Wenger gives players fatigue pass for Atleti

by & filed under News Review.

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I’m lapping up the hottakes on whether Arsenal can win the Europa League. Ballague reckons there are some positives, mostly highlighting that they have a threadbare squad and have had some issues defensively. Dennis Wise reckons we have a good chance, I’m struggling to take him seriously.

I think the biggest worry is Wenger teeing up the press with excuses before we’ve started. His line of attack is focused on player fatigue. If we go to the final, it’ll be 61 odd games this season.

“Fatigue is a little bit of a concern,” said Wenger. “You look at [Manchester] City and they look a bit like that in the second half of games recently. I do rotate much as I can. Unfortunately, some players have to play all the games.

“It is very difficult. Not only are you physically very jaded but also you are under huge pressure each time to win the game. It is mentally maybe tougher than physically.”

I’m struggling to buy this. Arsenal had the luxury of one game a week most of the season. The League Cup wasn’t a priority until the final. The FA Cup failed at the first hurdle. The Europa League has been a second string affair until the knockouts.

Not only that. It’s also worth noting we have a £200m squad propping up this half-baked campaign. We shouldn’t be putting up excuses around fatigue. Wenger shouldn’t be giving the players a pass we know they’re more than capable of taking. The manager should be firing up our chances in the press, not trying to craft a plucky underdog narrative.

I think he knows this is going to be very, very tough. He has to hedge his bets, and hope Josh and Stan are so ignorant about this season, they take his excuses and let him have another go next season. In my humble opinion, I really think the best we’ll land out of this is maybe a one leg victory… or going out on away goals.

Still, it’s hard to gauge what this means for his future. Jeremy Wilson ran an article with a title suggesting his career is on the line, but had no substance in the body copy. It’s telling that the only two journos with skin in the game on his future are Honigstein and Laurens who both say he’s staying.

If Wenger goes out to Atleti, there is no story. There are no excuses. It has to be over.

Unreal that it likely won’t be. If you haven’t seen the Juve doco on Netflix, I implore you to do so. It’s a bit cheesy/American, but damn, it’s good. It shows the absolute gulf between Arsenal and Juve. As a club, we have no culture for winning. There is no pressure. When you watch how seriously the Italians take it, it’s inspiring. All the players talk about the immense levels of pressure placed on them to succeed. The CEO has the players in his garden in preseason and he lays down the law about expectations.

Can you imagine Ivan doing that?

The next manager can’t just be a great thinker, he has to be a change agent. Someone who can create a new culture at the club, stump out the averageness, and regear us for the next 10 years.

Allegri would be perfect. The right age, fantastic experience and a huge presence.

We can but dream…

(written in an iPhone on the red eye)

Disaster draw spells the end of the road OR an extension of hell

by & filed under News Review.

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That was the call, and the footballing gods delivered.

Look, I’m not going to lie here, I see the weaknesses in what’s going on. I see the average output. I see players wearing the red and white that shouldn’t be. But damn, I’m not going to let that get in the way of my love for the competition and SUCCESS.

We’re in a semi-final. By hook or crook, we’ve managed to surpass expectations and continue the back door dream!

I put my foot in it massively yesterday when I doubted King Wele. No sooner had I lambasted his worth, than he was bearing down on goal curling a delicious through ball from the Egyptian Zidane. It was quite the goal. Spectacular. A little insight into what he could be if he focused his talent and got on with the job of being an incredible player.

Aaron Ramsey capped off the evening when the Egyptian King of Assists released him on a long breaking run. His engine powered him past the CSKA defence, his cool finish elevated the ball over the keeper, his passion for being a Europa King took us to the semi-final in non-humiliating fashion.

Sure, we can talk about how utterly average we were for the first 70minutes, but I’d only be doubling down on a reality you’re all too familiar with. Arsene Wenger doesn’t know what he’s doing and he’s being majorly flattered by a sub-standard European competition. We have floated into the semi’s without a real test, yet made a hash of Ostersunds at home, CSKA away, and Cologne in the group stages. Winning it will of course feel glorious, but I still think the trophy would need context when they review Wenger at the end of the season.

I mean, talking about winning things is ultimately futile now we know we have Atleti over two legs.

I’ve seen crazier things happen in football, but I’m not sure a team that ships two goals against a bunch of cloggers is going to be able to deal with the intensity of Atleti. Diego Costa, Griezmann, Saul, Oblak, Koke… it’s a wet dream of a squad, managed by one of the most tactically astute coaches in the world.

We can’t match them for quality, fitness, desire or smarts… I really can’t see this working out over two games.

Still, it’ll be a spectacle. There’s no better way for Wenger to show he’s up to it. We spend more than them, we have a richer squad, so there’s no excuse. If we win, then Wenger should carry on for another year, if we lose badly, it’s curtains (should be). There will be no glorious failure, there will be no story of progress because it’ll mean the first proper team we met we were spanked.

Also, for more perspective, be honest with the season. We’re firmly rooted in 6th place, and the team has been playing 1 game a week. Champions League football with this squad and manager next year will be absolutely horrible unless we have a new coach.

We should be going all in on Allegri, arguably the best coach on the planet at the moment.

Right, I uploaded the wrong podcast yesterday, sorry about that. Get on this real one. We were a bit pissed, so I’m not sure about quality. I also did a piece on radio drunk as well.

Things I learnt that do not sober you up:

  • Pizza
  • Loud music
  • Intense docu-dramas
  • Showers
  • Phone calls with an irate girlfriend

But what is a man to do? We just made the semi!