Tag Archives: Thomas Vermaelen

Stoke City Vs Arsenal: The Final Countdown

So, having dropped five of the last six league points it’s fair to say that the margin for error has all but disappeared for us in today’s match against Stoke. As always a trip to play this lot away is anticipated about as eagerly as a vasectomy due partly to the fact that it will be a hard game and partly because Stoke are complete and utter twats.

We’re looking at arguably the most pivotal of the three remaining rounds of fixtures for us in the league this weekend. On paper, this would appear to be our toughest remaining game and failing to win would take finishing third out of our hands as Newcastle would have the opportunity to overtake us, Tottenham would have the chance to match our points tally and even Chelsea could potentially close to within a single point (though I don’t think all three things could happen because I’m reasonably sure Newcastle are playing Chelsea soon). Since beating Stoke is so thoroughly enjoyable, I’d suggest winning today’s match to make sure that doesn’t happen.

We’ve looked a little out of steam in the last couple of games which I suppose is natural when you have a squad of 25 players for a season and the manager can’t rely on a significant number of them with the result that roughly the same 15 players have featured in every match. It’s very possible that legs are heavy and minds are tired but the team needs to find the way to one last push to get the necessary points to make sure we end up in third place.

And really, it has to be third now. After Chelsea’s qualification for the Champions League final, finishing fourth would simply be too great a risk as Chelsea lifting the Champions League, in addition to being nauseatingly horrifying would also take our place in the competition away for next season and I fancy that prospect about as much as Ann Widdecombe. So third is officially the new fourth. We might view it as a just reward for our efforts this season, but the fact is the fight isn’t over yet and we can’t imagine for a second that it is.

Arsene Wenger says we’ll be ready for what Stoke throw (literally) at us today. At the end of the day, one thing Stoke are not is subtle, we know what to expect from them and in fairness it’s something this Arsenal team has learned to deal with over the years. The manager says,

“I believe that Stoke is always a difficult opponent for us and everybody. Every big team who goes to Stoke knows they get a game. 

“From our side we are in a position where we want to win our remaining games. That is the only chance to master our future. We have our future in our own hands but only if we win the three games. 

“That starts with Stoke so we are completely focused on cancelling their strong points but as well we want to score goals because that is what you need to win the games.

“They have played many games as well. They played in the Europa League and in the FA Cup so they have played many games this season. So that will not be an excuse from our side.”

This time of season always throws up a few odd results because fatigue and weariness sets in but as the manager says, it’s not just a long season for us but for our opponents as well. We’re not the only ones who have to shrug off past exertions to perform today, Stoke have had a tough season themselves, probably one they don’t reflect on too fondly when it comes to their league campaign which does appear to have suffered for their involvement in European football.

Thomas Vermaelen says the team is ready for the “battle” at Stoke today. Quite rightly he points out that if our players aren’t put off and play in the way that they like to then we’ll cause them a few problems as well. The Verminator says,

“If there is a battle, sometimes you have to fight back. But the main thing is to play our own game, with quick passing. That is the way to score. 

“Of course we must fight for every ball but the main thing is to keep to our own game and score a lot of goals.”

A lot of goals. I like that. If anything’s going to give us a chance of winning today it’s scoring a lot of goals. Big goals, little goals, thin ones, fat ones, give me goals of all shapes and sizes. Knocking loads in will beat Stoke, I dare you to challenge Vermaelen’s logic.

So, it’s one of those games today where the importance is clear but the match doesn’t bear too much more analysing. We know what they’re about, we know what we’re about. Let’s get on with it, and let’s do them. I hope.

Ok, that’s all for today. Take it easy and I’m back soon.

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A Productive Monday

Morning all, just a quick one from me before I go out the door for work this morning. The nature of the Easter schedule means there’s a round of games being played in midweek with half the games taking place yesterday and the rest, including ours taking place tomorrow and tonight. 

