Happy Bank Holiday everyone. I’m sure you’ve had a great weekend already, and intend to continue that today. On my walk along Holloway Road yesterday, I was pretty much dodging boozed-up fans who were taking full advantage of the sun and the fact that they didn’t have to head into work on Monday. I imagine more will be doing the same today in a beer garden somewhere, and who can blame them.
While today is a wonderful day to drink, yesterday was a brilliant afternoon for a spot of football. While it won’t have been the most entertaining day for the neutral, Arsenal fans could still head home (or back to the pub) in a reasonably happy mood after seeing off a plucky West Bromwich Albion side at the Emirates.
Let’s face it, the game wasn’t the greatest in the world, but at least we got through the day with three points and no more injuries which, at this stage of the season, is all that matters in my eyes. Mind you, Olivier Giroud did his best to get an FA Cup final suspension after clashing with Graham Dorrans in the second half. The incident occurred right in front of me and, I’ve got to admit, I feared the worst as I saw them lock up.
I know a lot of people aren’t fans of the French striker, but he’s going to be leading our line at Wembley, and has been in decent form as of late. Yesterday he put in a very commendable performance, and will be a key man in less than a fortnight during our date with destiny, so we cannot be dealing with any silly red cards between now and then.
Luckily though, we look to have come out of the match unscathed, which, as I’ve already said, is the key. There is loads to talk about in relation to Arsenal at the moment, so let’s get going.
Gunners Town Top 5: Talking Points of the Week
Bacing his bags
With a new deal nowhere to be seen, it very much looks as if Bacary Sagna has played his last game for Arsenal at the Emirates. The right-back is out of contract this summer, and is yet to agree fresh terms with the club, despite a reported offer of a three-year deal worth £100k a week being on the table for him.
I’ve given my thoughts time and time again about Sagna. About how he’s worth the money and the contract length, and can go on to be (although I think he already is) an experienced leader in our squad. I see his future, like compatriots Lillian Thuram and Eric Abidal, at the heart of the defence; he’s built like a tank, great in the air, and has the speed and agility to deal with tricky strikers. He’s not been as effective going forward recently either, so I think he’ll be move into the centre before long.
I was keeping a close eye on Sagna during the lap of appreciation yesterday and, as usual, he showed little emotion; giving little evidence of whether this was his last bow. His wife Ludivine, however, was quite the opposite. Her Instagram account was flooded with farewell pictures of her with all the other WAGS, as well as pictures of Bac and her on the pitch when the stadium was empty.
It does seem as if he is on the way out and, given that he’s been linked with AS Monaco, could make his debut for his next employers at the Emirates during the Emirates Cup. The irony eh?
Either way, he’s been tremendous for us since arriving in 2007, and deserves to go out on a high by lifting the FA Cup at Wembley. I think it’s gone too far down the line for any contract to be signed now and, despite Arsene Wenger and others making it clear that they want him to stay, I think we’ve seen Sagna in an Arsenal shirt on home turf for the final time.
Guess who’s back?
While Aaron Ramsey was left out of the squad as a precaution yesterday, one name that caught the eye on the teamsheet was Abou Diaby. The midfielder was in the Arsenal squad for the first time well over a year, as he continues his fightback from the depths of injury hell.
He received a good ovation when his name was called out over the PA system, although he didn’t manage to get a run out. I’m certain that he won’t be too displeased, and will just be thrilled to bits to be involved once again, and get back to being a footballer.
Diaby has had way too much of his career cruelly snatched away from him, and it’s amazing to think that he’s been at the club for EIGHT years now. Remarkable when you think about it.
Diaby has taken a lot of stick from some quarters, mainly the same lot who were proved wrong after slagging off Robin van Persie and Tomas Rosicky during their long tenures on the treatment table. Personally, I hate that and think it’s so wrong. People seem to insinuate that he’s happy to be injured and pick up a huge pay cheque; a notion which I find ridiculous.
