12th November 2015: FA want Wenger explanation, Welbz can’t wait for return, Grimaldo linked

Welcome back. Some actual news to begin with this evening after the FA today asked Arsene Wenger to explain recent comments he made in an interview with French publication L’Equipe regarding ‘doping’ in football.

The gist of his remarks, as I’m sure you’ll have read by now, were that whilst he was proud that in 30 years as a manager he’d never had his players injected to make them better, he has faced teams who were “not in that frame of mind.”

Those comments were of course made some time after it was revealed a Dinamo Zagreb player had failed a drugs test following the Croatian club’s Champions League victory over Arsenal in September this year, and the FA have now invited the boss to expand on those remarks and provide any further information he may have.

An FA Spokesman is quoted as saying today:

The FA, in conjunction with United Kingdom Anti-Doping (Ukad), operates one of the most comprehensive anti-doping testing programmes in the world. We have exceptionally few cases of positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs, which reflects the findings from drug-testing in football worldwide. All positive cases for Wada-prohibited substances are published by Ukad and the FA.

Now I have to admit, I’m far from the foremost authority on this subject, but it does make you wonder about performance-enhancing, and even recovery-speeding, drug use in the game. Some players never seem to get injured whilst others are perennially prone to spells out. Is that always down to nature, or sometimes, to a science lab? Who knows, but I’m certainly looking forward to hearing Arsene expand on the subject as the FA have asked him to.

Elsewhere, contrary to reports I discussed in yesterday’s post suggesting Danny Welbeck had suffered a setback in his recovery from a knee injury and may be ruled out for the rest of the season, the player himself has told Arsenal Player that his recovery is “slow and steady but it’s coming along”, and that he’s chomping at the bit to make a return to action. He said:

It’s slow and steady but it’s coming along. It’s difficult to see the lads when you’re still in the gym, doing double days, but once I get back out on the pitch and start running I will be much happier. It’s a difficult period for me but I’m looking forward to coming back strong. I want to get back out on the pitch, keep on improving, keep training and keep fit – that’s the main thing. I just want to get back to playing football. I’m trying to build to muscle and it’s hard, but it’s something that I’ve grasped with two hands and I’m really looking forward to my return.

He certainly sounds bullish, which is encouraging considering how long he’s been out for now, and as you may have guessed from yesterday’s post, I can’t wait to see him back playing and having an extended run as our central striker.

The worry for Welbz must be that seeing as we were obviously looking for a new striker last summer, unless he can prove his worth between now and the end of the season, he may find himself competing with Oliver Giroud, Theo Walcott and a new signing by the start of next season. It’ll certainly be interesting to watch how we line up if and when everybody is fit.

Finally for today, The Mirror have linked us with a move for Barcelona B left-back and captain Alex Grimaldo, who they say is reluctant to extend his current deal with the Catalans which expires this coming summer, but who is also being eyed up by Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich.

I’ve never seen him play live but having just YouTube’d him (classy, and with a speed of thinking that is typically quick for Barcelona players), and based on how our recruitment from Barcelona has gone over the years, I say sign him up Arsene!

If he’s free and willing, why the hell not? Maybe you can mould him into a defensive midfielder, a centre-half or even tap into previously unnoticed goalkeeping potential. Plus, most importantly of all, his surname’s just two letters away from Grimandi, the Gunners’ double Double-winning legend.

Right, a bit short today but that’s me done.

See you on Friday.

26th October 2015: Thoughts on team selection against Sheffield Wednesday

Welcome to a brand new week on TremendArse. We travel to Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup tomorrow evening of course, and Arsene Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of the game.

Per Mertesacker is available again after missing the win over Everton through illness, but Mikel Arteta remains sidelined along with Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck.

With our second-choice ‘keeper David Ospina also still nursing a shoulder injury, Arsene confirmed that Petr Cech would play against the Owls. All of which means we seem a bit stretched if we want to rest the majority of our first-choice, outfield players in preparation for Saturday’s tricky trip to Swansea.

