By Tony Attwood
Arsenal have a mega injury crisis. We know that because it is in all the papers. But the Daily Mail today publishes a piece bemoaning the fate of poor Joel Campbell who, Adam Shergold writes, “produced one of his best performances in the red shirt as the Gunners won handsomely by 3-0, seizing back control of their Champions League destiny. His night was capped by a splendid reverse ball assist for the third goal, finished by Sanchez.”
Watching the game at the Ems from the luxury of my new front row seat in the East Upper I have to say that I rather agree with the fact that he was terrific (the point of the seat ref being that in the second half he was chugging away right in front of me). And we were saying during the game yes, he really has come on.
The Mail continues, “He was, by anyone’s reckoning, in the top three Arsenal performers. But Ozil and Sanchez – in whatever order – come above him.
“And I’m afraid because Campbell didn’t quite manage to conjure an x-factor – more specifically a confident-boosting goal or two – he will again be shoved aside when Arsenal emerge from their present injury crisis.”
So, not that much of an injury crisis then. We are apparently in the depths – nay, we are below the depths – of the crisis, and yet the team we put out didn’t look that bad to me and included (according to the Mail, and me, a really good forward who is growing into his role all the time.
Indeed the team we put out looked fairly decent to me as well: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Cazorla, Campbell, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud.
On the beach there was Ospina, Debuchy, Gibbs, Gabriel, Ramsey, Chambers, Reine-Adelaide.
I don’t think that was too bad a squad. Gibbs, as we know, has made some great contributions of late, not least against Tottenham, and Chambers is still developing – there are even stories around that he can play defensive midfield. But for last night Flamini did his job perfectly well.
Which leaves me wondering – what is a “crisis”? My Oxford Dictionary defines it as “A time of intense difficulty or danger.” And I am not sure if Arsenal, sitting two points off the lead in the Premier League is in a period of intense difficulty or danger. In fact we are not even top of the injury table, we are fifth, three injuries behind the leaders. So if we are in a crisis what on earth are Newcastle, Man U, Liverpool and Bournemouth in. A new word is required for them I guess, unless they are in a crisis and we are in a crisetta. Yes we have had a cock up or two this season, but so has everyone. That’s why we are within two points of the leaders.
So where is our intense difficulty? Not really against WBA in my view; we just had a grotty game, not helped by two players going off injured during the match. And the intense danger? The danger that we might not win the league, I suppose. But then Man City has that problem too, and presumably everyone below them. Thus 80% of the league is now in crisis. A bit odd that.
But of course periods of great difficulty or danger need a solution, and the solution often suggested is that we should spend more money on more players. My oft-stated view is that players won’t come to a club if they see a better player ahead of them, unless they are young and learning their trade. So Coquelin and Bellerin came to us in that situation. But neither would now go to another club unless guaranteed a starting place.
However leaving that oft-repeated point aside, how have the big money spenders of last summer done, vis a vis Arsenal?
Last summer Man City spent £124 million more than they received from player sales, and so far this year it has got them… level with Arsenal. Man U spent £33m more than received, and Chelsea spent £32m more. Actually perhaps we ought to mention Newcastle who spent £46m more than received. Honourable mentions also to West Ham and WBA both on £27m more than received from transfers.
Now I don’t see these clubs streaking ahead of us – so even if there is a crisis, which I don’t think there is given the normal definition of crisis, then the solution of spending a lot, doesn’t actually look like a very good one. At least to me. But maybe I am too simple.
Anyway, back to the Mail, who conclude of Joel (who was, you might recall, scouted by Untold’s correspondent on scouting matters, Danny Karbassiyoon – click here for his latest article) “It seems to be the story of the young man’s career. He has indisputable qualities. But here at Arsenal, there are others who are superior. Campbell will soon be back down the pecking order I’m afraid.”
Anyway, it was a jolly, if quiet time at the Ems last night. There was indeed more security – we had to reveal that there was nothing untowards in our coats before we even got near the walkways around the outside of the ground, and lots of frisking to get in the ground.
But of course when not trumpeting the crisis, the Guardian couldn’t reveal a snide comment on this.
“The unusually large expanses of empty seats – Arsenal’s official attendance of 58,978 was deceptive, calculating the number of tickets sold rather than an accurate crowd figure – indicated that many supporters had started to lose hope about this campaign.”
That is a possible explanation, but also, as Blacksheep and I felt while sitting in the Swimmer for our customary pints before the game, people were nervous. Indeed the Zagreb fans only took up a tiny fraction of their allocation. The Guardian could have said, “might have indicated” which would have been true – but no – their telepathic powers are supreme – they know what we are thinking before we do. Scarey or what?
Moving on, Arsenal Under 19s are joint top with Dinamo Zagreb in their UEFA Youth Team Group F – a reversal of the Champs League table, and a reversal of results – Zagreb under 19s beat our team 2-1.
Cue lots of pics of Thierry Henry coaching the side, and he has indeed done an excellent job so far this season for it was the first defeat after three wins and a draw.
The team was: Keto, Eyoma, Bola, Agyei-Tabi (Bennacer), O’Connor, Pleguezuelo, Hinds (Robinson), Iwobi, Malen, Nelson (Mavididi), Willock
Zagreb went two up, Mavididi pulled one back in the 78th and Ismael Bennacer and Chris Willcock went close for an equaliser. Here’s the table, and no I have not printed the names in the wrong order. Bayern’s under 19s are cannon fodder.
|GNK Dinamo Zagreb||5||3||1||1||9||7||2||10|
|FC Bayern München||5||0||1||4||2||7||-5||1|
The group winners progress to home ties in the round of 16 on 22/23 February. The eight runners-up will be drawn away to the eight Domestic Champions group winners on 14 December to play for the right of entry to the round of 16.
Meanwhile, as we all know, Arsenal first team have to beat Olympiacos by two clear goals to go through in the Champs League. The Mail said of this, Great Escape is on: Sanchez and Ozil give Arsenal a Champions League lifeline to set up all-or-nothing clash with Olympiacos
As for the Telegraph, inevitably they are off on their own little cloud on some other distant planet with
Those first and last headlines look a little similar, but they are all presented as news on today’s Telegraph web site. However I rather like Ozil carrying Arsenal like Sanchez did last year; it is as if Sanchez isn’t playing, Giroud isn’t scoring, Koscielny isn’t a really top class defender, Cech isn’t a good keeper… but I suppose in the world of the Telegraph, that’s how it is. If it isn’t a crisis, it isn’t news.
- 25 November 1893: Woolwich Arsenal’s record crowd to date – 20,000 – turned up for the FA Cup tie against local rivals Millwall Athletic. See also this review of crowds that season.
- 25 November 1951: Willie Young born. He started out with Aberdeen, before going to Tottenham. From there he moved on to Arsenal. His first game for Arsenal was on 5 March 1977
The Untold Books
Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed football, is now available on Kindle at £9.99. For more details and to buy a copyplease click here or go to Amazon Kindle and search for Woolwich Arsenal.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal
- Danny Karbassiyoon – what’s it like? By Danny Karbassiyoon
- Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970. By John Sowman. Introduction by Bob Wilson.