A lot seems to have happened since I last posted, including (as I predicted) Arsenal getting revenge on Troy Deeney for his castanet (poetic licence allowed) comments. As well as the Gunners managing to win reasonably convincingly (by today’s standards, at least) a Deeney missed penalty was the cream on the top of the metaphorical flan that was thrown in the Watford striker’s face. It would have to be metaphorical, as no one in this current Arsenal team would have the guts to confront Deeney and I don’t blame them (as the guy is a tough nut, if ever there was one).
What was interesting during the game was how Deeney was seemingly cracking jokes that Ainsley Maitland-Niles was laughing at. It seemed likely that one of the jokes was aimed at Granit Xhaka, who had taken a tumble. It is difficult to remember anything of that sort happening during the time of the ‘Invincibles’ or during the early Wenger years, when Petit and Vieira bossed just about every game. Even Fabregas and Flamini were no laughing matter for the opponents, who would find themselves on the backfoot most of the time, with little time to breathe let alone crack jokes. However, the pedestrian midfield that Arsenal now have is a different case altogether. It has led some pundits to say that Arsenal appear to be playing friendly games rather than the real thing. Or we could say, they turn on the style when it suits them.
That was the case in Milan in the Europa League, when the best result of the month was recorded. Obviously, the Gunners are now focused on winning this trophy, as that’s the only way of ensuring Champions League qualification. However, the trip to Moscow will be far from a walk in the park, so Arsenal fans should brace themselves for the worst: defeat over two legs. Even if that obstacle is straddled, then it will be case of avoiding Atletico Madrid, the tournament favourites in the draws that follow. Some bookies have Arsenal down as second favourites and they rarely get these things wrong, although the blind optimism that surrounds UK-based teams may have something to do with the low odds.
Meanwhile, if I was a bookie, I’d consider paying out on Wilshere leaving Arsenal this summer. The number 10 has been offered a pay cut to stay and, regardless of whether you rate the England player or not, that is not good business. Surely it would be better to get him to sign a new deal and then sell him, if necessary. Instead, Arsenal will lose millions of pounds as a Wilshere on a long-term deal must be worth close to £50m, if Bellerin is worth that. I’m no mathematician, but if the midfield were offered £10k more per week, then that would equate to around half a million. Instead, the short-term number crunchers at Arsenal have decided it is better to offload a £50m asset for nothing than risk half a million or so per year on keeping him. It’s got me scratching my head, to be honest! If it wasn’t so crass, it would be laughable.
Other news that has recently made me laugh was the story linking PSG to Wenger. The idea is that the French club want a manager to win them the Champions League. I can’t quite see the logic in choosing a manager that has never won a European trophy, but it was pleasant to hear that there is a club out there that wants Wenger. The fans, at Arsenal, are still divided, of course, but it seems like the majority want him out at the end of this season, even if he wins the Europa League. The most likely scenario is Wenger stays for at least one more year and Arsenal win nothing, but this team are capable of the unexpected. If the Gunners do manage to lift the only trophy they are in the running for and qualify for the Champions League, who can say that Wenger will not be offered a contract extension? Optimistists are hoping for the trophy and a swift Wenger departure, but I feel sure that won’t happen.
Talking of swift departures, there’s talk that Lacazette could leave this summer. That would be foolish in the extreme were it to happen for both player and club. The Frenchman simply needs time to adjust to the English game and, once he does that, he’ll be fine.