It’s already been a productive set of games for us with Spurs hilariously going down to a 2-1 defeat at home to Norwich and Chelsea also dropping points to a late Fulham equaliser. It means that tomorrow’s game at Wolves represents an opportunity that is unlikely to be duplicated between now and the end of the season. Should we win we’re five points clear in third, and seven clear of Chelsea.

The continued form of Newcastle United means there’s no way to suggest they’re not part of the equation as well. Another fine win for them means they sit on level points with Spurs and whilst conventional wisdom still seems to say they don’t have a chance the fact is that they’re in form. Spurs and Chelsea are not. I don’t think I could find the words for the hilarity if Newcastle were to steal that last Champions League qualification place away from those two. Their manager might be a first class wanker, and their fans filled with the most ridiculous sense of entitlement in the league outside of Anfield but I’d happily see Newcastle enjoy that sort of success if it dumped Spurs and Chelsea on their arse.

Anyway, better to worry about ourselves. Tomorrow’s game looks like a nailed on three points but then so did QPR to an extent, and we know how that ended up. Tomorrow lessons need to have been learned and Wolves need to be put to the sword. They might be in a mess but they’re also desperate and desperation can have a funny effect in football. Since they came up, Wolves have never been particularly easy opponents for us. Granted they’ve never been in this sort of state in that time, but the team has to remember that this is going to be anything but easy.

A professional job is needed. Thomas Vermaelen speaks of the improved ability of the team to organise themselves and function as a unit and that certainly has played a part in the team’s ascent of the league table. The restoration of something approaching a settled back four has made a huge difference to us, and the team are taking responsibility for each other all over the pitch, helping us keep our shape and not to be so vulnerable to a quick break.

Arsene Wenger says that he doesn’t want the season to end. Though I see where he’s coming from I have to say this looks like a great point for it to end, we’re on form, our rivals aren’t, we’ve got the best league position we’re likely to get and for the first time in years we (fingers crossed) seem to be finishing a league campaign strongly. It’s a strong platform to build from for next season IF we can achieve it. IF we can manage to finish the season like we’re playing at the moment, we won’t have to go into a summer talking about rebuilding, or ensuring that we don’t capitulate next season like we have this time around for the first time in who knows how long.

Not wanting the season to end is understandable from the manager’s point of view, but still, we’ve got some distance still to go before it actually does end. Six really important games lie ahead. If we can win the next three you have to be very confident that we’ll finish third, and I note that that huge game against Chelsea takes place in the middle of their two legs against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final. I think that tie could prove a very costly distraction for them.

Anyway, sorry to be brief this morning, but the rigours of employment dictate that I must be away. Take it easy and have a good one.

Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City: Boom

This season, with all its ups and downs has seen some truly special Arsenal performances. The effort to overhaul Spurs from two goals behind, the madness of the 5-3 win at Chelsea, the bittersweet 3-0 win over Milan in the second leg all spring to mind, but yesterday’s win over Manchester City was a strong contender for our best of the season.

The question others were asking before kick off was how Manchester City would respond to the pressure of Manchester United opening up an eight point lead at the top of the table. For me the question was were we going to allow defeat to QPR the week before to drain all the confidence that has built over the last several weeks, or would it prove a timely kick up the arse, reminding us that games are not won just by turning up.

It proved very much the latter, and for City’s part their ability to respond to the sort of pressure they were under can be sorely questioned. Although City had spells where they were able to relieve the pressure somewhat, they never had a period of control or sustained threat, whereas we dominated from the first whistle.

It seemed to me that this was a game everybody was right up for, not just the players but the crowd too. After the match Wojciech Szczesny reserved special praise for the fans, comparing the atmosphere to the recent win over Spurs as well as last year’s win over Barcelona. I’ve never seen anything more ridiculous in football than Manchester City’s “Poznan” celebration and I was delighted to see our fans take the opportunity to take the piss out of it after Arteta’s winner.

Our domination in the early stages didn’t avail us many chances, although there was the horrifying incident which saw Thomas Vermaelen accidently clear a Robin Van Persie header off of the City line. Arseblog has a fantastic picture of that incident this morning that captures the Belgian’s reaction perfectly – have a look. I realise that had we not got the three points we might not be able to laugh so readily at it, but as it is I think we can afford the chuckle.