Recall a time when you’ve been off work for a couple of days with an illness; whether that’s the flu, glandular fever or whatever. The suffering is unbearable, and we don’t half moan about it. Now imagine how Diaby feels not being able to be himself since becoming a victim of that horrendous challenge at the Stadium of Light.
“You ask yourself whether you’re going to still be a footballer. You think of giving up everything. I said to myself: ‘I’m sick of this! I’m quitting!’ I spoke about it with my parents, my brothers, my sisters, my friends…Then, I got up one morning: ‘No, out of the question!'” said Diaby.
“I had to start from scratch. But given where I’d been, it didn’t really matter. It’s been tough because I’ve had a lot of injuries. I’m religious, and in my belief, despair doesn’t exist. You must never give in. Also, I’m only 27, soon 28. I still have five or six years ahead of me, perhaps more.”
Quite inspiring words I feel.
Despite all he has been through, Diaby still remains so positive which is refreshing to see. Credit to him.
I watched on as he featured for the U21s a few weeks ago, and he was a cut above the rest. While he tired towards the end of the first half, which is completely understandable, he showed that he still has a lot to offer the team if he can stay injury free and get back to full fitness.
Some may scoff at this, but Diaby can be Arsenal’s Yaya Toure: pace, power, skill and elegance in possession. Their fridge-resembling frames allows them to drive from box to box like a freight train, and that’s what Arsenal have missed at times. We know Diaby has it in him to be an incredible player if he gets a run of games, and so do the club. Why else would he still be at the club if the coaches didn’t have faith in him?
Let’s hope he gets a full summer of rehabilitation, a complete pre-season, and then start next season afresh and ready.
He’ll be like a new signing…
“You never win anything with kids…”
I must say, I was shocked to see the scenes on the Gunners Town Twitter feed on Saturday night. Within moments of us guaranteeing fourth place thanks to Everton’s defeat against Manchester City, Gooners across the board were calling for a complete team overhaul in terms of selection.
The cries for Wenger to field the kids against West Brom and Norwich were aplenty. Chuba Akpom, Jon Toral, Hector Bellerin, Gedion Zelalem, and many more were the personal picks of many fans to get some first-team game time in our two (obviously now just one) remaining matches in the Premier League.
While I can understand this logic, given that we don’t want any injured or fatigued players in our ranks when we head to Wembley, I just cannot agree with it. Why on earth would we risk shattering our momentum and causing more unrest among our volatile supporters just days before one of the most important games in our history? It’s ludicrous.
It may be a slightly different scenario, but take Bayern Munich for example.
They wrapped up the Bundesliga title in record timing thanks to a 3-1 win at Hertha Berlin on March 25. With the league in the bag, having won practically every game with the greatest of ease, everyone seemingly envied the situation that the European champions found themselves in, as they were able to rest players for the Champions League. Well, they pretty much rested their whole team.
Since that title-clinching triumph Bayern’s record reads as this:
Played: 11, Won: Five, Drawn: Two, Lost: Four.
Hardly the form of champions. Two of those defeats came from a very game Real Madrid side, but they were also handed their ass by Borussia Dortmund on home soil, as well as making Manchester United look like world beaters at times.
Don’t get me wrong, they’ve not been in relegation form. They’ve enjoyed some big wins during those five victories, but the point is that they started to tinker around with the team, which ultimately came back to bite them, as they lost sight of their long-term goal.
Given that it’s been nine years without a trophy, as we are all so frequently reminded, Arsenal won’t have a better chance of breaking that hoodoo than against Hull at Wembley. I’m all for some players being given a bit of a rest and precautions being taken, but we simply have to avoid taking risks with players’ health, rather than leaving them out altogether.
Ramsey was a textbook example yesterday. We’re lead to believe that he had a little knock, so Wenger left him out altogether, while still picking his strongest available team. That’s the right attitude to take in my opinion.
Yes, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we were to lose to Norwich, given that the final is obviously a one-off match, but it’s hardly the correct way to prepare for a vital game.
