Arsenal seems to bounce from crisis to crisis with the fans.
William Saliba is the latest exhibit in the hall of ‘WTF ARE WE DOING?.’
The young Frenchman bossed a lot of games in Ligue 1. He made a cup final he wasn’t cleared to play in. He joined up with Arsenal 3 months ahead of time to acclimate… then he was binned from all the squads. Consigned to the U23s.
The French media are now whipping up a furor with a fanbase that doesn’t need much fuel to rage these days. They reckon Saliba’s people have been told Arsenal will look at loans AND sales this transfer window.
This has sparked all manner of conspiracy theories on the internet, which aren’t helpful.
The simplest explanation for all of this nonsense is that Arteta simply doesn’t rate the player. For some reason, he looks at him and doesn’t see talent. I find it quite bizarre that the man who insisted on rehabbing Mustafi, giving Luiz another deal after all those errors, whilst signing the 17th worst keeper in Ligue 1 (letting him die in a quarter final)… has a problem with a 19-year-old centre back that looked like a stand-out prospect in a league known for generating top talent.
It’s odd. To bin Saliba from all the squads was just plain vindictive. To even consider selling him after we’ve spent 3 months very publicly telling the world Mustafi is more important to us is quite simply maddening leadership.
Now, I’m not saying he’s going to be world-class. The French league affords kids like Saliba game time because the overall standard of the league is very low, I’m not sure why this offends people, but if it does, ask yourself why their teams tend to do so badly in Europe (One European Cup since 1993. Never won Europa). They have one major team. The rest have business models geared solely around farming players to sell the big clubs. The opportunity is so big there for this, hedge funders have been picking up clubs like Lille to rake in profits from the transfers.
What this means is someone like Mbappe can land games at 16 he might not have done so in the Premier League. It also means that it’s easier to look like a worldie. For every Gabriel, there’s a Nicolas Pepe who looks like he’d struggle in the Championship. For every Eden Hazard, there’s a Gervinho. Being elite in Ligue 1 for 12 games doesn’t mean you’re ready for the Premier League.
Still, we’re grown-ups. We can accept that some make it and some don’t. What we’re all struggling with is why Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff didn’t even try with someone that looks like a generational talent? Not good enough for Dundalk, but good enough for full games against Marseille, Lyon, and Monaco? Please.
Now, to be clear, this whole debacle to me reads like trouble being brewed in the French media. Edu isn’t stupid enough to sell a 19-year-old at a loss before he’s pulled on an Arsenal shirt. I think the loans manager will be looking to shift him on to a Premier League outfit, or maybe even a London club in the Championship. I worry his agents will try and send him back to the comfort of St Etienne, which would be a big mistake. He needs minutes here, to learn the culture, and to toughen up.
Bigger thing here is this: Where is the leadership here? How has the club let this story snowball like this? Why is Arteta allowed to bomb players like this? Why isn’t there at least the forethought to show the fans what the player is all about… like he did when he showed us in the League Cup that Runarson was so bad we’ll need to replace him in January?
This lack of consistency needs to be addressed moving forward. It does look like certain players are given different treatment and opportunities. There’s usually an age bias involved.
United racked up another 3 points courtesy of a penalty. That’s 33 in 59 games. They are running at about a penalty every other game. When do people start asking serious questions about this? Over ten years, they’ve had +35 in their favour, Arsenal have -12. I’m not making this a bias thing against Arseanal, but Bruno Fernandes has 15 United goals from penalties in under a year. Tricky players? United has twice as many penalties as Liverpool despite having 400 less touches in the box (United has the 5th most touches in the box over 1.5 seasons). More dribblers? Liverpool smash United. Every way you look at this, it stinks.
Now, I’m not saying this is brown paper bags stuff. But, it is worth further investigation. You cannot have a team that wins that many penalties without questioning what’s going on. Pogba won one against Villa for tripping himself up, VAR missed it. Someone from the ref association needs to be flagging this with the refs so we can bring the game back into line.
If players keep diving, refs pay attention. If rotational fouls becomes a problem, they pivot. United winning obscene amount of penalties consistently over two seasons is unacceptable. It starts to look like the leagues biggest money-spinning club is being given an extra push.
There were several Asian plane crashes in the 80s and 90s that appeared to occur through no mechanical fault. They eventually concluded that the cockpit culture of Koreans led to fatal errors (same in South America). Due to the hierarchical nature of the cultures, and the taboo of challenging authority, colleagues would let errors slide even if death was assured.
Are we seeing a hangover from the Ferguson era? Do refs look at United differently because they were so dominant? Is there a North West sway of referees that leads to bias? Do we need refs to have training to make them look at United objectively?
Whatever the problem, you cannot deny the data. It’s compelling and in any other organisation, there would be an investigation if officiating were consistently that in favour of another team without clear reasoning for it.
WEST BROM today.
Mikel Arteta needs this win badly. The game is huge. I expect a dirty reaction from Allardyce after his side shipped 5 goals against Leeds. This afternoon will be 10 across the back, the deepest of deep blocks, with nasty bully-boy tactics. This will be a cup final for their manager, they will be fired up, and we have to be ready to fight.
Arsenal has played a lot of matches in a short space of time. There might need to be rotation today. I’m half expecting to see Willian given another run out after his ‘sickness.’ His game in tight spaces might be useful. There certainly won’t be much need for last man runners. I would like to see Gabriel, Saka, and ESR given minutes with Lacazette again if I’m honest. It’s 7 days until our cup game with Newcastle, where they might end up resting players because survival is the most important thing to their season.
One performance I’m watching out for tomorrow is Pablo Mari. He’s been fairly decent in his last two games for us. Both technical games with the ball on the floor. How he deals with long diagonal balls into the box will be a huge test of his mettle.
I’m also interested in how the midfield is going to shape up. If he refuses to give AMN minutes in this game, you have to wonder if they’re ever going to come? I’d rather not see Mo and Xhaka in the midfield again. Having a midfielder that can offer quick passing and a runner into the box could be helpful, but we’ll see.
Currently, there are 9 points between 14th and 3rd. Managers go from HE’S WINNING THE LEAGUE to WHAT A FRAUD within the space of 3 wins or losses. If we win today, we position ourselves nicely for the second half of the season where the games are kinder to us, and hopefully, we have a couple of signings to bolster where we’ve lacked. I’m not placing bets for top 4, but with the pressure off, I am hoping the younger players can show they have more than the seniors that let us down.
Let’s see what we have today. It’s a banana skin and a half. Arteta needs to have pure focus and he simply must bring home three points.
Enjoy. Listen to the podcast if you haven’t already.