What was not to be laughed at however, was Mario Balotelli’s “challenge” on Alex Song in the first half in which he went in studs up on Song, high on the knee, and I think quite deliberately too. Balotelli acted the petulant child all afternoon and his antics ceased to have any entertainment value whatsoever after his assault on Song. How he got away with it I don’t know. It was a challenge just as bad as Taylor on Eduardo or Shawcross on Ramsey, Song was very, very lucky his leg was not planted more firmly on the turf otherwise that’s the sort of injury he would have suffered. In one way it was worse than those challenges because Taylor and Shawcross might be careless, lumbering morons who don’t particularly worry about the consequences of their actions, but they didn’t deliberately throw a leg-breaking challenge at an opponent as Balotelli did yesterday. He receives a ban for his eventual, inevitable red card but could still face retrospective punishment for the Song challenge and rightly so. From what Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has been reported to have said after the match, it may be a moot point anyway as he seems to have finally lost all patience with Balotelli and I’d be surprised to see him play for City again.

So to the second half, and more and more Arsenal pressure. Van Persie hit the post after Song put one of those excellent balls over the top right on the Dutchman’s head and there was a truly inexplicable miss when a rebound from (I think) a Theo Walcott shot came to Thomas Vermaelen who slipped on the soaking wet pitch, skewing his finish to the otherwise excellent and ever-reliable Yossi Benayon who somehow contrived to send the ball wide of the post from inside the six yard box.

With pressure on City growing, but time running out changes were made. Ramsey came on for Benayoun, Chamberlain for Walcott, but it was a trusty source who finally gave us the goal. Mikel Arteta took matters into his own hands, winning possession and advancing through the City half with one thing in mind. He unleashed a spectacular drive from distance that left Joe Hart no chance, it smashed into the net and the roof came off the place.

There was still time for Balotelli’s richly deserved sending off, some seventy-odd minutes after it should have happened, and a City free kick which turned into an Arsenal break from which Aaron Ramsey gave us one of the most glaring misses of the season (though I’m not sure that Benayoun’s wasn’t worse) but that was that. 1-0 to the Arsenal, a fantastic and crucial result for the club that puts us very much in the driving seat for Champions League qualification. 

Arsene Wenger was delighted with what he’d seen after the game, saying,

I always felt the goal would come but it was very tight and in the end you feel it is important not to lose. But we kept going and at home recently we have produced some outstanding performances against any team. I am very happy that we got the win and the team continues to grow in quality.

It would have been a huge disappointment not to win yesterday having played so well. The team thoroughly deserve their place in the table and we’ve still got a great chance of finishing in the automatic Champions League places. The battle continues today with Chelsea and Spurs in action for Bank Holiday football, and we play again against Wolves on Wednesday.

For now, that’s all. Have a good one and I’m back soon.

Arsenal Vs Aston Villa: No Room For Error

So, no long wait for our next game then, its straight into our first defence of the automatic Champions League qualification place as we face Aston Villa at home. Previously this season we’ve had a flair for the dramatic against Villa, beating them as we have with a late goal at Villa Park and from two goals down at home in the FA Cup. I have to say I’d take something more mundane today, anything which keeps us where we are in the table with three extra points to our name will do just fine.

Aside from our game there’s a vital part of the equation that’s not to be missed in the early kick off as our two Champions League qualification rivals, Spurs and Chelsea face one another at Stamford Bridge. The pressure is bearing down on both sides, Chelsea now some five points off the top four and Spurs really on the slide. Normally when your rivals play each other like this you tend to think a draw would be the most favourable result as that means both sides drop points and don’t get me wrong, that would be good for us but I actually think that provided we can get a result against Villa, a Chelsea win would actually be more beneficial to us.

