I don’t want to rehash or go over old ground. I told you what I thought of the recent internationals and you told me what you thought of me telling you what I thought. Back in April I told you about all of my Norwich related memories and associations and right now I wish I’d saved a couple so I’d have something personal or interesting to say.
Here’s what I’ve got. I’ve been pronouncing the ‘w’ in Norwich like Arsene does just to get in the mood for today’s match. Try it. It sounds like this – nor witch. See? Fun Isn’t it? Otherwise I tried to read up on a couple of Norwich blogs but there don’t seem to be any. So. Here we are then. Saturday has arrived, the boss is confident that three of our injured players will be back which means a first choice back five and then perm any six from twelve for the more offensive part of the team. The real question on everyone’s lips is will we get to see Santi and Mesut together at last? Arsène always plays a good game of poker at the press conference so if he seems to be dropping a hint you can bet your life it’s on purpose. To my mind when he said Santi is fit but lacks match practise it was a strong suggestion that he’ll not play the whole game. Now whether that means he starts and comes off at sixty nine minutes and fifty seconds or whether he plays for the last twenty minutes plus injury time, we shall have to wait and see. On the Arsenal Player video of the guys doing their one touch training Santi clearly miscontrolled the ball once and played with a fairly poor touch on another occasion and as such you’d expect a severe disciplinarian like Arsène to stick him straight on the bench. There was a lot too much laughter for my liking as well. Honestly if these players cannot take their training seriously they don’t deserve to wear the shirt.
When I said perm any six places from twelve I was being a little disingenuous. In truth it’s perm any five from eleven because there is one midfield berth bolted on due both to the significant relationship between the player and the defence and his proven importance to the team.
I am of course talking about Mikel Arteta Amatriain.
I am of course talking about Mathieu Flamini.
You see what happened there? This is, for me, the dilemma. Last season and indeed the one before, if Mikel didn’t start my heart sank. Put simply we were more assured and less likely to lose when he was in the team. I would have said he was the only truly undroppable player in the squad before the start of this campaign. Before, that is, Arsène pulled off the transfer master-stroke of the summer. Yes, yes there was the Özil signing, the one that excited both football fans and sports journalists alike, but as the manager said yesterday you can’t have a transfer policy based solely on players of his (Özil’s) proven calibre. For one thing there aren’t enough of them and for another there are more hungry teams at the top table and with more loot to buy them than ever before. So Arsenal works by carefully educating and promoting from within the club and by making deliciously unexpected or audacious signings like Santi Cazorla for a fifth of Gareth Bale’s fee, (just take a second or two to let that one sink in; five Santis to one Simian. Blimey, that’s what I call an exchange rate.) or Arsène pulls a rabbit out of the hat. It’s known as ‘doing a Kolo’. Back in the summer when I was being attacked by friend and foe alike for daring to suggest that any new signings would be the cherry on an already very rich cake and were in no way vital, I also took a bit of stick for adopting what appeared to be a volt-face in welcoming the return of our prodigal midfielder with open arms . I wrote that he was the perfect signing. Versatile, experienced, particularly as cover for Arteta (a position where we did look maybe a tad understaffed) and most important of all he was already well versed in Wengerball and familiar to and with the manager. Of course I am not claiming I foresaw his explosive return to the Prem. Nobody could have known he’d land like a burning meteor into the heart of our midfield and galvanise us to such a run of results and performances.
Now we have two names to bolt onto one position and two players more different you would struggle to find. It is Suavity and the Beast. ‘So how about playing them both?’ I hear you cry. Well maybe. Away from home that can work where we might expect to come under more pressure, where the defence might need more cover and a draw might seem a good result. Careful though, because do that and you are down to perm any four from ten for the rest of the team. Oh, and by the way, that’s before Podolski, Zelalem, Diaby, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo are fit. Also with the Prem as wide open as never before I’m not sure away draws are quite as valuable as they once might have seemed. The top six clubs will see any sharing of points as points dropped except when playing each other. So the emphasis must surely be on control and attack. Who gives us the better platform for that? I’m going to say Mikel Arteta gets my vote. Just. I look forward to a lively debate about it in the comments. In fact I’ve already started one with myself as I try to imagine Arsenal without that rabid terrier charging about in front of the monolithic rock of tranquillity that is the Per and Kos axis.
All of this is of course just a long winded way to reiterate what has become blindingly obvious to all but a few self appointed supporter’s spokespersons and internexperts. Arsène and Ivan with the quiet backing of the board have assembled one hell of a squad. Even when down to our most threadbare we only had to slot in one youngster and of course it was comparatively easy for him to find his feet in a winning, confident team which plays in precisely the same way as all the youth teams in which he learned his trade. Which is kind of what Arsène has been talking about all these years and still was yesterday at the press conference. Promotion from within. A club ethos translated into a playing style with an educated young workforce augmented by the occasional stellar signing. The only difference for me is that a lot of the youngsters have now come of age. Kieron, keeping out an extremely good left back in Monreal. Aron, never out of his depth alongside Santi or Mesut. Jack, the saviour of the nation. Theo, a boy no more but true premiership quality.
Sorry for all the football talk, I’d love to wax lyrical about the time I met Delia in Aldi or the day I made love to a Debbie Harry lookalike while watching Arsenal put five past Norwich one sunny bank holiday weekend but you’ve heard it all before and I wouldn’t want to bore you. It’s not easy once you’ve already written about the opposition. I have to say my respect for proper bloggers who do this every day rather than occasionally (as I do) has gone off the chart. It is very easy to pick up on a phrase or two and beat someone about the head for the next few years with it, but trust me, just try walking in their shoes first and you’ll feel differently about things, I promise. Anyway on to the team predictions. No. Actually I’m not doing that here. It’s boring and pointless, but what I will do is point you to a fun tool so you can do it yourself and share your ideas on twitter, a far more suitable place for such flim-flam and guesswork. I’m talking about Line Up Builder and I’m grateful to @Limpar_Assist for introducing me to it.
I’ll see you all back here at three for the match, unless you’re going to the game, in which case, well, you’re a lucky bastard.