Arsenal and Liverpool similarities, as well as Alexis and Suarez narratives, are wide of the mark

Yesterday Alexis Sanchez turned 26 years of age. Aside from making me feel even older, the anniversary of his arrival on this planet all those many moons ago, his birthday also gave Arsène, as well as me now, the opportunity to wax lyrical about our Chilean ace. Not that we need an excuse mind, because let’s face it, he’s been awesome all season.

Unsurprisingly Arsène was full of praise, but also gave us a bit of insight as to how the transfer happened, with a few meetings of players agent and Le Boss whilst in Brazil, followed by a confirmation of interest from the player, transfer agreement from Barca and then a signature.

It all sounds rather easy, doesn’t it? Of course there will have been plenty of complexities around the arrival of Alexis, but perhaps it is a mark of the man, that the transfer didn’t seem to be anything other than simple as pie. For as little as one can gather from the way a player handles himself in public, he seems like a very amiable chap, a trait which can’t be labelled at too many in the game of football that’s for sure.

Perhaps his attitude on the pitch is reflective of the perception of him off it. He is a hard worker, very talented, but humble and appreciative of his origins. It is fitting, then, that we should come up against a Liverpool team that it was fairly obvious would have loved to secure his services in the summer. Indeed, it was the arrogance of people like Phil Thompson declaring “it’s done” when referring to Alexis to Liverpool, that mean that this particular fixture has an air of hopeful symbolism for me as an apprehensive Gooner.

I said on the blog yesterday that I’d been worried about this game since Monday and, whilst the worry still remains, the prospect of seeing Alexis Sanchez score the winner against a team that coveted him as we did will feel particularly juicy. Those from the North West might argue the bright lights of London were the only lure for the player, but when you look at the two respective clubs and how the seasons have unfolded, perhaps there is reasoning in itself for Alexis to choose Arsenal over Liverpool.

I read yesterday that were it not for Alexis, we would probably be in a similar position to Liverpool in mid table and out of the Champions League. Whilst I am not going to try and pull the wool over your peepers and suggest all is fine and we’d be as good if he were not at The Arsenal, gentle reader, I think that such comments do a disservice to the rest of our squad. A squad which, despite our protestations of lack of depth, have been completely decimated by injuries this season.

Liverpool too, have had injuries, but not to any extent that has been experienced by The Arsenal. Only Manchester United and Newcastle can claim to be masters of misfortune in that regard. Nope, Liverpool have had injuries, but their lack of squad depth has just been more plainly demonstrated than ours. Look at their ‘keeper troubles, or their defensive woes, which we’ve both had. But they’ve had the added problem of problems in attack too, which is something you can’t really throw in our direction. So to say that our two squads are relatively similar is a red herring if you ask me.

I think Alexis has been brilliant for us. I love everything about him. But equally I think it is wrong to believe that we are morphing in to ‘Alexis FC’ in the same way that Liverpool were often described as ‘Suarez FC’. We have other options and there have been times this season – like West Brom away – that we have had to rely on other players to get us out of trouble. On that day it was Santi rediscovering his form and Welbeck drifting in from out wide to head home from a central location that saved our bacon.

Sometimes though, I guess it’s just easier to build a narrative if the themes seem to loosely fit. Arsenal wanted Suarez. Arsenal wanted a player with pace, ability to travel with the ball, phenomenal work-rate, etc, etc. Suarez and Sanchez have similar styles. Similar sounding names too – isn’t this all seeming rather convenient? Liverpool wanted to replace Suarez with Sanchez. Sanchez has scored plenty of goals for Arsenal. It all seems to fit together so neatly like one of those wooden Early Learning Centre trains. But you and I know different. We know that our team has been poor, but our reliance on Alexis has not been as obvious as the Suarez factor was for the Scousers last season. That’s why I’m hopeful that we’ll see a better performance than Liverpool’s team tomorrow, because I want the other players to step up. The Cazorla’s, the Welbeck’s, the Giroud’s, all of them need to perform infinitely better than the horror show of last season. We know they can do it. They just have to show the belief. Hopefully the freshness will make a difference too.

There are still concerns over some players, like the Ox, Walcott and Monreal and if we’re completely honest, we can ill-afford any more injuries. But I’m hoping for some good news on The Ox front, because I think him being fit will give us an edge over Liverpool. More on why that is tomorrow in an actual match preview. For now, I’m going to start prepping for my trial run Christmas dinner – got some friends over tonight you see, so Christmas Turkey overload begins now for me.