Chelsea after all are six points behind us, if we win today then they would still be six points behind us (again, provided we beat Villa). Spurs are currently within a single point of us, if they lose today and we win it opens up a four point advantage for us in the automatic Champions League spot. Not only that but overall its better for us if Chelsea are the other team that finishes in the Champions League places rather than Spurs as it removes any chance of Chelsea undoing our hard work if we finish 4th by winning the Champions League (unlikely in the extreme with the likelihood of them facing Barcelona in the semis, but there it is) and of course if after everything Spurs end up playing Europa League football next season it would be absolutely hilarious.

But anyway, the job in hand is what matters and that’s the match against Villa today. No new injury concerns are arising from the victory over Everton in midweek so it could well be an unchanged side, complete with the unexpected deployment of Aaron Ramsey in the forward three. I suppose that decision has much to do with the recent good form of Tomas Rosicky which has compelled the manager to leave Ramsey out of the starting eleven. It worked well against fairly similar opponents on Wednesday, perhaps it might prove something that we’ll stick with as Arsene Wenger continues to take things slowly regarding the introduction of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to regular first team action.

As I mentioned before, our encounters with Villa this season have been anything but smooth rides. I think we largely made things more difficult for ourselves than they have needed to be in those games. The concession of an equaliser at Villa Park which necessitate our late winner was thoroughly avoidable whilst we just weren’t at it in the first half of the FA Cup game and that enabled Villa to get themselves into a two goal lead. When the team did finally get its act together, we overhauled the deficit in double quick time.

This time around we’ve been in rich form going into the game (although we’ve still been making things difficult for ourselves in some matches), and Robin Van Persie believes that momentum is now with us. The captain says,

“In the battle for third place the momentum is ours now, we are winning games and the other teams are dropping points,”

“They have tough fixtures coming up too because Chelsea meet Spurs this Saturday. From our point of view, for those two to play each other at this moment is fantastic because we know one of them – or even both of them – will definitely drop points.

“So we have to win against Villa to take advantage of that. If we have to win ugly, then let’s do that. It’s part of our job too. We have shown great character in the last few weeks, so why not do it every week now?”

Robin spoke of ‘winning ugly’ before the Everton game as well and you know what he means – its the result that matters at the end of the day and there’s still very little room for error despite the progress we’ve made. If we have to win with a goal deflected off the arse of an unfortunate Villa defender then so be it. By hook or by crook, we have must have the three points tonight.

If you read Arseblog during the week you’ll know he gave a glowing review to the performance of our back four at Everton, their function as a unit and their determination to keep a clean sheet, aided by some robust protection from midfield. This current combination of defenders has yet to lose in the league and seem to be forging a crucial understanding that could help us build a solid foundation to progress from.

Theo Walcott has paid tribute to the leader of that defence, Thomas Vermaelen, a man who has been simply indispensable as always this season and in the last two league games has provided the winning goals. Walcott said,

“[They were] brilliant – really important goals as well,

“The Newcastle win was massive and he showed that desire to get from defence to attack and latch onto things. He’s an absolute soldier, someone you’d always want in front of you, a real leader who just wants to win.

“To see him banging in another big goal at Everton was great. I’m happy for him – he had his injury problems last season but he’s one of the best defenders in the world without a doubt.”

I think next to Vidic and Kompany, there’s a good case for considering Vermaelen one of the best centre-halves in the league at the moment. His goalscoring has been a bonus but to me it’s how much stronger our defence looks when he’s in it that matters. His qualities have contributed massively to our improvement in defence and I would say its just as vital for us that he doesn’t pick up an injury before the end of the season as it is for Robin Van Persie.

That’s going to round things off for today. Enjoy the game whatever you’re doing and I’ll return soon.

Things Not So ‘Triffic Now, ‘Arry?

For those of you who read yesterdays blog or were up to date on twitter, it will come as no surprise to hear that yesterday was one of the most astonishingly potent hangovers of my entire life. Having somewhat recovered and returned to the land of the living to some extent, I will endeavour to deliver a blog this morning that consists of something other than the utmost profanity.