If we assume Mertesacker and Chambers will form the central defensive pairing and be flanked by Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs, we look solid enough at the back, particularly with Cech in goal behind them.

But further forward things become a little more unclear in terms of who starts. Mathieu Flamini will deputise for compatriot Francis Coquelin you’d have thought, but his partner in central midfield in the last round of the competition at Tottenham, Arteta, is unavailable and there is no obvious candidate to step in if we rest Santi Cazorla as surely we ought to, given the Spaniard’s recent exertions and crucial role in our team.

My preference would be for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to be given a go centrally alongside Flamini if there isn’t a youngster deemed ready to step up. A change of position may actually be just what the Ox needs at the moment, given his struggles on the right so far this season as I discussed in yesterday’s post. A more central role would no doubt see him far more involved, enjoy more possession and hopefully facilitate him regaining some much-needed confidence.

That said, we’d then have one fewer option for the three positions behind the striker. Against Spurs, we played the Ox from the left, Ramsey in the middle and Joel Campbell on the right. So even if we draft in say, Alex Iwobi to play on the left, with Ramsey unavailable we have a vacancy behind, I’m assuming Theo Walcott, given the fact he didn’t play against Everton.

Arsenal academy expert Jeorge Bird’s ‘possible team’ on his blog has the same line-up I’ve suggested above, but with Glenn Kamara partnering Flamini in front of the defence, Ben Sheaf operating in the Mesut Ozil role behind Walcott, and the Ox spared a start.

I have to admit I’ve never seen either Kamara or Sheaf play and considering the Ox’s relatively modest number of minutes played so far this season, would be a bit surprised to see him left out even if he’s currently part of our first-choice selection.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see but a first glimpse this season of one or more of our academy prospects seems certain, and as somebody who enjoys appraising fresh, emerging talent almost as much as a glittering, high-profile purchase, I for one am looking forward to tomorrow’s game just that little bit more.

Obviously some of our very best young hopefuls, like Chuba Akpom, Gedion Zelalem and Dan Crowley are out on loan at the moment, but nonetheless it’ll be intriguing to see how the likes of Sheaf and Kamara fare against Championship opposition, not least because they may soon find themselves on loan in that division.

I’ll discuss the game at Hillsborough more in tomorrow’s preview but moving on for now and Arsenal were today fined by the FA for breaching certain regulations in relation to Chambers’ transfer from Southampton in the summer of 2014.

Apparently we dealt with an agent who wasn’t properly licensed but it seems it was a genuine oversight as opposed to a calculated flaunting of the rules and we move on, lessons learned and our procedures reviewed to rule out a repeat in the future.

Right, a bit brief but that’s all I have for today. Back pre-match tomorrow.

See you soon.

22nd September 2015: Gabriel ban rescinded but damage is already done

Greetings Gooners. There has been a shock development in the case of Mike Dean, Diego Costa and the Scandal of Stamford Bridge after the FA today rescinded Gabriel’s three-match ban for his straight red card on Saturday, displaying the kind of common sense and fair ruling they’ve so often shown themselves incapable of in the past.

The Brazilian defender still has a charge of improper conduct hanging over his head for failing to leave the pitch immediately following his dismissal, but for the time being, today’s statement means Gabriel is available for tomorrow’s Capital One Cup game at Tottenham should Arsene Wenger decide to use him. The full release from the FA reads as follows:

Arsenal’s claim of wrongful dismissal in relation to Gabriel has been upheld following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing. The player’s three-match suspension has, therefore, been withdrawn with immediate effect. Gabriel was dismissed for violent conduct during the game against Chelsea on Saturday [19 September 2015]. The player is currently subject to a separate FA charge of improper conduct in relation to Saturday’s game and has until 6pm on Thursday [24 September 2015] to reply.

According to The Mirror’s John Cross, Arsenal have ‘proved’ Gabriel made no contact with Costa in his red card incident and our ‘legal team compiled a ‘dossier’ of Costa’s dirty tricks which convinced the Football Associaton to uphold the appeal’.

