August 2016, and I was sitting next to an Italian chum in a restaurant in Northern Italy. Chum, born Italian and Juventus, has for the past fifteen years lived in North London and become Arsenal as well. The company was good and the conversation flowed merrily.
I ask him about Juve’s recent €90M acquisition of Higuain, and he responds quickly and very matter of factly “the loss in the final of 2015 to Barca hurt them badly. They have bought Higuain purely to try and win the Champions League”.
Here we are, and tonight they face Real Madrid going for their incredible 12th victory as Champions of Europe. Juve go for their 3rd.
I’m very much behind Juve, but of course, look forward to a high scoring entertaining finale to the season.
Hopefully an expert or two will join me on the AA sofa tonight and point out a few potential Arsenal targets.
There was an amusing incident after Real Madrid’s loss to Barcelona in Sunday’s “El Classico.”
As he was driving away from the stadium after the match, Gareth Bale was shocked to find his car set upon by some angry Madrid supporters.
Now, I have been to Whipsnade Safari Park, I have been to Longleat, I have been to Woburn Abbey, but at none of these venues have I ever seen a situation where the monkey is inside the car and the people are on the outside ripping off the windscreen wipers.
This was just the latest in a string of unfortunate moments for Bale, whose Spanish adventure is turning sourer by the day.
The world’s most expensive player had an OK first season in Madrid but in his second he hasn’t really progressed and seems to be going backwards.
In Gareth’s defence, it can’t be easy playing alongside the walking ego that is Cristiano Ronaldo. Particularly when the preening ladyboy of international soccer is happy to parade his dislike of Bale very publicly (last week he celebrated a Bale goal by looking like Wayne Rooney had just crapped in his best pair of Nikes).
So now, inevitably, there is much talk of a return to the Premier League for the Welsh wizard, presumably with a price tag considerably lower than the one when he left.
Manchester United are said to be in pole position to repatriate him, but other clubs are also no doubt paying attention. Which brings me to this question: would you like Arsenal to sign Bale?
I know, I know. He used to hang out at that cesspit of subnormality that is known as White Hart Lane (where he was awarded the honorary title of Primate of All Tottenham). But surely even the most churlish of Arsenal supporters would have to admit that – by his final season there – he had turned into a devastatingly effective footballer.
And just think of the anguish it would cause in N17 if their former hero returned to wear the red and white of a real club. It would be Sol Campbell all over again (and would probably lead to another riot season in the swamplands).
So, what do you think? Yes or no? And if we signed him, who would make way: Welbeck? Alexis? Walcott?
Half time in Madrid, players pushing and shoving, all the backroom boys getting involved, is this what we want in our league? Mourinho is in the thick of it having started it off at his press conference, Barcelona’s reserve goalkeeper gets involved in the melee in and around the tunnel and is sent off from the bench.
Many bloggers think we should court this man, are you sure? Do we really want to even consider Mourinho to take Arsène’s place? Rumour says Jose covets Fergie’s job, would Man Utd’s directors want their name sullied by such a man? Is this the price one has to pay for trophies?
What does Cesc think when he watches his would be team mates diving and play acting? every decision questioned, the referee constantly harangued and mobbed. Imaginary cards waived in his face by players every time a team mate throws himself to the ground, anything to pressure the referee to gain an advantage and get a fellow professional booked or sent off, Is this really where he wants to go and exercise his skills? More fool him if he does, he’s welcome to it. This is supposedly the best team in the world we are watching.
The more I watch it, the more I recognise the basically inherent honesty of our league, sure we have a few dodgy divers, Fergie plays his mind games and the occasional crunch tackle goes in. But compared to this whinging, cheating, orchestrated pantomime of a game, even old Trafford is a Temple of fairness.
Sportsmanship or gamesmanship – what do we pay to watch? How would we Gooners react to such conduct in our stadium every time one of our main rivals plays there?
If this is Champions League football they can shove it.
Come on Arsene: buy the couple of players you need for next season and let’s show these prima donnas we are the best team in the best league in the world.
What the final outcome will be tonight I don’t know and quite frankly, I don’t care. Pepe and Mourinho have mercifully just been sent off and I am going to bed.
Its morning now, Barca have won, Messi has worked his magic and by his genius, partially it seems watered down the reaction in the press, to what had gone on before. Mouriniho true to form however takes no prisoners at his press conference and launches a tirade against CL refs with all kinds of innuendo, that Barca have help in that direction, no matter who they play.
Its all smoke and mirrors, what really matters is the atmosphere in which the match was played, something has to be done, this is not football, the most important match this year ruined by patent self interest, disregard for the rules and a breathtaking expediency that sees the means justify the end. neither side is blameless. No doubt the authorities will throw the book at Jose, but in my book an enquiry into the conduct of the whole match should be instigated and the video evidence used to punish all the guilty parties who sullied our beautiful game last night.
The greatest cliche in World Football “If you’re good enough then you’re old enough.” Well, okay there are cliches aplenty in football but this one is very apt here.
Arsenal under Wenger have always given young players their chance. At 17 and 18 years of age Fabregas, Wilshere, Ramsey and Watt among many more have got an opportunity to play for the Senior team. So what’s stopping Wenger given Wojciech Szczesny his chance between the post?
Yes, goalkeepers normally flourish later than others but there are exceptions to the rule. Igor Akinfeev made his debut for CSKA Moscow at 17, Russian debut at 18 and to date has played 177 times for the Moscow club and has 40 international caps and he has just turned 24. Meanwhile, Iker Casillas is just 29 (another decade left in him?) but has been first choice ‘keeper for Real Madrid for eleven seasons and has 103 Spanish caps to his name. Neither CSKA or Madrid baulked at putting in such young keepers so why should Arsenal?
Sometimes you have to take a chance and our young Pole could be one well worth taking. Almunia has to be dropped from first choice, I’d trust my cat to look after my hamster before I’d trust Fabianski to keep a clean sheet and Mannone seems to have exited to the wilderness again.
Szczesny is an extremely brave young man who is not afraid to exert his influence on his own team or the opposition. During his time at Brentford he has gone down extremely well with the fans who reckon he is good enough to be Arsenal number one. Laugh as you might but the lower leagues are no laughing matter for goalkeepers who get roughed up big time. But Szczesny was able for it, more than able for it. Last April, Brentford manager Andy Scott said: “His performances suggest that he would not be out of place in the Championship or even the Premier League. It has reached the stage where when he lets in a goal we wonder why he hasn’t saved it.” Would make a nice change from us wondering why and how Almunia/Fabianski saved a shot as opposed to blundering it in over the line.
Arsène Wenger has said “I believe one day he will be the No 1 at Arsenal certainly, but we will see next season. It is down to his performances.”
Well here it is on a plate for you Arsene, Almunia is cack, Fabianski is cack so give Chesney his chance. he certainly looks good enough so you know it – he’s old enough.