Yesterday’s football yielded mixed results. These days we find ourselves preoccupied with the results of our two local rivals, Spurs and Chelsea. The news was mixed as the Bob Matthews-led Chelsea side scraped their way to a 1-0 win over Stoke, however on the other hand Spurs went down to their third successive league defeat, beaten as they were 1-0 by Everton, giving rise to a hilariously surly post-match interview by ‘Arry.

The effect of all this on the Champions League qualification is that Chelsea have moved onto the same points tally as us, although we remain ahead on goal difference and hold a game in hand, and Spurs remain only four points ahead and again we hold a game in hand. It was always going to be vital for us to defeat Newcastle tomorrow night, but the situation positively demands it now. A win would restore a three point advantage over Chelsea and would reduce the deficit with Spurs, which stood at over ten points at one stage, to a single point. Pressure, you would have thought, that their hob-nob constitution would be unable to withstand.

Having now managed three very creditable results in a row whilst Spurs have been floundering, we have every reason to feel confident ahead of tomorrow night’s match. Arsenal defender and former star of The Tudors, Thomas Vermaelen, says he’s not worried about whether or not we can finish in the top four. King Henry VIII said,

We had some good results against Tottenham and Liverpool and if we can play the way we did against AC Milan then I am not worried if we will be top four or not, if we play that way then we can beat any team. The thing is you have to be consistent and that is not easy in football.

This season consistency has been an issue for us, although we have put together runs of good form they have perhaps been interrupted too easily and now that we’re really coming down to the serious stuff in the league that’s a problem that cannot be allowed to repeat itself. Things have been looking up for us since Bacary Sagna drove home his header to reduce the arrears in the derby against Spurs. In the remainder of that game, and in the match against Milan we showed the way this Arsenal team should play. Plenty of pace and pressure on the ball, simple but effective passing, and of course incisive striking. Against Liverpool we were a little more fortunate, but we showed a capacity to defend and to hang in there when we were up against it. These are the characteristics that we will need in the weeks to come. We still face massive games at home to Chelsea and Manchester City before the end of the season, games in which we simply cannot afford to be at anything other than our best. Consistency, as Vermaelen says, is very much the key.

One player whom fans will be (rightly or wrongly) expecting an impact from in this crucial stage of the season isAlex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The young man has had a very successful first season at Arsenal so far, quickly rising to become something of a fan favourite. England seem to have him earmarked to go to Euro 2012 and he has excelled in every role he has been asked to perform. He’s had one or two quiet games as well though, which is only to be expected of a teenager at this level, and Arsene Wenger has spoken of the need to be responsible in bringing him through the ranks. The manager says,

“His feet are on the ground but we have to manage him in a responsible way as well, the problem when you have a talented player like that is that everybody wants him to play every single game. If you do that then he will be injured.

“I don’t think he is ready yet to play in a [central midfield] position in a consistent way. I am a great admirer but it is difficult to slow the enthusiasm down on the expectation level.

“Honestly, he is 18 years old. Look anywhere in Europe and there are some talented 18-year-olds who play in the Champions League. He is already ahead because we give him a chance.”

And of course, to see the manager’s point about playing him in every game you need only look at Jack Wilshere who played an incredible number of games for us last season and is yet to appear this season due to the injury that resulted from that. Nonetheless it’s hard to keep the expectations of the Ox down when he has such obvious potential. The fact is he came into the side and was immediately a better option than the lethargic Arshavin, a player with more than a decade more experience than him. He’s been creative and dangerous and, in the final analysis badly needed.

It’s a tough one for the manager because he’s always been cautious, and rightly in most cases, in brining through youngsters not necessarily into the team but certainly into regular action. What has happened with Wilshere must surely be ringing in his head as a warning as well, but on the other hand we have a talented player here that we’re finding it harder and harder to do without. Next season then, it may well be the Year of the Ox. (Sorry)

Arsene Wenger has some interesting things to say about the elimination of three of the four English teams from the Champions League at a relatively early stage this season (with Chelsea also facing an uphill task to go through this week). A few years ago when it was United, Chelsea, ourselves and Liverpool that formed what seemed an unbreakable top four (how quickly that idea disappeared, eh?), English clubs were dominant in Europe, twice I believe, three of the four semi-finalists were English. Now our clubs are finding it more difficult and on the face of it, it’s not all that easy to see why. Certainly the two Spanish teams are great sides, but neither of them eliminated us, or United or City. On the matter, Arsene says of this years exits,

“If you look at the results of Man City and Man United at home this season, you would think that they were the two teams who would manage to go through easily. It is difficult,”

“For any English team it is difficult [if you finish fourth]. Where before it was just a formality to qualify, now it is not. With Udinese we had two hard games, they are a top team in Serie A.”