Have a good’un.

Mesut misses work, Chambers needs to settle

It’s quiet in Arsenal world. Too quiet. The kind of quiet you get before Le Boss delivers the news that as a Christmas special, bought about by the sheer inability to field most of his players due to injury, he’s going to pull 16 names from a red velvet bag. Each one is an Arsenal red, silver, gold or platinum member, who will be contacted thereafter and told to report to London Colney at 9am tomorrow where the Arsenal team bus will be leaving for Liverpool. Of course, they’ll be no first team players on it, because they’re all rooting around the bins of Harley Street looking for spare body parts to replace their crocked limbs. As for Diaby, well…

We can rebuild him. We have the technology…but…

Poor old Mesut will be joining those scavenging first teamers tomorrow. He’ll be looking for a new knee, whimpering slightly at the fact he hasn’t been able to kick a ball for so long. With a player as gifted as he is, I’d imagine he had a football thrust into his newly born arms by his father, never letting go since, so to be out for as long as he has been out must be a bit torturous. If we think back to our own lives, not being able to do your job for a period of time would send you mad. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would think it’s amazing to get paid to do nothing, but if you think about the fact that you would literally be able to do nothing for two months, most of the population of this planet would probably start to go mad. I know I would. After the first week of being off it would feel great and like a holiday, but after about three weeks I bet I’d start to get really frustrated. After all, we’re talking about missing work through injury, so you can’t go out and do leisure activities. You just have to wait until you’re better. I don’t absolutely love my job, but it keeps me busy and I find it decent enough that I’d want to go back to it rather than sit at home doing nothing.

Now imagine you love your job like Mesut does. Painful, no?

Anyway, hopefully he’s seeing light at the end of the tunnel and he will start training by the new year. Lord knows we need a player of his craft back in the team.

For this weekend though, he is an irrelevance, but a player who is certainly not so is Calum Chambers. I remember the excitement about Chambers after his first few impressive performances of the season at centre half and us fans hailing the second coming of Tony Adams. Since then he’s been forced to play out wide as a right back and, as much as I think he’s coped admirably, I do think he has suffered a bit with the pressure of having to play all of the top flight games that he’s been asked to. I mean think about it; even at Southampton he wasn’t effectively playing two games a week. It was every Saturday/Sunday. And he was only really called on towards the second half of the season I seem to recall. So it’s a big ask for a player that young, that inexperienced, to switch positions so regularly (he’ll once again move to centre half this weekend against Liverpool) and expect them to be as natural and flawless in that position.

He seems to be taking it in his stride, saying all the right things about being happy to switch positions for the good of the team, but I’m sure we’d all agree that it would be best for everyone if he was able to settle on a position and master it. So far, granted, it’s been a ‘needs must’ exercise due to our extensive injury list, but I hope he doesn’t become Arsène Wenger’s ‘Jack of all trades’.

For me Chambers looks like a central defender and if that truly is the case, then we need to make sure he’s given a run of games to help him be the best in that position. You only need to look at Carl Jenkinson to see what a run of games will do for confidence and personal growth. He’s performing brilliantly at West Ham and I can only hope that he is so good that Arsène calls him back at the end of this he season with the mandate of fighting for that right back spot with Debuchy and Bellerin.

We’ll find out later today how much of the team is available today and I’m hoping we can see, for the first time in what feels like months, four defenders who are all in their most natural positions (assuming Chambers is now viewed as a centre back, of course). Arsenal being Arsenal, we’re bound to have a crisis somewhere else on the park, which looks like midfield right now, but if the noises about the Ox are true, then it might even look like we can field somewhat of a half decent team against the Scousers come Sunday afternoon.

Cross everything you’ve got, because we need some injury luck for a change this season, so hopefully Arsène has good news later today.

Thierry

It’s the middle of the week and boy, am I glad we’re getting through it quickly enough, because I am looking forward to Christmas. Booze, movies and plenty of The Arsenal to talk about.

On the latter, it’s still quiet times right now, as the players will have been away with their families and I believe will be coming back into training today. Hopefully there isn’t any muscular damage to any of them, having over-exerted themselves dancing the night away to The Pogues and Sir Cliff, but we’ll most likely be given an update tomorrow via Arsène and the official website.