Whilst I’m obviously glad we’ve used video evidence to bring some of Costa’s despicable antics during the game to the FA’s attention, including his kick-out at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, I do wonder if they’d have charged the Chelsea player had we not done so. I mean, his behaviour was clear for the watching world to see and should have been addressed retrospectively, regardless of any encouragement from us, but I’m not convinced it would have been.

Frankly, if the authorities don’t discipline the Chelsea striker (and he’s shown himself a better ‘striker’ when lashing out at opponents than he’s been when putting the ball in the back of the net so far this season) with a punishment in line with his crimes, then they’d be wasting a great opportunity to try to stamp out this type of violent, game-wrecking, cheating from the English game. Let’s hope they use as much common sense in dishing out a lengthy ban for Costa as they have in upholding our appeal over Gabriel’s red card.

All that said however, the overturning of Gabriel’s ban and the prospect of a lengthy suspension for Costa doesn’t come close to making up for the fact that the damage, in terms of Premier League points, has already been done. At the time of Gabriel’s dismissal, we were comfortably drifting towards the interval and quite conceivably have gone on to win the game.

Instead, as today has shown, we were unfairly reduced to ten men and went on to lose the match. Why Mike Dean’s role in all this hasn’t been looked at is beyond me because a more incompetent refereeing performance you’d struggle to find anywhere in professional football.

Chelsea and Jose Mourinho’s response should be fun to hear as the Portuguese will no doubt find a new word for ‘campaign’ to suggest evil forces are conspiring against his side. Speaking of the Enemy of Football, it was interesting to see a video of his post-match press conference put up by various websites including the BBC, because it brought to wider attention his belligerent, warped and venomous mood after the game. I think it was Sky Sports’ Andy Burton who was ridiculed by Mourinho for suggesting Costa had crossed the line during Saturday’s game.

The manager said something like ‘you must have played badminton when you were a kid’, implying that football was a man’s game and his player had done nothing wrong. How the press, as a collective, let Mourinho get away with such insulting, snide comments – his default mechanism for deflecting difficult questions and criticism – is bewildering. Perhaps they ought to approach interactions with him in a more no-nonsense, hard-hitting style like their Spanish and Italian counterparts have done in the past, because letting him treat them with such disdain should just not be accepted.

For all his successes and undoubted ability to win football matches, his attitude, in public at least, is quite simply sickening. For a long time he was said to be a master in mind games but I wouldn’t give him the credit for being calculated. Arsene Wenger has his faults as a manager but he could teach Mourinho an awful about being a human being and treating others with respect. For that, as well as the fact he’s a top manager himself, I’m proud he represents our football club.

As I’ve been writing this post, the FA have confirmed they have issued Costa with a three-game ban for violent conduct on Saturday. It’s not nearly long enough in my opinion, but I suppose some consolation at least, for last weekend’s refereeing shitshow, if not the dropped points.

Back tomorrow.

21st September 2015: Charges all round as FA release statement

So the FA have today confirmed they will be charging Cheatsea’s Diego Cheata for his attempt to rip Laurent Koscielny’s face off with his bare hands, in the 43rd minute of Saturday’s game at Scamford Bridge.

But just in case they’re accused by Jose Mourinho of having an agenda against his ghastly club, they’ve also charged Gabriel with ‘improper conduct for his behaviour following his dismissal’, both clubs for failing to control their players and warned serial troublemaker Santi Cazorla for his behaviour following his own dismissal.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have also confirmed they are appealing wrongful dismissal and the three-match ban given to Gabriel. The full FA statement read:

Following the game between Chelsea and Arsenal on Saturday [19 September 2015], the FA has taken the following disciplinary action. 

Diego Costa has been charged for an alleged act of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video. The Chelsea forward was involved in an incident with Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny in the 43rd minute of the game. He has until 6pm tomorrow (Tuesday 22 September 2015) to reply. Off the ball incidents which are not seen at the time by the match officials are referred to a panel of three former elite referees. Each referee panel member will review the video footage independently of one another to determine whether they consider it a sending-off offence. For retrospective action to be taken, and an FA charge to follow, the decision by the panel must be unanimous. 