“We played on Sunday against Tottenham and it was a massive game for us. Then all of the players go away and they play on Wednesday night in their countries,”

“Then they come back on the Friday and you go to Liverpool on Saturday morning. Then on Tuesday night you play a decisive game in Europe. To survive with that is very difficult.

“Maybe because in England every championship game is a complete commitment, we suffer a bit more in the decisive Champions League games.” 

I’m not sure the fixture congestion argument is all that compelling since other European teams cope with that as well. Maybe there is something to the suggestion that English teams face more intense competition at home. Certainly the two Spanish teams routinely face fixtures that are just not as demanding of top quality sides as the ones we contend with. However, other European teams play in competitive league. Indeed it is Italian teams that have knocked out two of England’s representatives and it seems possible that Napoli will also claim Chelsea as well. Perhaps there is a general improvement in the standard of some leagues, and perhaps English teams have now been so high profile for such a long time that European teams are finding answers to playing against us that they hadn’t before.

Whatever the reason, I don’t think any English team is going to look back on this season in Europe with any real affection, there’s some taking stock to do and some planning to do. Next year we’ll have to be ready for the fact that not we (as an association, not just Arsenal) are just not as dominant as we have been in the past. Perhaps a bit of complacency has been in the equation for us as well in Europe because our teams are so used to success and lengthy cup runs.

Anyway, I’m going to leave the pondering there as I have work to do ahead of the arrival of the Leperette later this morning. Have a nice Sunday and I’ll be back soon.

Unpacking

Well, hello and welcome to the new home of Leper’s Messiahs.  It’s been nearly a week since the shift from the old digs over at OleOle and whilst a week of relaxing in the temporarily exclusive residence on Online Arsenal has been all well and good, the time has clearly come to myself into gear and sort out the new gaff.

Much like when you move house, it’s still a bit of stuff everywhere waiting to be sorted out.  Cutlery needs to be found in whatever crate its lurking in at the back of the van and for the next week or so we may be eating our dinner off of an upturned cardboard box instead of a table but nonetheless, here we are and very nice it is too.  Well so much as I can say that having written all of 140 or so words so far (although, WordPress has a little gadget that tells me this, which I think I’m going to enjoy).

As I was saying yesterday over on OA, apart from the technical issues that OleOle occasionally presented, the time has simply come for something a bit different on the blog and hopefully this will be the place to make it happen.  Of course I suppose there is every chance you’re reading this on OA, in which case at the risk of being a bit spammy, come check it out.

So with this being my inaugural appearance in the new gaff, I thought I’d hold off until this afternoon partly so I could tinker around with settings and such (before coming up with the shockingly original red and white scheme and the same picture I used for a header on OleOle!) but also because Arsene Wenger’s press conference was due to take place earlier ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Liverpool tomorrow, and therefore there was likely to be some news worthy of discussion.

I suppose if we’re starting anywhere it may as well be with Arsene’s comments regarding the departure of Andrei Arshavin’s move to Zenit St Petersburg on loan.  A week or so on from the strangest piece of transfer business most of us can remember the club doing and I still can’t really make sense of it.  I mean, I know his form and his attitude have been poor, but I struggle with the logic of letting him go at absolutely no benefit to ourselves whatsoever.  I know Zenit have paid a decent upfront fee for what is essentially a short term loan and that this should pave the way for a badly needed permanent transfer but that being so, why could this not have been arranged in January when Arsenal might have used the freed up squad space and wages to bring in some kind of replacement or other reinforcement.  Well, the manager explains it thus according to Arseblog News:

“I just felt he needed to play. When you are 30 and you do not play regularly, you drop your form and when you come on every time you have to produce something special.