The only real news that seemed to come out of yesterday was the retirement of Thierry Henry being confirmed and his announcement that he’ll be a Sky Sports pundit from next season. I’ve already dedicated a blog to my favourite moments of my favourite Arsenal player of all time, so I won’t go over that again, but suffice to say here is a genuine Arsenal legend who has also managed to keep the fans affection whilst moving onwards to success.

What has also been quite staggering is that, even at his tender age of 36, he still managed to bag plenty of goals for New York Red Bulls. Yes, it’s undoubtedly a weaker league, but as little as three years ago he was still able to come back for us and bag a few useful goals at a time when we needed a cool head. That goal against Leeds in the FA Cup was a stunner, not for the actual finish, but the emotion that it drew from everyone that night. His face as he ran to the bench was amazing. I’ll never forget it. Thank you Thierry. For everything.

That he’ll now have to listen to the irrelevant drivel of messieurs Redknapp and Carragher is a shame, but as I was chatting to http://www.twitter.com/benleeder about yesterday on Twitter, if it means that he is able to bump Carragher down the list so that he is featured less often during pre and post-match analysis, then I’m all for it.

I do wonder how he’ll cope though, having to work for Sky when The Arsenal are on, because he’s readily admitted he’s one of us now. Personally, when I became a Monday to Friday desk jockey, I vowed never to work when Arsenal are playing again. I hated it. So Thierry having to analyse a 5.30pm Swansea against Villa game, when Arsenal are at home to Stoke at a 3pm kick off that same day, will be tough for him I’d have thought. Unless he’s had something written in to his contract.

And anyway, I suspect it will only be a short-term thing, because it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Thierry back at The Emirates in some capacity within the next three years. I suspect that’s why he’s taken on a punditry role, because it’s probably easier getting out of it if a certain North London club come calling, asking if he wants to take some training sessions.

The club have put a lovely set of tributes on the official site. My favourite has to be this one:

“When we won the league at Tottenham, they came back 2-2 in the last-minute of the game, and they’re celebrating – because they’re happy to draw against us, obviously. And I remember saying to Mauricio Tarricco, do you realise we only need a point to be Champions? And they all [were really shocked]. So I said ‘Yes. Now we’re going to celebrate on your pitch. Bye bye!’”

Brilliant.

Catch you all tomorrow.

Coquelin’s chance, Bayern await (again)?

The two bits of news that will invariably dominate the Arsenal-related headlines today are the Champions League foregone conclusion of Arsenal vs Bayern Munich or Madrid (also known as the ‘Round of 16 draw’), as well as the perpetual treatment table merry-go-round that is our injury list of players.

It’s The Ox who is the latest player to be struck down with the plague and almost inevitably it feels like we’ll lose him for next weekend’s game against Liverpool. It’s a Liverpool team who appear to have been tonked by United, so whilst you’d hope that we can profiteer from their lack of confidence at the moment, this is The Arsenal and I’d expect nothing less than the Scousers to buck their poor form this season and play as if they were getting relegated in the morning if they don’t win. But more of that in he count down to that game later in the week.

For now, let’s try and play a fun game of ‘who the bloody hell do we have left?’, shall we? Because let’s face it, after The Ox, Arteta, Ramsey, Özil and Wilshere, we really do run quite short on first teamers in midfield. It’s why Francis Coquelin must be wondering why he didn’t buy a Euromillions ticket last weekend I’ll wager. After all, he’ll have gone from Charlton midfielder to first choice Arsenal ball winner in the middle of the park within the space of a week. It goes to show you that a week is a long time in football I guess! But also, that things can change quickly. Picture this: Le Coq starts at Anfield. Has a blinder. We win the game. He’s given another shot in midfield and plays another stormer against QPR. He goes to West Ham full of confidence and continues his form. When you take into account his superb performance at full back against Southampton in the Capital One Cup, it goes to show you how quickly life moves in the football world. Especially at this time of year. A player only needs to see a couple of colleagues unavailable for two weeks at the end of December, then suddenly he can find himself having strung together four or five games and may even be able to retain his place.

Now, I appreciate that this is all very hopeful speculation on my part, but I’ve always rated Coquelin. I’ve always felt that he was never really given his opportunity on an extended basis and, when you consider how long Denilson was afforded to prove that he wasn’t toilet (which he didn’t even manage), it is perhaps surprising that Arsène didn’t give Francis his chances earlier on in his career.

Still, water under the bridge, as well as an opportunity for a player to show the manager the error of his ways, providing the Ox is of course out for next weekend’s clash. I’m sure we’ll find out later on in the week, as the players now have three days off to recharge their batteries, which is a good thing given the hectic schedule that is about to envelope their lives. Hopefully being knocked out of the COC will be good for us in the long run.

