By Tony Attwood
Yes, it’s that time again. The time when pontificaters in all the media will tell us that one team (usually Arsenal, but occasionally others) are having a crisis of injuries and that it is Arsene Wenger’s fault.
Of course what they generally don’t do it compare Arsenal’s figures with those of other teams, but well, that’s how it goes.
So now we know Héctor Bellerín is out for around four weeks having been kicked by Danny Rose in the last ten seconds of the game against the Tinies. It also appears that Mathieu Debuchy is out with a calf injury.
Carl Jenkinson is fit, but he hasn’t played very many games as yet. However he is the obvious choice unless we start shifting players out of their normal positions.
On the attacking front Alexis Sánchez has said he is fit, and he will either be on the bench on Saturday or will not be playing at all, depending on which journalist you read. In short no one knows until Mr Wenger sees what state Alexis is in tomorrow.
Speaking on the subject Mr Wenger said, “What I will consider is the risk of injury because he played while recovering from a hamstring injury. I’ll consider the way he feels as well. On that front you depend on the honesty of the player, how they feel and how they recover.
“We were in doubt 24 hours before the game against Uruguay. We didn’t know if he’d play or not. In the end they decided to play him. He texted us to tell us he’s in good shape after the game. He came off after 84 minutes and now we have to wait. I see him tomorrow morning and then I will see if he can be involved in the squad or not.
“You have to trust the medical people from Chile. I completely understand that Alexis wanted to play in qualifiers – they’re not friendlies. Chile are not in a fantastic position to qualify for the World Cup and I understand that Alexis is keen to play for his country in such an important game. After that, it’s a difficult period in November because it’s the first time when some of the players have played many games. Most of the time it’s a decisive period in the Champions League because it’s game number five and, for most of the clubs it’s a very important time in the Champions League. In the Premier League, the first decisive games are also coming up so it’s a period where you can pay a heavy price. We lost important players in November for long periods last year.”
“We go into a period of big games, one after another. The way we deal with these kinds of games will be very important to our position in the league and our ambitions. I believe we are on a very strong run of 16 games unbeaten. We had a little hiccup against Tottenham at home, but now we want to start winning our games again, and this is an opportunity to do that on Saturday.
“We have beaten them and there was many draws as well. I think I have won against every manager in the world during my 20 years here and I do not make of this game a competition between two managers. It’s between two clubs and two teams and I think I can understand that people want to create controversy, but it’s not that that makes the audience.
“What will make the audience [happy] is the quality of the game and we have seen a few games since the start of the season we didn’t respond completely to the expectation level between two big teams and I think it’s important that it’s a top level game because that will be watched all over the world and for the reputation of the Premier League, it’s important that the quality of the game is good. That will be down to the players who are on the pitch.”
Off the pitch the topic of the price of tickets has come up again – it seems to be the BBC’s favourite topic these days, perhaps to cover a certain decline in the audience figures for its football coverage on TV.
As we know some tickets prices have come down with the average price for away support now being £29.44. That odd amount is because an agreement was reached to impose a price limit of £30 on away support. Except that Arsenal went out on a limb and reduced it even further than that. No one else did (as far as I know) and so the average price is down 56p. But the beneficiaries are the Arsenal fans.
Interestingly it now costs more to be an away supporter in the Championship where the average charge is £31.57.
But the news everyone wants to promote is that the top price for a regular (ie non-box, non-club level ticket) at Arsenal is the most expensive in the land at £2,013, followed by Tottenham (£1,895).
However there are a couple of other points to be made.
Those £2013 tickets at Arsenal are just about the most sought after. While other season tickets become available each year as some people give up their tickets through moving away, becoming ill, passing on, or just losing interest, the waiting list from others wanting to upgrade to those centre block top tier seats is huge. You just can’t get them because of the demand.
So what on earth is the point of Arsenal cutting the price of them? The waiting list will be just as long, because the tickets are so rarely given up. Indeed if these tickets were allowed to float on open market prices, they would probably be twice as expensive.
The view is perfect, the team is good, and the facilities offered are way above those of other clubs. Plus the tickets include half a dozen cup games that are not included in other clubs’ ticket prices (and these don’t include League Cup matches where the cost is just £20 a game). If we count the cost per game, taking into account the number of cup games included (and remembering for Arsenal this normally means 4 Champions League matches and two FA Cup games) the cost per match is
- Arsenal £80.72 per game
- Tottenham £90.24 per game (includes two Cup games a season – I think including League Cup, or Europa cup or Champs League… whatever turns up).
Malcolm Clarke, the chairman of the FSF, said, “We will remain vigilant and continue our campaigning to make football affordable for this generation of supporters and the next.”
And we shall be vigilant in taking apart his figures.