“At that age it is very difficult. I felt he just needed a bit of confidence to play again.”

The manager hasn’t said anything that’s not true I suppose, the games he gets for Zenit should help him sort out his form a bit but that’s not really going to do us any good because we’re almost certainly going to sell him in the summer.  In the meantime we’ve let a player go that despite all his flaws very occasionally wins us a point or two as he did at Sunderland less than a month ago.  It just seems very odd to me.  On the positive side, other players now have a chance to step in and make a difference in his place such as Gervinho, Benayoun or indeed the darling of the fans (which isn’t meant as a criticism) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Elsewhere in the squad and the news is a bit clouded on the injury situation ahead of tomorrow’s rather important game against Liverpool.  Arseblog News reports that despite the positive outlook given by Arsenal’s official website the manager has concerns over the fitness of Robin Van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen and Tomas Rosicky, although there is some sort of blue moon in the sky as Abou Diaby is fit to play.  Nonetheless those three names are a problem.  Rosicky, according to the manager will probably make it but in losing Vermaelen and Van Persie (potentially) our side suffers badly in terms of quality that we need on the pitch.  It’s a tremendous frustration that both of those players were known to have knocks in the build up to international friendlies this week and both were risked by their countries.

Now, international friendlies are ridiculous (something the manager has talked about today in his conference) and countries often unnecessarily risk big players in them but I find it strange now with Euro 2012 more or less around the corner that they are still at it.  If you aggravate a player’s injury now it’s conceivably that you risk their availability in June for the tournament.  It seems to be asking too much to ask international teams to keep the interests of the clubs that pay these players wages in mind, but I would have thought they could be relied on to look after their own interests.  What help is it to Holland in Van Persie misses games and has his form interrupted just before such a big tournament?  Admittedly I didn’t notice if Belgium qualified or not for Euro 2012 but they certainly knew Vermaelen was less than 100% fit this week, why take the chance?

Arsene also spoke about a subject that in my opinion receives far too little attention but has been in the news just lately due to the difficulties of Portsmouth and Rangers, and that is of course the financial health of the game.  Speaking of the need for just a bit of common sense, Arsene said,

“There is a big, big urgent call in our job for good management and big control of the quality of the management,”

“Football cannot be immune because the whole of society suffers. Those who could get sometimes comprehensive attitudes from the banks before will not get them anymore. 

“I believe that it’s sad to see a club like Rangers being in the situation they are in today. A club of that size, of that support, to be basically in danger of disappearing, it is amazing.”

And it is amazing that such a situation could happen, and it’s a symptom of larger problems in the game.  I remember years ago, before the world’s economy took a sharp nosedive people used to say that the financial situation in football was not sustainable and that the bubble would burst one day.  And the thing is I don’t think that it’s a hypothetical possibility, I think that the bubble has indeed burst.  But still, reckless spending continues and short-sightedness from poor management (and I’m not just talking club managers) as well as irresponsible lending to clubs has put some teams on the brink of extinction.  Big clubs in tens and hundreds of millions in debt,  other clubs unsure as to whether they’ll be able to finish their season, and still the appetite for spending money that nobody has is insatiable.

Whatever else you can say about Arsenal, our club is one of the few that has been responsible, one of the few that is unlikely to see a situation like the Rangers one as long as we keep going as we are.  But what use is it to us if everyone else is falling apart?  It’s everyone’s job – every club, every league, and indeed every association to work to get clubs on a footing where these situations don’t have to be a fact of life, where clubs are not in danger of extinction.  I suppose it would help if the world governing body of football itself wasn’t a corrupt and financially reckless institution but there you go.

Anyway, tomorrow there’s quite a big game on, we face Liverpool at Anfield with it all to play for in terms of our ongoing mission to finish in the top four.  There’ll be a closer look at that game tomorrow.  In the meantime though, take it easy and I’ll return soon.