The only other thing to contemplate is this Champions League draw. We’ve once again made it tough for ourselves, so I don’t expect us to be given any kind of easy ride by the footballing gods. After all, we’ve played the best teams in the competition at the earliest knockout stage for the last five years I think, so why buck the trend now?

I don’t really care who we play, if I’m honest, because we are unlikely to win the competition based on our play this season. I don’t want to be too much of a ‘neg’ about this draw, but there are oil-whoring clubs, the mega-rich spenders like Madrid and Barcelona, plus a Bayern side that will pass us all to death, so we’re going to come up against one of those teams at some stage anyway. We might as well do it earlier. What I will want to see though, is a fight to the death, when we do play one of those big teams. I want them to realise we’re not totally a spent force in Europe and to give somebody a real fun for their money.

Sigh…look at how things have changed, eh? We’ve gone from footballing powerhouse to plucky underdogs. I hate being ‘plucky’. I prefer arrogance and victory. It’s much more enjoyable I find. You?

Anyway, that’s pretty much all there is at the moment, particularly with no players around to talk up the Christmas period and how we’re going to get maximum points! They’re probably all nursing a hangover right now.

Anyway, you have a good’un and I’ll go and do some work. Peace out.

Finally!

Finally! It may have taken us until mid December this season, but we finally have a Premier League game in which we were dominant from start to finish, never really looked like we weren’t in control of the game and got the required number of goals that our performance warranted.

I thought we were brilliant yesterday. From the first minute until the last. We started off with an air of authority and control over a confident Newcastle team that looked like the Arsenal of last season. I feel like a wandering desert nomad who has finally been given a glass of ice cool fresh water. I have been waiting so long to drink from the cup of ‘comfortable Premier League victory’ that i’d almost forgotten the tast. I’ve become accustomed to have a hard afternoon. There was nothing hard about yesterday, unless of course you count trying to understand Lee Mason’s refereeing decisions. He was the only negative on a lovely early evenings football. To my mind, he missed a clear boot to the chest of Alexis by Tiote, a couple of penalty decisions, plus he decided to penalise Danny Welbeck for being too close to Janmaat when a gust of wind knocked him over in the box and Welbeck finished superbly to make it 2-0 within the first 15 minutes. Or at least it should have been. Like I said, that gust of wind was a real doozie and Welbeck’s goal was rubbed from the scoreboard.

It all seemed to work yesterday. From back to front we were on it. You only have to look at our first goal, in which the passage of play was started by Hector Bellerin biting in to a tackle and then giving the ball to Giroud. The Frenchman then fed Alexis and took his position in the middle of the box to head home an excellent cross. It was brilliant stuff and no more than we deserved. Before that even big Per was in on the action with a looping header that hit the bar.

We popped the ball around with purpose and poise and how the scoreline was still 1-0 at half time is anybodies guess. I can say it now, because we were comfortable all afternoon, but at half time you’ve always got that worry that we’ll conceded and then end up ‘backs to the wall’-ing it as the opposition fight to come away from The Emirates with a point. But the second half saw us up it another gear and Santi’s little dink over Alnwick to make it 2-0 had the hallmarks of a player in form. He could have even been given a penalty had he not scored, because Coloccini had almost taken him out inside the box. But the diminuitive little Spaniard did what every one wants to see; he stayed on his feet and got the goal that his performance warranted.

Four minutes later it was game over, as Giroud got his second of the night and what a second it was, with the outside of his boot and with the tightest of angles. He really can be quite some players on some games. It’s amazing how we seem to have a player that can blow so hot or cold during the course of a season. But I supposed he is an example of this Arsenal team. They can go from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of a week.

We’ve now had two 4-1 victories and it’s looking like we’ve recovered a bit of that fragile thing called confidence. Which is just as well really, because next week we return to the location of our humbling last season and face a Liverpool team who will – regardless of what happens today – be massively up for this game and so we need all the help we can get through our levels of confidence and remembering performances like that.

Individually, it was good to see some systems worked. I thought the front three rotated well and were a handful all afternoon. Arsene said in his post match report that we looked dangerous every time we went forward and he’s right. I thought we could have scored every time we went forward and as I reflected afterwards, to friends and family members that would listen, the 4-1 scoreline flattered Newcastle in fairness. The fact that they even scored was a cause for irritation, because the defence probably deserved a clean sheet. Debuchy was good at centre half, although that might have been because he wasn’t troubled as much, but I thought he attacked balls lumped forward well, looked like he was confident, then positionally was assured enough too.

