Morning kids – James here, covering for Pedro, who is off sampling the delights of Mykonos’ nightclubs and fetish bars.
I hope you all arrived at work safely this morning and didn’t die from the sweltering temperatures, especially if you’re in London. Personally, I love this weather and as someone who isn’t especially sweaty, I am able to fully appreciate the warmth. The state of some folk on the underground is quite alarming though, it must be said; with sporadic moans and saturated brows being wiped like a scene from Dante’s Peak. They are the weak and as evolution theory dictates, they will be the first to fall…
….Onto the football – it’s a relatively quiet news day, and week for that matter, in Arsenal-land. Rumours are circulating of a Sunday paper exposé about Gunnersauras and Rob the Chef having a bit too much fun in the restroom of a well-known Mayfair haunt. Personally, I don’t care about what they do in their spare time – as long as they continue their elite-level performances on match day, they can do as they please.
News ‘broke’ yesterday about players who have been released by the club. Whilst there were the annual raft of kids being slung off who didn’t quite make the grade, Abou Diaby’s association with the club has also come to an end. I have mixed feelings on the situation and view it as something of a dichotomy – I hold sympathy for him and the route his career has taken, but there has been widespread recognition this was the right decision, which echoes Alex’s rather excellent blog from yesterday. Diaby is a player who was divisive and split opinion during his brief periods of fitness, but I do sense there is a case of the Eduardo’s about him – not necessarily his talents, but his performance levels have been over-egged during his absence. When he was good, he could look very special – Anfield away a couple of seasons ago sticks out, as well as in the 2007/08 Champions League tie where he was excellent – but I can count those games on one hand. Whilst he had ability I always got the impression he lacked something mentally – quite possibly a result of the hardships he’s faced with constant injury rehabilitation and breaking down every ten games. The Vieira comparisons were utterly tedious too – he bore some similar traits such as his subtle touch and rangy playing style, but lacked Vieira’s aggression and ability to dominate games on a regular basis.
Many have also seemingly forgotten how wasteful he could be – my abiding memory will be of a player who spun away from a midfield marker, beat a couple of defenders and then slipped a pass out of play. Again, it could well be a manifestation of spending so long on the side-lines and not being able to gain any momentum or rhythm, but unfortunately we will never know.
I do have genuine sympathy with him however and admire his determination to make a career at Arsenal. The arguments of ‘how can you feel sorry for a guy earning £60k a week for doing nothing’ are totally boorish. The amount you earn doesn’t detract from the human desire for professional pride and satisfaction. I also don’t blame the club for standing by him. There have certainly been summers in the past nine years where we haven’t signed the requisite midfielder we need so as to not ‘kill Diaby’, but that hasn’t been the case for some time. I don’t get the impression he has been a guy Wenger has had in his plans over the last few seasons – if he got fit and could play and it was just a bonus and some extra squad depth, but I can’t imagine Diaby has had any bearing on Arsene’s transfer plans for quite some time.
Nonetheless – good luck Abou and thanks for the, albeit limited, memories. Hopefully he can carve out a career elsewhere, go into coaching; or most logically – retrain as a physio.
Meanwhile, it appears that Lukas Podolski’s move to Galatasaray is nearing completion – the fact we’re receiving a reported £2.8m for him is a minor miracle. Hilariously, Podolski’s agent told German rag, BILD:
“Wenger wanted to keep Lukas but couldn’t guarantee he would be a starter.”
Hmmm…I sense some serious ego-massaging of his client in this instance and it’s something of a paradoxical statement – Wenger really wants to keep your client, but won’t play him, despite paying your client £90k a week – something doesn’t quite add up. I must say he’s a player I am pleased to see the back of. Whilst his finishing ability was undoubtedly unparalleled at the club, he just does not contribute enough to general play for a modern attacker. He was lazy as sin and seemingly quite unfit – I recall an away game early last season against Leicester when he replaced Sanogo and was puffing out of his arse within five minutes, despite never breaking out into anything resembling a canter. His social media antics (or his PR company’s) were also irksome in the extreme – his constant professions of love for the club were never reflected by what he did on the pitch – a nothing player who we are better off without.
Speaking of left sided attackers, on this day in 2000 we signed my favourite ever Arsenal player – Le Bob. Pirès joined off the back of strong performances for Marseille (and scoring a hatful for Metz prior to that). His first few months in England fitted neatly into the ‘soft foreign player can’t adapt’ bracket, but when he finally hit his stride – what a player. Whilst I loved Bergkamp, Henry, Freddie and Vieira; the sheer grace and nonchalance of Pirès was staggering. Deceptively quick with his bowed knees, he would glide past players with unerring regularity and his finishing would be the envy of many an elite centre forward. He also played on the wing during the days of the fabled 4-4-2, meaning he wasn’t just an auxiliary attacker – he did it all. His triumvirate with Ashley Cole and Henry down our left flank is one of the seminal memories of that astounding team. His value as a player also appears to be matched by his nature as a man – the image of him lifting the 2001/02 title aloft with the squad bowing to him on the Highbury turf lingers long in the memory and is indicative of how his team mates viewed him. And that hair, that musketeer goatee – the whole package.
To end, I’d like to wish a happy birthday to Sol Campbell. I vividly recall the day we signed him – I was at a school football tournament (playing – not watching like a creepy voyeur) and my football coach told me we’d signed the Tottenham captain. I genuinely didn’t believe him – he was a Tottenham fan after all. It was a masterful signing and a one of a kind – he could have earned more elsewhere and avoided the vile vitriol that followed him ever since – but he bought into Wenger and Dein’s vision for club and took a chance. A fabulous defender – what a shame he’s such an ostentatious, self-entitled Tory-tosser.
On that note, I’ll leave you to enjoy the rest of your Friday and be back with you on Sunday.
Until next time x
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