The first part of our house move is now done (selling the old one), so the blog should return to normal for about a week, until we get the keys to the new place and it all kicks off again. Apologies for the late nature of the posts in the meantime.
So what have I missed? Well, I caught the Alkmaar game in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and for the most part thought we looked comfortable. The Dutch champions certainly played some nice football, including one incredibly lengthy period of possession in the first half, but it never seemed threatening in any way, and once Cesc had fired us ahead after a defensive error, we looked in total control.
But in the second half, we seemed to lose our level somehow, and the equaliser was an inevitability that we were just hoping to avoid. It wasn’t the best performance, it wasn’t the best result, but it should have no bearing whatsoever on the group – we are still in prime position to win it with ease.
What might be affected is the Premiership. After the return match with Alkmaar, we travel to Wolves in the league, a match we would be expecting to win, but after matchdays five and six, we face Chelsea and Liverpool. To qualify after four games would allow those games to take complete focus, a luxury Liverpool certainly won’t have after losing two of their three opening games.
But in reality, we are heading towards such comfortable qualification (a win at home to Alkmaar gives us the mystical ten points), that rotation is still likely for those games. We already know that Wenger doesn’t set much stock in finishing top of the group, and as such I expect those huge league games to have complete priority if we do indeed beat the Dutch side in two weeks.
In other news, Wenger celebrated his 60th birthday today, and in very deliberate timing, the AGM was held, which was far less dramatic that the last one held in the Spring. The keeping situation was mentioned, with Wenger keen to stress that we are well equipped in that department. It is incredible to think that prior to the Fulham game, Mannone was competing with Szczesny to be third choice behind Almunia and Fabianski, and suddenly he is propelled to number one. I’ll cover this more in another article tomorrow.
Inevitably, the ownership issue was also raised, with Peter Hill-Wood not giving a lot away, simply suggesting the club was in good hands. Kroenke stayed silent throughout, but that isn’t a great surprise – if he is planning a takeover, there are strict rules on what you can and cannot say else your move is automatically blocked. In essence, he had two choices – state his intentions clearly or keep quiet. He chose the latter, which will inevitably lead to more questions from those who delight in destabilising us, when in reality it was just good business sense.
And that’s about it – I’ll examine the keeping situation a little more tomorrow.