In midfield, The Ox gave a couple of balls away, but in the main he was good with the ball at his feet and he is an able deputy for that box-to-box roll role that Ramsey normally occupies. Santi Cazorla has found his ryhtm too, putting in another great display and getting himself in the goals too. I have seen some people (not Arsenal fans, obviously) who have said he was a little disrespectful with his little dink of a penalty. But if we score every time, we can be as disrespectful as we like as far as I’m concerned, because all I care about is Arsenal scoring goals and winning games. The rest of the football community can ‘do one’.

So that’s it for another weekend. A victory, three points, a good performance, some players looking like they’re hitting form, plus a week to rest and recuperate for when we play Liverpool on Sunday next week.

Come on you reds!

Newcastle preview: makeshift defence needs protecting, attack needs closeness

Howdy there partners! Happy Saturday and hopefully one in which all of Goonerdom is blessed with that holiest of things: three precious points.

It’s the black and white stripes of Newcastle United that come to town and quite frankly, after last weekend’s abomination of a performance in the first half against Stoke, I’m looking for one heck of an improved performance from those available today. And therein lies the nub of us on this chilly winter’s day: can we patch together a team capable enough of winning a game against a resurgent Newcastle team that have won six of their last eight and one against Chelski last weekend. They were the heroes for us against Mourinho’s men not seven days ago, yet now we find ourselves facing them as the enemy.

It’s a tough one to call. Over the years, even when we haven’t been great, you usually look at these games as ones that we win. Despite all of our grumbles about not really competing at the top of the league on a consistent basis for a number of years, when you look back at the end of the season and see the ‘W/L/D’ columns, there’s more wins than defeats. So it’s why actually, we get to be happy more than most – because we’re usually one of the best four teams in the division. But this season has been different. There haven’t been any league games in which we’ve looked comfortable at all in the league. Even the Villa game in which we smashed and grabbed three goals in a matter of minutes had its moments both before and afterwards. So I’m not going to expect us to buck this seasons trend and put Newcastle to the sword in the first half like Stoke did to us last weekend. Especially given our makeshift squad at the moment.

So makeshift, in fact, that it looks like Francis Coquelin might even find his way back into the matchday squad by virtue of the fact that he still has all of his limbs, joints and muscles in one piece. The injury list is lengthy and the recall of Coquelin from Charlton has been hastened due to absentees such as Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere and Ozil, in addition to Ospina, Koscienly, Monreal, Chambers through suspension and even Walcott, although I suspect he might be in the squad today based on Arsene’s comments this week. But it’s all looking a bit ropey defensively, isn’t it? As I said yesterday, it looks like it’s another defensive shuffle that will take place and I suspect we’ll see Debuchy slot in to central defence as the more experienced player in the squad. Mertesacker normally plays on the left of the two centre halves, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him shifted to the right to support Bellerin, whilst Debuchy plays next to Gibbs. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a worry for us defensively and given our recent transgressions in the league, i’ll be biting all of my fingernails every time a black and white shirt ventures into our half.

That’s why the responsibility of the midfield today will be essential. With Flamini back he’ll need to ensure that he gives as much protection to the two central defenders as he can possibly muster. With a side like Newcastle and the injuries they have, the temptation might be for him to venture forward more to support the attack, but that’s not his job and we really could do without some sucker-punching goals like we’ve conceded all season. He’s been quoted as saying that at times they like to win the ball back higher up the pitch, but if Newcastle play with pace on the counter with the likes of Cisse and Cabella, then we’ll need him to be a protector rather than a gallivanter in the opposition half.

I know Newcastle have been in form, but I suspect they’ll want to soak up pressure and not come at us too much. Pardew is not an idiot and will have seen how susceptible we are on the counter, so I think he’ll sit two holding midfielders in front of his back four and hope to hit us quickly on the break. That’s where the form of players like Santi and the Ox will be essential I think. Both will slot in to central midfield and I expect to see them the ones that will battle with Tiote and Colback in the midfield area. It will be on the likes of Sanchez and Welbeck to provide the support for Giroud, who will need a vastly improved performance from the game at The Britannia. He’ll be up agaionst Coloccini and probably Mike Williamson, so his role will be to hold off those two centre halves and bring our pacey wide men into play. We started to see signs of what these three could do together in the final third against West Brom, but today will be slightly different. Newcastle will try to suffocate the space around Giroud, so those little flicks around the corner and knock downs will need to see our front three operating very close together I think, if we’re to get any joy that is.

