“Traditionalist I maybe but I am coming round to the view that a mid-season break is a good thing. Too many players in too many Clubs are experiencing injuries which may have more to do with stress and fatigue than bad tackles or unlucky challenges. The pressure for the break came, originally, from the weather. In the 50’s and 60’s it was bad. There was more snow, more rain and more low temperatures. Now the pressure is to protect the players and keep the injury list low and the competition for trophies genuinely a test of available talent and not a lottery of hamstrings and calf strain s and the rest. Wenger is right when he says the traditional Christmas fixture list should remain but a break in January makes sense. Our boss has accused Klopp of over-reacting on the issue
There is talk of selling Ospina. As I recall George would not sell in January if there was a title at stake. Isn’t Wenger taking a risk – if the reports are true? They may not be but there is reference to Ospina in discussion with Besetikas and he was omitted late in the day for the FA Cup match against Sunderland. Aren’t there risks in bringing in cover for Cech. Surely he cannot be relying on Macey. It simply seems to be too big a risk. Maybe all will become clearer during today but it is a puzzle and a worry.
Villa’s win against Crystal Palace reminds us that on their day anyone can beat anyone. No one had this down as a home win. Villa have been written off whilst the Eagles have been one of this season’s success stories and yet they returned to South London pointless . Great for football, great for Villa and great for Garde so maybe we will see a smile. He was beginning to look too grim. Of course lack of points does that to anyone but as a leader you need to have some excitement and vitality. He looked like an advert for “Have You Lost Your Luggage on Holiday? “
The result also cautions us against excess confidence. It is a funny one this “confidence” thing. You have to feel good about yourself, about your team and your ability to get the points but you have to respect your opponents and remind yourself you have to win 40/60 balls all over the pitch. Every match is a fight for ascendancy – individual and collective. Football is great.
Michael Owen has joined Paul Scholes in sounding off about the lack of excitement around Old Trafford. All that rubbish about the spirit and excitement of the Ferguson days. Will the scales ever drop from his eyes? Two points – Ferguson was minutes away from the sack in 1989/90 after his first four years at United produced so little. Fans were complaining as they are now. Thankfully for United the Board stood firm as they have to again now as the critics get some easy headlines. But thus has echoes with us as well. There are supporters who think Wenger is –and brace yourself for the cliché of clichés – past his sell by date. Remember when “You Don’t Know What You’re Doing” rang out at the Emirates. Make no mistake I want Wenger to succeed not because of his critics though that is motivation enough but because he is a winner, he wants to win, he knows how to win.
I want to come back to the post-match walkabout at the end of a home game. I have detected in recent matches that more players are remaining on the pitch and walking around the perimeter applauding the supporters. It is great. The interaction is growing stronger and the bonding between player and supporter is more secure. I wonder how the matter is discussed in the dressing room. I remember when Lee Dixon was always the last player off the pitch in the same way either Mertesacker or Theo are now the last to leave. Others are beginning to join them – the Ox and Cech. So what happens when they get back into the dressing room and some of the teams are showered and getting ready to leave the dressing room. Why do some players respect the fans and others disregard the fans? And what is Wenger’s take on the issue? Why hasn’t he instructed all the players to show the same commitment? It must be something he has considered. Interesting one.
. Good to see Mike Dean give the penalty against Smalling last night as he wrestled Mitrovic to the ground. Things like this did not happen years ago – the arms around the opponent, the obvious obstruction and worse. It went on but it was much more subtle – slight digs in the back or an outstretched arm but today it is quite unbelievable. There could be ten penalties in every game. I think referees will pick up on this and we might just find ourselves on the wrong end of Laurent clumsy challenge. Players do not want to allow opponents to “lose” them in the penalty area but the laws are the laws and have to be enforced.
The more time passes since the 0-4 defeat by Southampton the more it looks a strange result. No question we were second best and the size of the defeat has echoes of the 0-5 defeat by Stoke City in the 1970-71 Double Year. It wasn’t so much that were poor – and it was not one of our best days for sure – but that Koeman got his plans so right. The way Long was used to exploit the space between our two centre backs was brilliant and then running at then as well. Koeman was reported to have changed everything in the preparation for the match and Southampton were a quite different team from the one that beat THFC the previous week. And yet since then Southampton have not shone. It reminds us that when the league leaders come to town it can rally the spirits of an opponent in the midst of a poor run. Maybe Klopp will have studied the video of the Southampton game. That said I just sense out squad are really up for the challenge of the League, the Cup and the Champions League.
Is there a problem with the work permit for our intended Egyptian addition?
Fingers crossed we get the three points tonight.