The Warm-Up: Arsenal are Arsenal but get away with it
On a day when plenty of people could do with some comfort, thank you to Arsenal for being so very... well... Arsenal.
FRIDAY’S BIG STORIES
Arsenal revert to type but get away with it
On a morning when comforting things are required for a number of people in the UK, it’s left to Arsenal to provide that in the shape of their predictability. It was a little unnerving to see them provide 30-odd minutes of not just competence but devastating, aggressive, attacking football against West Ham the other night, even though it was against, well, West Ham.
So thank you to everyone at Arsenal Football Club for providing us with something to cling to, something familiar and comforting through their performance against Standard Liege in the Europa League. As with most things to do with Arsenal in the last few years, the incompetence wasn’t total: they did, after all, not lose the game and the point they gained in the 2-2 draw ensured they finished top of their Europa League group and will avoid the slew of relegated Champions League teams when the draw for the next round is made.
And what is that but not peak Arsenal, being objectively quite rubbish but always maintaining a certain level of adequacy so that things didn’t go into a complete tailspin. Although they very nearly did. ‘Exactly how this became a successful evening for Arsenal will remain a mystery,’ wrote Nick Ames in the Guardian, about a game in which Arsenal went 2-0 down through goals by Samuel Bastien and Salem Amallah, but struck back with a couple in three minutes by Buyako Saka and Alex Lacazette.
But they’re through, through as group winners, even if nobody is quite sure how. At least someone from Islington did well on Thursday night.
Ole, just tone it down a bit, yeah?
Fresh from comparing Marcus Rashford to Cristiano Ronaldo the other day, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is at it again: this time, it’s Mason Greenwood, only just old enough to vote, and he’s apparently fine with mentioning him in the same breath as Manchester United’s record goalscorer.
“I’ve seen a few good young players,” said Solskjaer. “I played with Wayne Rooney, but in terms of natural finishing, Mason is one of the best I’ve seen.
“I’ve probably said it all before, so it’s nothing new – that’s what he does,” former striker Solskjaer said of Greenwood. And tomorrow he’ll probably go in training and score a few more. He’s always done it. That’s just natural for him.
“He’s a natural footballer but the closer he gets to goal, the more dangerous he is. Right foot, left foot – nightmare probably for defenders. He needs to develop his heading then he can be a proper striker.”
Hey, we can see what Solskjaer is trying to do here. There’s nothing particularly wrong with trying to pump the tyres of young players…but perhaps it would be a good idea to…maybe wind it in just a little bit? Surely comparisons with one of United’s greatest ever players when the poor kid has only started one league game is…a bit much?
Gabriel, just tone it down a bit, yeah?
We’ve all had bad stretches at work, where the sense of self-loathing rises inside and you become convinced that people will very soon see you for the massive fraud you are very soon indeed.
Gabriel Jesus took that to another level this week when talking about his own iffy form, saying:
"Honestly, last month I was no good and I wasn’t happy. I played eight or nine games and I didn’t score and I missed chances so I’m not happy with that. “When this happens of course I cannot be happy. Sometimes football is like that. You have to keep working hard and try to score, try to help the team and work and that’s what I have done. “Always I think: ‘Wow I have to score’ because I’m playing for a big club in big competitions with big players. “I think it happens with other players. I cannot talk about other players I can only talk about me when I’m not happy with me I want to shoot myself in the head because it’s difficult for me. “I take it [personally] of course. I think: ‘Oh my god I have to score, I have to score, I have to score’. When I have the chance sometimes I miss because I think too much and put too much pressure on myself. I try. I’m getting better. I’m working to score and don’t think about the pressure.”"
We don’t want to minimise these things but…bloody hell Gabriel mate, maybe calm it down just a little?
HEROES AND ZEROS
Hero: Paul-José M’Poku
Fair play to Standard Liege’s Paul-José M’Poku for just…catching the ball in the middle of the pitch. No reason, no explanation, he just…caught the thing.
This really does have everything: the studied, careful run-up; the comic slip; the spooned effort way over the bar; the rueful glance back at the pitch, as if it’s the fault of some errant turf rather than personal incompetence. Bravo.
"I don’t know [what went wrong],” Soldado says. “I still talk to Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen but about personal stuff. You could see it wasn’t working. [Mauricio] Pochettino had a very clear idea; he worked us very hard tactically and physically, which I think we needed after Tim Sherwood. From the start, he connected with the dressing room and every year it got better. [But] perhaps so many years working together …"
You’ve got a weekend of piping hot football to distract you from the abject horror of the world. Liverpool v Watford! Leicester v Aston Villa! Wolves v Spurs! Arsenal v Manchester City! We’re going to have so much fun.
We’ll be back on Monday, where Marcus Foley will be there to greet you, arms out, ready to give you a lovely big hug.