Arsenal defender Gabriel has been charged with improper conduct for his behaviour following his dismissal, whilst teammate Santi Cazorla has been warned for his behaviour following his sending off. Finally, both clubs have been charged for failing to control their players under FA Rule E20. 

Both clubs and Gabriel have until 6pm on Thursday [24 September 2015] to reply.

The first thing to ask is why has Diego Cheata been charged for only one act of violent conduct? Even if you discount the chest bump on Koscielny and the provocatively forceful palms to Gabriel chest, that still leaves the attempted face-off, scratching Gabriel’s neck and kicking out at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A hat-trick of violent acts.

I was hoping a for a wave of condemnation for the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard’s behaviour and although he’s received criticism in some quarters, when you have a high-profile figure like England assistant and Sky pundit Gary Neville going on Twitter to say ‘I like Diego Costa’ following the game, is it any wonder his constantly grotesque behaviour on a football pitch is tolerated? In fact, as Neville’s tweet suggests, it’s accepted, admired and perhaps even encouraged, which is ridiculous.

We may as well make our next signing from the WWE roster because if its grappling the fans want to see, then why not give them the real deal, rather than an average striker who spends most of the match trying to maim opponents and the rest of it shouting at the referee trying to get his victims dismissed.

Anyway, as Arsene Wenger said after the game, Gabriel, no matter how much he was provoked both physically and verbally by Diego Cheata, should have remained as cool as Koscielny, and not reacted. The man who’s place in our starting line-up the Brazilian has occupied in recent weeks, Per Mertesacker, has been giving his take to the controversial game when speaking on German TV. As transcribed by Arseblog News, he said:

First of all, he (Diego Cheata) should have been sent off. That’s what should have happened above all. He went far too far and it seems that English referees lack the common sense that’s necessary. The officials certainly didn’t look good in this situation. Having said that, Gabriel can’t let himself be provoked and he should have been walked away from the scene by his team-mates. So we have to take responsibility for the situation, too.

It was also put to the World Cup winner that Cheatsea fans seemed to revel in their striker’s behaviour at the weekend, which is bizarre given English football is very vocal about it’s dislike and supposed intolerance of dark arts like diving and cheating, often blaming foreign players for introducing them to the Premier League. He said:

Well, they certainly didn’t (hate cheating) today. Today the player got a standing ovation from his own fans and that shows you that the rivalry is more important than what happened on the pitch. That hurts, because it definitely didn’t show fairness and certainly didn’t show respect. Those are things football should stand for and that’s why I don’t want anything to do with this (*these sort of antics) myself. I hope it gets punished retrospectively since that option exists. The guy (Costa) was already punished a few times, but so far he hasn’t changed. So I hope the right conclusions are drawn and since there were several violent conducts, it should be easy to make the right decision.

And that’s the point right there – ‘it should be easy to make the right decision’. Except as today’s statement from the FA has shown, they have chosen to completely ignore the majority of Diego Cheata’s crimes on Saturday and in doing so, passed up the perfect opportunity to make an example of a hideous character who is a stain on the English game.

Multiple charges for multiple offences would have been fair and also increased the likelihood of Diego Cheata changing his ways. Instead he’ll serve any short ban he’s given after an inevitable appeal sees it reduced and continue scamming his way through the season at the expense of the competition’s integrity, quality and, ultimately, it’s reputation.

Mourinho told reporters after the game that Diego Cheata ‘needs’ to play this way and all but told the assembled press to shut up about it, because it’s players like him who sell the league to the millions around the world. But he’s wrong on both counts of course.

Players like Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil draw the crowds and flog the television rights worldwide, and you can show the heart, fight and determination which sets the Premier League apart from the rest, without being a Cheata like his star striker.

Til Tuesday.