By Tony Attwood
Last night was a pretty horrible occasion with injuries some very nasty tackles, and the infinitely more important issues like the Premier League and the possibility of a 3rd consecutive FA Cup on everyone’s mind.
Clubs are not allowed to opt out of the League Cup, and the option of putting out a total youth team against a team like Sheffield W is not a viable option, since they don’t have the training to deal with that type of aggressive playing and tackling (as opposed to high speed skill), which you see in the lower leagues.
And let us not be churlish – as Mr Wenger said, the level of skill and ability that we see in parts of the Premier League is drifting down into the championship sides. The quality is higher than ten years ago.
Certainly once the Wednesday player was only given a yellow for what even the Sky commentator said was most certainly a thoroughly dangerous sending off offence, the Arsenal players knew the season-ending dangers they were in if they chased too hard. So they really didn’t want to make much of it. It was quite a reasonable decision.
But that meant, assuming that Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo are seriously injured, we once again lost senior players on a meaningless competition. From having an injury list that we could cope with, this is now looking more and more serious.
Sky’s coverage was fairly awful too. As the Arsenal away fans kept up a terrific long term chant of “We love you Arsenal” (the shortage of away tickets meaning there is no chance of the aaa infiltrating the crowd) the camera managed to find one miserable looking old guy and then cue the commentary on the silencing of the Arsenal fans. No comment then about how much more it once again cost the fans who went, compared with the £10 entry fee it would have cost had it played at the Emirates. No comment on the wonderful support.
But then if the story doesn’t fit the agenda, it doesn’t get mentioned.
Certainly we can’t these days put out a kids team like we used to, because they won’t have the balance to deal with this sort of treatment, but the hybrid teams we put out don’t seem to work very well either. Of course we needed to put out a solid team against Tottenham, because it was against Tottenham, but just think how much better this week would have been without any midweek game to play.
Four games in ten days is crazy – there must be a way of reducing this. Could we just refuse to play, and take the fine? That might be cheaper in terms of the cost of losing players.
However none of this affects our position in the League, and as Tottenham once famously said one autumn when they were trying to sell the club, “We are still in the FA Cup.” And you never know what might happen in the Champs League.
Chelsea played extra time, and I suppose that for them the best they could hope for is a run in one of the cups. They lost on penalties. Everton also played extra time although of course they don’t have the European games to play as Chelsea and Arsenal do.
But somehow, one way or another, we need to work out a way to exit the league cup quickly without suffering serious injuries en route. Trouble is I don’t quite know how we can do it.
A very gracious interview from Arsene Wenger afterwards, and saying that he did the right thing to leave the six players at home. But as he said, we are now short of players. “It is a big blow for us… to lose players of that stature.”
But he also said that none of the youngsters were ready to play at this level – a rare negative comment on Arsenal players from the manager. I wonder what that means for their futures… get rid of them or give them more time?
Certainly as a club we can and do give players time – just look at Coquelin and Bellerin. So I do hope that this is not a farewell for any of those players. Although Campbell had the opportunity to shine, and should have made more of it. That might have been his final chance. When Mr Wenger has had enough, that’s that.
But let’s finish on that positive. Arsenal did leave six first teamers at home, so they have had a day off and no chance of injury. (No news from Arsene on the seriousness of the injury to Theo and the Ox – let’s hope it is not too bad.)
From the archives
- 28 October 1893: Arsenal conceded 15 goals in three consecutive games losing 0-5 at home to Liverpool. It was Arsenal’s worst defeat at home equalled only in special circumstances on 14 February 1925 in the game against Huddersfield.
- 28 October 1912: Arsenal reserves lost their 100% record, two of the reserve players were suspended by the FA for playing Sunday football, and the London press retreated on their suggestion that Arsenal was moving to Harringey.