Apologies for the lack of blogging yesterday, that damn life business again. Gets in the way of everything.
Rumours abound that Almunia will start on Sunday and I’m a little bit angry at this. For a start, he’s shit. He’s always been shit, and I don’t care how many times people say to me ‘but what about the first 45 minutes against Barcelona’ my reply will always be “Yeah, super, 45 minutes of decent football in his whole time here, that he still managed to fuck up in the second half by sitting down as often as he could when faced by a Barcelona forward.”
But it’s more than that. The reports that he has refused to sit on the bench annoys me no end. When he replaced Jens (who was a hundred times the keeper Almunia could ever hope to be) Jens sat on the bench. He didn’t like it, but he did it. That’s what you do when your part of a team, part of a squad. To say you won’t sit on the bench because you’re annoyed that you’re too shit to be first choice really gets me going. What if it was Eboue? Or Denilson? Or Arshavin? Or Bendtner? What if ANY of those players said they would not sit on the bench?
You’d be calling for their removal from the club and don’t even try to lie about it.
I know this isn’t very ‘supportery’ of me, but it’s how I feel. I would apologise for that, but I’m not going to. I hear you all saying he’s an Arsenal player, I should support him, after all, he causes no problems blah blah blah. I tell you what – refusing to be on the bench? That’s causing problems, and I don’t know about you, but if you lucked in to your dream job at a top club when you should be in the lower leagues would you not keep your mouth shut and just get on with things? It’s like me landing the job of sports editor at the Guardian – I’m not qualified, I’m not up to the job, but hey, if they’re gonna keep paying me, I’m gonna keep telling people that’s where I work.
So what options do we have? Surely we can’t play James Shea in goal. Why not? It’s Huddersfield, and with no disrespect meant to them, they are a club in league 1 – that’s the third tier – are you telling me that our reserve keeper plus our second string defence would not be enough to handle them?
Pah, it annoys me as I’m sure you’ve gathered. I thought we’d seen the last of him, and while I understand the rationale of playing him, I wouldn’t.
That, among other reasons, is why I’m not Arsenal manager.
Don’t hate me for not liking Almunia.
Also back in the squad we will see Squillaci and Diaby return.
Diaby is a player I like a lot and feel immensely sorry for. His injuries are not his fault. Having broken a joint myself (though not as severely as Diaby) a specialist told me that it is impossible to break a joint and not have permanent damage. As a result I now have what’s known as sclerosis of the joint (yes, my joints drink too much). What this means is that the slightest knock and it’s agony for a few days. Now imagine what Diaby’s ankle has gone through since it was broken and dislocated – he’s had Robinson and Essien try to re-break it for him this season alone – it’s no wonder he struggles to stay fit.
Squillaci’s return might have some people a little fearful for our new tendency to keep clean-sheets, after all, when we lose you are likely to find Squillaci back there – but he is a French international, Huddersfield should hold no fears for him.
Rosicky is still an ‘uncertainty’ and if he had proper ‘flu that’s not surprising. Proper ‘flu is not like man-flu or a bad cold, it is incapacitating to the point of having to be carried to the bathroom. It will take him a while to regain his strength and I’d be surprised if we saw him anywhere but on the bench on Sunday.
So what else is there to talk about? Well, Benik Afobe has rejoined Huddersfield on loan until the end of the season, but he won’t be playing on Sunday as he is ineligible. Given that he had previously said he wouldn’t really want to play for Huddersfield against Arsenal, that takes the dilemma away from him.
With our next game (against Everton in the league) a mere 48 hours later (thanks for that FA, brilliant scheduling) we are likely to see the majority of our first team rested. What that means is that we could line up with a team that looks like this:
Almunia, Eboue, Squillaci, Kos, Gibbs, Denilson, Diaby, someone else, Arshavin, Bendtner, Chamakh.
If that team doesn’t have enough in it to overcome Huddersfield then we don’t deserve to be in the FA Cup.
There is, of course, the historical links with Huddersfield which should not be overlooked before this match. Our greatest manager before Arsene, Herbert Chapman, came to us after a four year spell as manager of Huddersfield you know.
For those who don’t know their history, it would take more than an amateur blog to make it clear just how great this man was. That the two clubs who will meet on Sunday share this legend should be celebrated. Like the changes he brought to Arsenal which are still in evidence today (both at Arsenal and in the wider game) he also brought Huddersfield their first ever league title, even if that was by a goal average of 0.024 over Cardiff. Making only one new signing for the following year, Chapman led Huddersfield to the second title the following year, beating Arsenal 5-0 along the way.
The following year he left Huddersfield for Arsenal, who had been battling relegation in the two years Chapman had been winning the league with Huddersfield, he revolutionised our great club. We finished second in the league in his first year in charge (finishing behind Huddersfield who became the first club in England to win three titles in a row). In 1927 he took us to the FA Cup final where we lost to Cardiff after a goalkeeping mistake (some things never change), but it would take until 1930 before Chapman would win his first trophy with Arsenal, his five year plan which he had laid down upon arrival in 1925 finally coming to fruition. From there, there was no stopping Arsenal and we won our first league title in 1931 scoring an amazing 127 goals in the process. His sudden death in 1934 from pneumonia would be the modern day equivalent of Arsene Wenger dying in the Invincibles era.
Among his other achievements, Chapman was responsible for:
-Renaming the tube station nearest Highbury Arsenal, still the only tube station to be named after a football club.
-Proposing a Europe-wide competition some 20 years before the European Cup came in to being.
-Was one of the first managers to consider signing black and foreign players (often being blocked by institutes such as the Ministry of Labour (1984 much?)).
-Was an early advocate of floodlights
-He oversaw the redevelopment of Highbury, including the West Stand and adding the famous clock.
-He designed the scoreboards and turnstiles at Highbury.
-He was a tactical genius, reimagining the way the game had been played at every opportunity.
-He was innovative, bringing in light therapy, masseurs and physiotherapists to the club.
-He advocated the use of white footballs.
-He advocated the use of numbered shirts.
-He added hoops to the players socks so they could be picked out by teammates more easily.
-He introduced our famous white sleeves.
-The modern-day tradition of both clubs walking out together at FA Cup finals was started by Chapman in 1930 (when Arsenal played Huddersfield) due to his involvement with both clubs.
There was more, but you’ll need to do your own research for that, but it’s very easy to see Arsene as a modern day incarnation of the great man – right down to the five year plan.
He is simply a legend and deserves to be talked about in the same breath as Ramsey, Shankley and the rest. That he isn’t, is one of football’s greatest shames. That he was not inducted in to the English Football Hall of Fame until 2003 simply baffles my brain, and he didn’t get a blue plaque until 2005 (although he was the first English football manager to get one). Only the Sunday Times seems to have a measure of how great the man was, announcing his as the greatest British manager of all time in 2004 after conducting a poll.
That fans from other clubs often respond with ‘who’ when his name is mentioned simply makes my blood boil. Can you imagine their faces if you were to say the same when they are talking about Shankley or Busby?
Of course you can, because to not know about those managers would be to not know about the people who have impacted the game more than any others in England. To not know Herbert Chapman should be greeted with the same disdain.
“For me, Chapman is a total legend. I think if one day I can be compared to him then it is a great, great credit to what I’ve done” said Arsene Wenger on ATVO.
Don’t worry Arsene, you’re already there.
Match preview tomorrow.
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