More Pan’s People Than Hot Gossip
The day after Tottenham and the news of Alexsandr Hleb‘s injury is not good, four weeks out. I guess Arsene was right when he said that Hleb had “done” his hamstring. I had to re-read the quote from Le Boss as it seemed to be an unusual choice of words from him, someone who normally speaks grammatically near-perfect English as those who are not speaking in their native tongue tend to do, slipping into the vernacular of the football world. We may yet get a “sick as a parrot”, “early doors” or “the boy done good” out of him, although I will not hold my breath for them….still if he is looking for a replacement midfielder, Ray Parlour is returning to Arsenal. No, not a reversal of the transfer policy, the Romford Pele is trying to get fit after being released from his contract at Middlesbrough and presumably looking for a new club; no doubt the fire extinguisher servicing companies are ramping up their cover in case he visits Pizza Hut again.
Back to Hleb. His injury is symptomatic of today’s football and begs the question as to whether or not we expect too much from our footballers these days in terms of the numbers of games that they play in? Now I along with many others can remember when such injuries were not commonplace and tended to mean a considerable time out of the game, certainly longer than four weeks. Indeed, such an injury was not solely the preserve of sprinters but certainly more prevalent in athletes then. It shows the considerable step up in a footballers conditioning that they are now on a par with the sprinters and what-have-you that two decades ago seemed light years away. The Football authorities have long campaigned to cut the number of domestic matches played by clubs, spuriously claiming to be concerned about players welfare whilst devising more meaningless International or Club Tournaments for them to play in. Given the number of squad members at Arsenal alone who have been afflicted by hamstring injuries, there is considerable power to the argument. The problem is that we as supporters are as guilty as the clubs in that respect because we love watching the game and are almost at a loss as to what to do with ourselves when there is not a game – perhaps that is too strong a phrase but you get my drift – but you feel that something has to give at some point.
Transfer news dominates the day after the night before, despite the club being oft-quoted as saying that they will not sign anyone this transfer window. Gareth Bale is apparently a real transfer target with Sky Sports News reporting yesterday afternoon that Arsenal have entered the race for his signature. With so many rumours concerning the young lad, there is no certainty surrounding this supposed bid. However, like all good rumours, scurrilous or otherwise, it is based in a certain amount of truth, or at least the media’s version of it.
The question on most supporters minds is why are we interested in Bale? In Clichy, there is a left back already in the team who potentially could be better than his predecessor and certainly at a similar age, ability-wise there is little to choose between them. Not far behind in age is Armand Traore who has shown in the Carling Cup run that he has the ability to step into the First Team in the not-too-distant future. So therefore, does the club need another left-back. In simple terms, it appears not unless Bale is believed to be of better quality than Clichy or that Traore may not make the grade through some weakness not yet seen by supporters. Having not seen Bale on a regular basis, you have to defer to AW’s judgement. However that ignores another possibility. AW and the scouts have seen enough of Bale to view him as a potential left-sided midfield player. That being the case, there is a good case for signing someone of that ilk. We lack a genuinely left-footed midfielder who can play wide. Most of us believe and prefer, to see RvP in the centre as a second striker which frees up that role. There is a final consideration to bring into play; the regulations are changing in the near future regarding homegrown players and we may yet have to have a clearout of some of the youngsters – don’t ask me to quote verbatim the proposed rule changes about who can be considered homegrown – but given that Bale has been at Southampton for a while, he would no doubt be able to be classed in that category.
Ryan Babel has meanwhile moved to scotch rumours that he has been in talks with the club, gossip that started when he was at a recent game. The Ajax “starlet” (which conjures up memories of the old studio system for actresses in the world of the cinema) was visiting RvP who is a “close, personal friend” and who no doubt told him what an awful club Arsenal are to work for, the style of football is awful and Mr Wenger knows nothing.
One final thought on the Carling Cup; the media are portraying this run as the “kids” doing the club proud. I am in agreement with the bit about bringing pride to the club but are we fooling ourselves that it is the kids who are progressing this far or is it simply a case that because Henry and a couple of others are not there, we assume that it has to be the young, inexperienced pros doing this? So far this season, Arsene has used twenty one players in the competition. Of those, ten are seasoned pros with more than two seasons worth of appearances under their belt, the number of which included in each team is progressively getting higher the further the tournament goes. There are a second group of six players who have a season or two’s worth of appearances (not necessarily all with Arsenal) or in the case of Djourou, appeared a number of times for their country including at a World Cup. That leaves five players – Diaby, Connolly, Denilson, Randall and Traore – who are genuine “novices” that have participated in this run and have few appearances under their belt. I wonder if we are doing the players a disservice and being disrespectful to them by calling them “kids” when they may not be first teamers, they may not have 200+ appearances but the majority of the squad have at least two seasons worth of experience and the list of players includes at least sixteen who have appeared in European Games for the club or Internationals for their countries. Maybe they are youthful in terms of age but “kids” just seems so derogatory.