Going off on holiday for a couple of weeks always makes me feel that when I return there ought to be something BIG – some incredible news that has changed the world while I have been away.
Of course it is rarely like that and I returned late last night to see that Newcastle are in crisis, Read Mad are buying people, 135% of Gooner readers think we are going to be relegated and West Ham are going bust. So all the usual stuff.
Obviously I was living in a different world while in Italy – I didn’t have the internet (I could have done but thought the hotel price was a bit steep what with the pound now worth less than 0.02 flavian pobble beads) and the only sports channel was Eurosport Italy which is quite keen on cycling, so I contented myself with text updates from my mate Ian, and occasional reading of the previous day’s international edition of the Guardian.
But as I sat by the pool doodling on the back page of the Guardian while pretending to do the crossword at hyper speed I began to contemplate how different the Ems Cup was this year as opposed to last.
Last year, I seem to recall that the Saturday match involved Arsenal putting out a team of six year olds, keeping the 15 year olds for the big game on sunday (I say this without checking my facts – sorry if my memory is wrong). This year (and obviously I was not there and did not see the games on TV either) it seems to me that the Lord Wenger had his team sorted for the season, and that was that. The only youngster coming through and being given his big outing was Fran Merida. Obviously Jack was there, and Traore, but basically looking at the team sheets I had the view that this was it. The long waiting and planning to create a completely new team, largely out of players that Wenger has developed, was not up and running and ready for inspection.
Which is rather exciting.
What also struck me as I wondered how much more of this continuous bloody sunshine I could take, and doesn’t it ever rain in northern Italy, was that to be negative about Arsenal this season you now have to make all sorts of assumptions.
1: Eduardo and Rosicky will get injured again or will never recover anything like their old form
2: Denilson will finally live up to this journalistic shorthand description and become “lightweight”
3: Song stops developing into an all purpose all round central midfielder/defender
4: Vermalen this year is not one hell of a lot better than Toure last year
5: Arshavin, having had a rest and now playing centre forward is not a hell of a lot better than Adebayor last year
6: We will once again spend much of the season putting out teams of five or six backup players rather than playing our first choice team most of the time
7: We will once again lose the entire midfield for a couple of months
8: That Ramsey and Wilshire are still no good for anything that cup matches and brief cameos (although I do recall that Ramsey played in the Euro game last August/September).
9: We will once again lose the entire defence for a month right when it matters at the end of the season
10: Bendtner will not continue to improve but will return to the struggle that he had mid season last year, and Wenger will continue to play him even though he has Eduardo, VP, Arshavin, and Vela.
Now if you make ALL those assumptions then yes, we are going to have to fight for 4th place this year.
But just supposing one (just one, I only ask for one, no more, just one) of these assumptions is not true. For example, just for the point of illustration, let us assume that Wilshere really has come good now, and that if Theo is out of form or finds another shoulder to crock he can give a good account of himself, during the 2 months, then Jack plays and that might turn a couple of 0-0 draws into 1-0 wins. An extra four points.
Or if we assume that Eduardo is back on form and plays in 50% of the games then we should get an extra 10 goals which might be worth an extra three points.
Or if we assume that Arshavin really has got the measure of English football now, and is going to play the whole season not half of it, then that must be worth some more goals and some more sublime passes which must turn a couple more 0-0 draws into wins – another six points perhaps.
Of course you can’t assume that all this happens – but my point is that by assuming that just a few of the negatives that are predicted everywhere DON’T happen, then you have the distance between us and Manchester IOU made up.
I realise of course that this argument may have been made in 100 web sites during the past week and I might just be repeating everyone’s point, but I think this side is what has been in Wenger’s mind for the past four years. I return to the UK rather hopeful – although I admit so far all I have seen is Barnet away.
Final point: there are several million comments on the blog submitted during my time away, plus another thousand or so sitting in moderation. I have not yet had a chance to read them all – but I will – and can I thank everyone in advance for taking the trouble to write in. Even the gent from Russia who keeps wanting to tell us about a certain drugs range he has on offer on his web site.
It’s really nice to be back.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009
- What the media doesn’t tell you, part 6. There’s a financial problem…
- The Big 7 clubs, how much they spent and what good is it doing?
- What the media won’t tell you about football 5: Fifa lends money to Switzerland
- What the media won’t tell you about football, part 4 – referee variations
- The final transfer rumours: 3 new names to make 66 players tipped for Arsenal