St. Louis, to Atlanta, to JFK. Such bad times yesterday. The most healthy thing I could eat looked like the sort of thing you find sliding down the back of a supermarket bin when you’re hungry but they’re closed so you go rummaging. Not good.
Arsenal news ahead of the BIG GAME was kind of interesting. A lot of leaks and dissent if the journalists reporting are to be believed. First up, king of bafflement, John Cross, reckons a new strain of the disease has seeped through the walls of London Colney. The suspected perpetrator, David Ospina.
‘We understand the controversial decision has surprised other senior players in the squad, because Cech is one of the biggest and most experienced characters in the dressing room.’
‘With the Londoners struggling in the title race, Wenger is now putting his whole season in the buttery hands of their No2 keeper as Arsenal head to Germany for the first leg of their last-16 tie.’
I mean, it’s hardly a shocker, right? Wenger will always put perceived personal values or habits over the success of the team. We see that in the way he subs players, we see that in the way he prepares his side, we see it in the way he rotates. David Ospina is an ok keeper, but he’s too small, his technique is far from orthodox and regularly makes bad decisions.
I think it’s very risky that we’d play him and I think it’s telling there are multiple leaks in the press. When you’re going into a nightmare game, why would you even risk a rusty keeper? Maybe because Petr Cech is desperately out of form? Or maybe it’s because you’re the king and you know that no one has the right to question you. For me, the latter for sure, Wenger is complacent as f*ck. Ospina is a poor option at the best of times. Against Bayern? He’s a disaster in wait and a risk you don’t need to take. Petr Cech is the only player at our club who has won the CL. He should play.
The second person to break rank is Jens Lehmann. Now there’s a name who gives zero f*cks about upsetting the apple cart.
“Arsenal should be favourites against Bayern simply on the law of averages”
“When two good sides play each another repeatedly it is very unlikely for one to win all the time”
“But when I look at the way Arsenal are playing right now, they are to my mind the outsiders once again.
“There is a big discrepancy between money and know how in the Premier League. The clubs don’t use their potential properly.
Preeeeeeach. Arsenal have been knocked out of the CL in the last 16 for 6 years in a row. We should have sneaked a lucky win at some point, but we just don’t have the tactical nous to make something happen. That’s Wenger’s stubbornness and the clubs weakness when it comes to the club forcing change on him. We’ll likely see the same happen again.
At best tomorrow, we’ll see an interesting starting 11. We won’t see a tactical masterclass, we’ll see a good shift of bodies playing the same way they always do. You’ll have to hope for us to rise up from the ashes and hope for them to have a stinker. Trouble is, you have to do that over two legs. A big ask.
Arsenal Comms Director, Sean ‘YOUR WORDS’ Spicer reckons low estimates of attendance were ‘way out’… The AST fired back in a modern way calling this ‘FAKE NEWS.’
“It’s obviously guess work using the naked eye but I could tell it was around 50,000 [against Hull] because I know what was recorded for previous games and could work out the equivalent. The club ought to stop hiding behind a fake attendance and start addressing the real reasons.”
Hopefully, it was just a bit of fan rotation. Barry and his pals from Barnet hit the redzone, rotating in new fans has been tough because of poor tech and the ball-ache of giving spoilt mates your plastic card, we had gaps as a result. My usual gauge for guessing attendance is around how many gaps you can seen in the front rows which is about as scientific as guessing the number of red skittles in a fishbowl at a really sh*t party. However you chop it, there were clearly a lot of gaps. Another shocking black mark on Wenger’s name. Still, doesn’t matter how hard to the dishonest PR department lie, Stan will be seeing those figures… shame the tickets will all be paid for. So it won’t matter.
Wenger continued the bafflement theme, this time on Ozil.
“I felt he was not completely confident technically,” “I completely agree with you. That’s a problem because you think he can deliver something special. It’s true that technically he did things [against Hull] that he is not used to doing. I don’t know. It can happen. I can’t think of a specific reason.”
I don’t think it’s surprising. I’ve consistently written about him being a half season wonder of a player. Like clockwork, he falls away second stretch because he just isn’t a natural athlete, that’s backed up by stats if you looks at how his sprints per game decline as the season wears on, not just that, watch him. Here’s some VERIFIED NEWS, including the summer internationals, he’s played almost 38 times, clocking up nearly 3000 minutes. His form is dipping right on cue because this is the pattern of a man Jose M used to yank on 60mins.
The Daily Mail is running a story that reads like ANOTHER leak suggesting players are not happy at the German playing all the games.
‘Mesut Ozil finds himself under growing pressure after it emerged that factions in the Arsenal dressing room feel the German has received preferential treatment from manager Arsene Wenger.’
‘Some team-mates are also believed to be disappointed by Ozil’s level of application, particularly by his failure to challenge Ashley Williams at a defensive set-piece when Arsenal conceded late to lose at Everton in December.’
Miguel Delaney also had the same story.
‘That has fostered a few minor issues off the pitch, too, if nothing serious. There are some Arsenal players, and some staff members, who feel he too often “gets away” with sub-par performances.’
Even more damning for me is the following.
‘During Robin van Persie’s time as captain, players were encouraged to join friends and family in the players’ lounge after games and shake hands with all in the room.
‘This ritual has slowly fallen away and at times, Ozil has been seen at the door, clicking his fingers or signalling his entourage to shuffle out behind him.’
No Arteta at the club to uphold traditions this season? You can’t pin the blame of the above all on the German, you can on Wenger. Only average managers think the importance of a proper captain is overblown. Only average managers believe culture is something that happens by accident. It’s not, it’s something you have to craft carefully. If Ozil is poncing around with an entourage, that’s something you can nip in the bud. If the team aren’t bonding, you nominate someone who can bring people together, or you buy in someone who can do that.
Anyway, that’s a sideline. Players think Ozil is undroppable and that’s what a lot of fans have suspected for a long time. It’d be a big statement for Wenger to drop him vs Bayern. I think it’d be called for and tactically astued (and surprising), but I have my suspicions Wenger won’t because he can’t do anything strategic. He likes his big names and that’s the way it is.
Thing you have to understand about leaks is they happen when the manager looks weak. These are purposeful, to let the fans know the backroom team and the players are aligned with fan frustrations. People at the club can’t stand the Wenger / Stan love in too the same levels as you and I despair.These leaks are the most damning at the earliest point in a season I can remember.
Wenger should be a dead man walking and I think he might be. Blood has been spilt and the sharks are on alert. He looks ashen faced and I think he could quit.
Only thing saving Wenger could be a very good win in Munich. My question is this, do the players have it in them to save the boss? Or will they go all Chelsea for the run in?
We’ll see. More on Bayern tomorrow. x
P.S. Did you see the way Wilshere looked at Pep yesterday? Vom inducing, I was worried for a minute those ‘kiss me sweetly’ eyes would make their way up north in summer, but then he picked up an injury. Shocker. City move into 2nd.