddenly become a lot more effective in front of goal. When he’s been fit and not suspended that is.

Perhaps the same that pushed Szczesny to up his game last season, has also pushed Giroud to up his game too? The arrival of Welbeck would suggest his position is not 100% guaranteed and with the manager faced with other options like Theo and Alexis who could also (in theory) play through the middle, Giroud is probably looking at his situation as more precarious than it’s ever been.

It’s why I can kind of understand what Walcott is talking about when he mentions that our squad is probably better attacking-wise than he’s ever seen it. When Walcott arrived we had some amazing players, but they were the cream of the crop and once you got beyond the first two or three forwards, I always felt that we weren’t as strong in squad depth as we are today. There’s more competition for places today and as a result we might just be seeing the value of competition as it pushes players to be at their best, or fear losing their place.

Just a thought and a theory. What’s yours?

The completely false Bielik origin story

So it seems the deal to bring Krystian Bielik to Arsenal is all but completed and by some stage this weekend we’ll possibly get confirmation of it. Although we all know that Arsenal like to tease us by eeking out a transfer announcement, so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen until the middle of the week.

But, like many of you I’m sure, I know nothing of this young 17-year-old and so I thought I would bring about a public service to you. Like I said, I don’t know anything about this player and rather than doing some actual research on the phone internet, I thought I would completely make up his origin story for you today. So, here it is:

Krystian ‘Treebeard’ Bielik (nicknamed by his teammates because of his size and unhealthy obsession for the halflings leaf) was born in 1998 in a quiet suburb of Warsaw, to parents Penelope and Pietre who upon receiving young Krystian into the world, were immediately thrust into the public eye.

Having given birth to a 6ft baby and spending 682 hours in labour, Penelope was revered as a modern day marvel and Krystian was hailed as something of a marvel by the local people of Warsaw. Penelope – being only 3ft 6inches herself, was said to have shunned daylight in the months leading up to the pregnancy due to her near tripling of size in the final few months of labour.

Pietre – a natural showman and giant strongman for the local circus – was obviously delighted that his son had picked up his genes and was known at the time to remark to the local press in Poland that his son would “travel as the newest of the wonders of the world”. It was no secret that Pietre saw his sons life in the circus, following in the footsteps of giant strongmen that went back in the Bielik family as far as the early 19th century.

So the career path his son was to take, would certainly be a surprising one for Pietre, that’s for sure.

Krystian had a challenging childhood. Being so much more obviously taller than the other children in his school, Bielik found time in class an uncomfortable one, almost literally as his school could not afford any more full adult chairs than the ones the teachers had. So Krystian had to kneel for hours at a time on a typical school day. It was here that the beginnings of his combative defensive midfielder roots were formed.

Building on his obvious size, Krystian used an outlet for which he could be championed by his school and fellow students: sport. Beginning with single handedly winning the Polish under-8s national basketball championship, Bielik was able to secure funding for his small school to receive a Government grant that afforded them full sized equipment to accommodate their giant child. In addition, the school managed to upgrade all computer systems and even build a basketball court to hone young Krystian’s skills.

But although he enjoyed the adulation and continued to play basketball until he was 13, Kyrstian never truly fell in love with the game nor any sport, until a chance meeting with a travelling leper just after his 12th birthday. So local legend goes in Warsaw, that the leper only appears to those who appear to have everything but who harbour a deep-seated longing for something more. Named ‘Larry’ by the locals, the leper is said to be able to reach into ones heart and pull out the longing that the individual wants the most in the world, showing it to said individual and giving them purpose to achieve that goal buried deep in their subconscious.

For you see, at such a young age, poor Krystian just wanted to be like the other boys. He wanted to play the game the other boys played. He wanted to play football. That fateful day, Larry gave Krystian a golden football, telling him to practice with it alone every day for five hours. The leper told Krystian that his dreams could come true, but only if he practiced hard, by kicking the golden ball against a concrete wall and ensuring that wherever the ball rebounded, it would never fall behind him. “You must be like the wall Krystian”, said Larry. “You must be as unwavering and obstructive as the wall. Then, you will see your dreams come true.”

So Kyrstian did as Larry said. For three years. Every day. He mastered the art of stopping the ball get beyond him. He became as one with the wall. So much so, that the he local passers by used to remark that at times they could not recognise who was the human and who was the wall. So too did a scout out for a morning jog with his St Bernard one day. The scout was a former player from Legia Warsaw, who has always refused to be named in public. But this scout saw in Krystian the potential he has and reported back to his superiors of a boy with a golden ball in the suburbs of Warsaw who could match any of the other defensive midfielders the club could have.

The scout returned the next day, took Krystian back to Pietre and told him of his vision for his son: to become the greatest (and tallest) central defensive midfielder the world has ever seen.

“Will be travel the world and become one of its great wonders?” asked Pietre.

“He will” said the scout.

The rest, as they say, is history.