Let’s start with the disappointing yet ultimately unsurprising news that the FA have rejected Arsenal’s appeal over Tomas Vermaelen’s red card.
Everyone agrees that Vermaelen was harshly sent off, but it seems that ‘harsh’ is not enough for the FA. It hasn’t been for a long time – anything even remotely subjective gets thrown out without a second glance. In that way, the appeal was futile from the very start – only if the players had been ten yards apart would the FA have considered retracting the decision.
Some feared that the ban might be extended, but that was an unnecessary worry too – if you look at the appeals deemed frivolous this season, they are all clear cut cases, usually violent conduct. Appealing a red card when you’ve walloped someone in the face is stupid, this one doesn’t come close.
So Vermaelen will miss the trip to Birmingham, leaving Wenger with a major decision to make. Assuming Campbell can play either at Birmingham or against Barcelona but not both, he has to decide where the big man is more important. With Gallas still out (and I’m told he won’t be fit for Barcelona, contrary to reports), Sol and Vermaelen are our main pair, but does he play them both in the Champions League and partner Silvestre with Song at the weekend? That would be risky.
Personally, I think he’ll partner Song and Campbell this weekend, and Song and Vermaelen next Wednesday. Why? Simple – I think he’s lost faith in Silvestre. When Vermaelen was sent off at the weekend, the obvious substitution was Silvestre for Denilson, but instead, he pushed Song back.
Now consider that Song was putting in a man of the match shift in midfield. Despite the obvious damage removing Song from our midfield would do, Wenger still considered it a better option than Silvestre at the back.
What this does show is how lucky we were that Gallas and Vermaelen stayed fit for the first half of the season. With Djourou out, Silvestre was the only cover, and frankly, had he been forced to play even semi-regularly, we wouldn’t be in the title race.
So instead of bemoaning Vermaelen’s suspension, let’s just be glad he has remained injury free all campaign.
Elsewhere, the papers are stirring the pot again. There are the scurrilous Cesc to Inter stories, which are laughable in the extreme, while Arshavin is quoted as being concerned by the state of the squad:
“I am still of the opinion that to win trophies Arsenal needs more players.”
“There is the simple fact that last summer we sold two players and bought only one. So there is an obvious deficit of at least one. Then we lost Van Persie, Gibbs and Ramsey for a long time. So for me it is natural we need new players.”
It seems pretty clear to me that these words have been taken out of context. The press are having a field day, claiming that the Russian is ruling us out of the title race, but given that he is talking about last summer’s activity, it makes sense to presume he was asked about what he hoped Arsenal would do this summer. When you put his answer in that context, it seems perfectly reasonable, with him seemingly suggesting that we need to keep strengthening to win trophies on a regular basis.
No arguments here. The timing has been questioned, but Arshavin seems to be a guy who answers all questions put to him, which takes the timing out of his hands.
Finally, we come to Tony Pulis, who has had yet another dig at Arsene Wenger, claiming that his team are getting no respect from the bigger sides:
“Everywhere you look there’s people who want to shoot us down.”
“It wasn’t in the script for us to be competitive. That’s why you get people like Arsene Wenger moaning on at you – because we have made it difficult for them and we’re not supposed to do that.”
Where to start with this idiot? Firstly, Wenger had a go after the recent game because Ramsey’s leg had just been shattered. And quite frankly, I thought he was impressively restrained – perhaps indicative of how used he is to seeing that sort of incident.
Pulis, like so many others who like to ‘rough up’ the big boys, think that we expect them to roll over when they come to town. We don’t – the fact that anyone can beat anyone is the league is why it is so fantastic. We are even relying on that competitive edge denying United and Chelsea points between now and the end of the season, so to claim that they ‘weren’t supposed to be competitive’ is ridiculous.
For the record, Stoke’s Premiership record against the three title contenders this season is Played 4, Lost 4.
What Wenger rightly objects to is the style of football that is intended to hurt and injure, and the tactic of rotational fouling where no individual catches the eye of the referee, but they all take turns to kick players. That isn’t football, but the problem we have is the likes of Pulis and Allardyce believing it to be a legitimate approach. That they get away with it is a sad indictment of the attitude of referees. On the continent, they would not survive.
As for respect, I’m sorry, but if your two tactics are to a) kick lumps out of the opposition and b) get a player to spend 45 seconds drying a ball on a towel and then hurling it into the box, then you aren’t going to get any. Deal with it.
That’s about it for today. In the next few days you will notice the site take on a different look – I’ve been working on a redesign for some time and it is (finally) nearly ready. Stay tuned for that, and more goodies.