There’s no doubt we have the players that are technically capable of beating this Newcastle team later this evening, but the real question is around the confidence and mental fragility of this side. We’ve already drawn far too many games and every time we look to be stringing together some results we seem to come-a-cropper with a poor performance. At home it has tended to be draws when only a win will do. Away it has been the damaging defeats that have been hard to stomach.

I’ll be relegated to watching the game in the local pub, as I’m at a family event, but hopefully Ian and his boy (who have taken my ticket today) can bring the team some luck. We could do with it.

See you tomorrow. Hopefully i’m all chirpy because we’ve smashed the magpies. But I’m not expecting it.

Grumpy at injuries and our Rubik’s cube defence

This horrible weather we’re having in London can do one. Sideways. With a spatula. That’s on fire. So can signal failures, which are the bane of everyone’s lives.

If you can’t tell already, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, the one with the Velux windows that sound like the heavens have fallen on your house when it’s windy and raining.

So I give you this disclaimer of grumpiness: if today’s blog seems overly morose, please don’t think that I’m turning to the dark side or something like that, I’m simply a tired man feeling increasingly like an old man. At 32. And yes, I’m painfully aware that my professional football career is all but over. Anyways, I’d only get a one year deal at The Arsenal, so it would be fleeting as it is.

So to Arsenal, and Arsène, who appears to have crossed the paths of so many black cats he’s started tripping over them. The team news made for grim reading on the official site yesterday didn’t it? No Koscienly, no Monreal, no Chambers, no Arteta, no Walcott and Ramsey is being assessed for a severe case of ‘Butt Rot’ or something similar. It reads like the transcript of the opening scenes in Saving Private Ryan, with bodies just littered around the treatment room like some sort of morbid Christmas decorations.

Quite what it means for our defensive worries I haven’t the foggiest. With the arrival of Debuchy we took one step forward, but the news from Le Boss yesterday was effectively that we’ve taken one step back. I was really looking forward to seeing our back four all be players from their natural position. But there you go, such is the cross we all must bare.

So it looks like we’ll have our 9,253th combination of four defenders – the only four senior defenders we have left mind – that will take to the field. More speculation on how they will line up against the Geordies in tomorrow’s match preview, but I do wonder if the gods are testing the old Rubik’s cube theory on us. You know the one; how there’s about a million permutations for just fifty or sixty coloured squares. I wonder how many different variations of an Arsenal back four could be used for the duration of a season?

A saving grace for tomorrow will be that Newcastle seem to have just as many injury problems as we do. I joked a few weeks ago that ‘only Arsenal’ would have two goalkeepers out at the same time. Turns out that statement should have had ‘plus some Geordies’ added to it as well, because they are pretty Donald Ducked by the sounds of it. You never know, we might get treated to a five-a-side score line tomorrow evening. Hopefully it’s an 11-4 in our favour though, eh?

We’ll get a better indication on where we’re at this morning when Arsène takes his seat in front of the microphones for his regular pre-match chin wag with the national hacks. I’m not so sure he’ll be as eager to dish out the platitudes about his opposite number as Alan Pardew did yesterday. ‘Pards’ was effusive in his praise (straight out of the Football Manager archives, that one) for Arsène, going as far as suggesting that he should have a stand named after him, which fiend respective two managers history, was certainly a surprise to me. This is a guy, after all, who has aimed pot shots at Arsène for fielding too many Johnny Foreigners, before deciding that he had French ancestry and delving into Ligue Un to populate his side with Gallic fellows. Or, a guy who likes a bit of shovy-shovy on the touchline, with Arsène and other managers/players in his managerial career too.

So Alan wants a stand named after Arsène, does he? Well I’m sure Arsène will get his statue one day, but he’s got some repair work to do first, starting with a win tomorrow evening. And besides, the Emirates is more of a bowl these days anyway, so doesn’t really have ‘sides’ or ‘stands’ so to speak. So ner-Nicky-ner-ner Alan.

Anyway, that’s it from me for one day I think, to which there’s of much more to do other than point you in the direction of this humurous ditty from http://www.twitter.com/gunnerblog, which is an ode to the Cesc saga – http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=YJMr6nrl7c0 – bravo sir, bravo.