As I write this preview for tonight’s Champions League game against Braga, I write as a man with no soul, no mojo – for on Saturday at 4.50pm, it had been truly and drastically ripped out of myself. The illusion of an Arsenal side finally turning the corner and becoming a team capable of winning the league for the first time in 6 years, 7 years was blown to it’s reality – we simply do not have the mentally to win the league. Why win? You get paid £60k a week for playing your game, and when the prize that the club wants doesn’t come, you don’t get a penalty.
As a salesman, if someone said to you – come to work on time and I’ll give you £1000 every day – you would go to work. If they said that you’d get a £10 bonus if sold a car – what would you be good at? Getting to work on time or selling cars? These kids of ours are paid top top dollar, wages that even some of the best players in the world would not get paid. The lack of disparity in achieving something and merely turning up is obvious. Theo Walcott is on £60,000 a week and Cesc Fabregas is on £90,000 a week – at their ages, with no club honours to their name. Whether we win, lose or draw, these players get loads of money, whether they performance or not, contracts are rewarded on their potential. What has Walcott done to deserve such a figure? God knows.
And the problem of rewarding players for mediocracy is that they will deliver you mediocracy.
But, life goes on, lessons must be learnt. Yes, we’ve lost 3 out of the last 4 games, yes, we’ve lost at home to our most dearest rivals… but with the league being a different league this season, we could still come out on top…
Time to focus on tonight’s game – an away trip to Braga – a win against the team third in the CL group table would see us through to the next round – but a loss would see us drop to third in the group. We have to understand what an important game this is for us – if we don’t come away with a result, we’ll be in serious trouble, with only one game left in the group to survive.
Arsene has given us some team news ahead of the game and Clichy, Van Persie and Arshavin have not travelled to Portugal:
“I left Clichy behind because he has a small back problem and we will take the opportunity to clear that out. Arshavin [is not in the squad] because I want to give him a rest, he has played every single game recently and played for Russia on Tuesday night. And Van Persie [will not travel] so he can improve his fitness because he is back in the squad but is not 100 per cent fit at the moment – I mean his physical condition to fight in a top-level game. I think that [working hard on the training ground] is what he needs at the moment. If I take him to Braga and he is not 100 per cent and is on the bench and doesn’t come on then it is a waste of time and for three days, so I leave him behind and he will take the opportunity to work.”
Arsene comments raise the question why Van Persie hasn’t been playing reserve games for the last week or so, but I’m not the manager and I probably don’t know how these things work – but all I can say is that in other clubs, after long lay offs, all players play reserve games… Just saying…
Okie dokie, predicted team for tonight…
Eboue – Squillaci – Djourou – Gibbs
Wilshere – Song
Walcott – Cesc – Rosicky
With a bench of Szcznesy, Sagna, Koscielny, Denilson, Nasri, Bendtner and Vela
With Nasri looking tired after a lot of games, Arshavin rested and Wilshere recovered somewhat, the above team makes sense in my eyes – Koscielny was terrible on Saturday and has been all season and Eboue needs to play…
I don’t blame the manager for his side’s inability to hold onto the lead – I genuinely feel like he is trying his utmost best – but something is not quite right. Arsene spoke about his desire:
“I want this team to win so much that I am giving every drop of my blood to make sure this team wins. I want them to be successful because they deserve it, so of course it hurts when you get so close as we did on Saturday and you do not manage to do it. I just feel we have had two or three opportunities to be top of the league and we did not take it for different reasons.”
And you have to wonder when the penny will drop with this team. A side capable of beating Man City at their ground, knocking six past Braga on home soil, but at the same time losing to their rivals after being 2-0 up at HT and losing at Wigan being 2-0 with ten minutes to go. No one can say the Premier League is boring, that’s for sure…
Anyway, Champions League tonight… come on the Arsenal…!