By Tony Attwood
Last week he slaughtered the odd bods gathered in the studio to pick the meat out of Burnley v Arsenal, he turned Coquelin into the Police Officer, and showed just what those funny digital screens they have are actually there for. With a breathtaking analysis of how Arsenal controlled the game he left the regular Sky man J. Redknapp standing there trying to say random words in French, and getting it wrong.
And so what is his reward for this masterpiece in modern television?
He’s told he can’t watch his beloved Arsenal in the cup semi-final. By deliberately pushing the Chelsea v Man U game into the same TV slot as Arsenal v Reading, Thierry is stuck in the studio with aforementioned non-linguist Jamie Redknapp watching the ref chasers v Cornwall United. He might be allowed an earpiece to hear what is really going on, but mostly he’s got to talk about two clubs that in his playing career he worked so hard and successfully to demolish (not that Chelsea needed much demolishing in those days).
Indeed the issue of football on TV is becoming bigger than football, and some of the newspapers have actually given us a run down of what we can expect from TV for the match. Not from the match, you understand, but from TV.
Here’s the Independent’s take:
Steve Wilson and former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy have been lined up to take on the Arsenal match. At least that means those watching the BBC have been saved from having to listen to Phil Neville drone on, but then he might be in the studio shooting the breeze with Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker.
The Independent, now following the Telegraph lead of not telling us who wrote the article, seems to have gone a bit off the rails of late, announcing that, “the Berkshire side have only beaten Arsenal once in their history” which is factually incorrect. I wonder which match they have taken from the games between the two non-wartime games we found where Reading won.
Their throwaway line on interest in the game (Although Wenger doing something crazy should never be discounted) is a bit disingenuous too. (It makes me think some of my slip ups on Untold are not that bad after all – I mean we are just amateurs doing this for fun. The newspaper men are actually paid for writing their codswallop.
Elsewhere Mesut Özil has done an interview with Sport magazine, saying he was “exhausted at the start of the season,” because of ten solid years playing professionally, and the world cup in the summer.
“The injury worked in my favour in a way, as it gave me time to recover, to assess and to work on what was required to compete in this league. The football here is far more physical, it is played at a faster tempo and you have to adapt to the sheer number of games. I have had to work a lot harder and adjust my game accordingly.
“I used my time out with injury to work on my strength. I’m continuing to do extra sessions after training now.”
JJ Bull in The Telegraph actually did an analysis of Mesut’s stats and agreed that he covers the most distance, is still functioning at the highest level til the last moments of the game, and has a huge influence on every game. It concluded In La Liga Özil was treasured. Former Real Madrid team-mates Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, and Isco were all surprised and upset that he left.
They then published a tweet from one of the Fundamentalists in the aaa, Ian Stone, saying, “As for Ozil, he’s turning into Arshavin Mark 2. Played out of position and sulking.”
The Guardian today has focussed on Arsenal’s goalkeepers and the choice between the two, concluding (naturally without any supportive evidence at all) that Arsenal will buy a new keeper in the summer.
On the issue of choice between the two main men they have, the paper quotes Mr Wenger as saying, “If you have a disastrous game, you don’t play in the next one. But once you have the rule, based on the fact that Wojciech had a good game against Manchester United, there is no special reason to drop him for Saturday.
“The situation can change again on the performances of Ospina and the performances of Wojciech. We are in a competitive world and you have to accept that nothing is definite.”
(Why does he call Ospina by his surname, and Sczhczchzchhazch by his first name?)
On injuries there is not much new news except that Mikel Arteta has had minor setback – which is not at all surprising given the time he has spent out, and the fact it was an ankle injury that got him.
On Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the news is that he is still plagued by inflammation of the groin. Speaking of this Mr Wenger said, that his return before the end of the season is “in the balance,” but “Arteta should be back in full training next week.”
Reading’s manager, Steve Clarke, has been quite reasoned in his comments saying, “I know that if we play the perfect game, then we have a chance to go through,” and when pushed admitted openly and honestly that they had never actually done that.
“If you make mistakes in possession and give the ball away to Arsenal they will punish you. If you make silly mistakes in and around your own box they have got players that will capitalise on those chances. Maybe in the Championship you can make two or three mistakes in a game and the opposition are not quite good enough to take those chances. But you know if you make them against a top team they will take them – and we have to be aware of that.
“I’d love to have 60% possession but you have to be realistic. Arsenal are going to have more of the ball than us, so we have to have a good defensive shape. Press at the right time and win the ball back, and when we win it back we have to show that we can be a threat, because if we don’t show we can be a threat, then for them it is a free afternoon. There is no threat and they can attack and attack and attack.”
The team news for Reading is that loanees Nathan Aké and Kwesi Appiah are Cup-tied. Pavel Pogrebnyak is likely to start as a lone striker, while Jordan Obita will play at left-back.
Jem Karacan who has been injured for much of the past 18 months started against Blackburn and Bournemouth in the past week so should play.
Some anniversaries to keep you amused while waiting for the game…
17 April 1888: The Football League was created at the second meeting of 12 interested clubs in Manchester. The plan was that the club with the most wins would win the league, but this was changed part way through the season.
17 April 2008: Ian Wright resigned from Match of the Day saying he was fed up with being used as a “comedy jester”.