We’ve got some really talented kids in our academy, but let’s leave them there for now.
Loic who’s here!
May just wouldn’t be May in football unless transfer rumours began to surface. In fact, they happen all year round anyway, but just tend to intensify towards the final weeks of the season.
Speculation certainly doesn’t stay away when a player, who has no links to Arsenal or West Brom, travels down from Newcastle to watch a game between the two. Well, that’s exactly what Loic Remy did. It’s common knowledge that Remy idolises Thierry Henry, and does probably have a soft spot for Arsenal, but it’s a long way to go to watch a game that was screened live on Sky. The whispers begin.
I came up with some crackpot theory last night that we’d perhaps already agreed to sign the Frenchman from Queens Park Rangers, who Remy won’t be returning to whether or not they earn promotion back to the Premier League through the play-offs this month. That could also be a reason for Wenger not adding a striker in January as he knew that we’d have Remy in the summer. I HAVE NO “INSIDE” KNOWLEDGE ON ANY POTENTIAL MOVE WHATSOEVER. It’s just a possible theory, and not one that I really believe.
In terms of the player himself, I’d be happy if Remy was playing in the red and white of Arsenal next season. He’s a great, young striker with Premier League and international experience, who will only continue to get better. He won’t cost too much, and we need his style of striker – quick, skillful and willing to get in behind defences – at our club. However, we need more than just Remy.
Let’s hope Puma can convince Mario Balotelli to head our way this summer.
A lot of you may have already seen this, but if you haven’t, make sure you take a look at Geoff Shreeves’ extensive interview with Mr. Wenger on Sky.
Love him or hate him, AKB or WOB, there is no denying the intelligence, unselfishness and class of our manager. Of course, he was never going to leave this summer, and I didn’t think for one moment that he would.
After all, following eight years of keeping Arsenal competitive with his hands tied behind his back since the move to the Emirates, Wenger now finally appears to have money at his disposal, and his patience could be about to pay off.
The way he conducts himself in interviews is just top class. Dignified, composed and respectful. In recent weeks we’ve seen Jose Mourinho embarrass himself time and time again and brought even more shame to Chelsea. Can you imagine if Wenger spat his toys out the pram every time something went wrong?
Given that he knew the task at hand when moving to Ashburton Grove, Wenger has displayed such loyalty and patience in charge of the club, sacrificing personal glory for the long-term benefit of the club. How many other managers would be willing to do that? I cannot think of many.
He makes some brilliant points in this interview, and I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.
For all his hard work, unselfishness, patience and tolerance, Wenger deserves to be the man lifting the FA Cup come the end of the season. And should that occur after Mourinho has just gone two years without lifting a trophy with unlimited funds, then that really would be a sweet, sweet sight.
That’s all from me this week. As usual, feel free to get involved in conversation on Twitter.
Never forget you’re a Gooner.
Matt has been the editor of the site since June 2012 and was born into a Gooner family 21 years ago. He recently graduated from Southampton Solent University with a degree in Sports Journalism and strives to work in the Sports Media industry. As well as currently working as a reporter for Sports Mole and TIBS News, Matt has been providing football commentary for the visually impaired since 2008 at Arsenal, Exeter City and Wembley.
His earliest Gunners memory is watching the ‘Boring, boring Arsenal’ VHS as a six-year-old on repeat, to the extent where he could recite most of the commentary from that season. Matt was lucky enough to witness Arsenal lift the Premier League in 2002 as well as being present during the last match at Highbury in 2006, and at Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial a few months later at the Emirates Stadium. Matt’s favourite players include Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Tony Adams, with the 5-3 comeback victory against Middlesbrough in 2004 the best match he has ever spectated.
Matt is an optimistic ’In Wenger we trust’, kind of guy and believes that the glory days are not too far away…
Apart from his editorial duties, Matt will also be bringing his Arsenal knowledge to a column called “Where Are They Now?” – which focuses on former Gunners.