So there we have it, a Chelsea vs Bayern Munich final. Still a big ask from our classless West London neighbours... they're missing 4 players through suspension and two through injury... but I'd fancy them against the Germans over the might of Madrid. That means that finishing third is of huge importance. We're going to have to win all of our games now. That means the pressure is on more than ever. Can this team handle that pressure? Do we have the experience to pull ourselves through? Can we show the rest of the league that we can hack it when the heat is on?
Well, we'll find out this weekend against Stoke. A nasty place to go and play. I think I've mentioned before that their club hierarchy pull every trick in the book to make the whole stay unpleasant. In winter they leave the heating off in the changing rooms. They often don't supply the opposition with balls to practice with and Ryan Shawcross puts clingfilm over the toilet seat. They are filth from top to bottom. Then you get out on the pitch and it turns nasty. We should be able to deal with that this season. We don't really have players who can be bullied. Well, with the exception of possibly Aaron Ramsey.
It's a shame we don't have Arteta in the middle of the park for this game. Song, Rosicky and Benayoun can handle themselves, but Arteta is the sort of player who would go out and let Stoke know he's there in the first 5 minutes. Robin needs to take more of a lead in this game. He needs to fly into the challenges, stick up for his team mates and make sure no one slips into a 'poor old me' shell. I have no worries at the back. Well, bar Gibbs. The only reason I worry about him is that I've never seen him face a team that will try and batter him. Koscielny, Sagna and Vermaelen are all battle hardened. Our keeper can deal with long balls into the box as well as anyone... he's also built to handle stray elbows and rogue shoves.
The question will be around attitude. Do we head out with a QPR / Wigan mindset. Or do we head out with the Manchester City positivity? You never know what you'll get with this squad, but hopefully the fear of losing out on top four by finishing fourth will be enough to spark the whole club into a renewed sense of focus.
In other news, strikers Carlos Vela and Nik B seem to have their hearts set on any club but Arsenal. I'm not too fussed about that. I think Carlos Vela is far better suited to Spain and playing under a manager who believes in him. For whatever reason, Arsene Wenger didn't trust him at all. He was a bit of a party boy and he often looked over weight. He never adapted to the Premiership despite some amazing chipped goals and sparks of magic. It was a similar story with Dos Santos over at Spurs. The boy was magic for Barca, the next big thing... but a bad attitude stopped him ever fulfilling his potential.
Nik B is a striker I still think could be a big asset to the club. It's just a shame he has such a high opinion of himself. That said, I'd rather a striker like Nik demanding he played over a two strikers like Chamakh and Park who say nothing despite only making a handful of appearances. That's the trouble with a lot of the players we've fattened up on contracts that far exceed their talent. They don't care about playing. Almunia doesn't worry about not getting game time, all he cares about is accessorising his embarrassing dog. Chamakh is all about partying in London. Park Chu-Young... well, I don't even know where to start there.
All you hope is that the club learn from this. You hope these massive mistakes entitle Gazidis to ask more questions over what the manager is doing. Geoff told me that Wellbeck has signed a new deal at United for £45k a week. That's £780k less a year than Diaby gets... and he's played a prominent role in what could be a title winning side this year. Arsene should never be able to get around squad investment stipulations by bumping up average players wages. Regardless of where we finish this year, we're still totally hamstrung by this policy come the summer. We have quotas we have to abide by... but if you can't shift on players, what can you do to free up cash and squad space?
Rumour is abound that Jack Wilshere will turn down Stuart Pearce's overtures for an Olympic place. Good for him if that's the case. He didn't want to go last year when he was asked to go the U21 tournament despite being in the red zone. You can understand the predicament he's in... if he looks at this summer logically, he knows he shouldn't really play. If he looks at it from a national point of view... he'll worry that if he refuses, he'll look like David Bentley did all those years ago.
It also looks as if the info we shared about Robin and Barca last week was right... they're not interested in him. Tony Frexia, admin legend at Barca said...
"Van Persie is a great player but [we have] no intention of signing him."
Good. Keep it that way you melt.
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That's it for day. See you in the comments where I'm going to edit all your thoughts to agree with me.