Saturday, 16 April 2011

Wilshere conundrum | Wenger on RVP/Diaby spat | Stojkovic to join?

Morning Gooners.

Arsene Wenger held his pre-match press conference yesterday ahead of the Liverpool game. From watching the broadcast journalists interview him on Arsenal TV Online, I would describe his mood as prickly. Perhaps that had a lot to do with what happened last week, when he was rightly asked a lot of important questions but those questions probably weren't to his liking.

These days you don't often see the manager smiling and I know there hasn't been much to smile about over the past few weeks, but I make this point in general. This season it's as though he's had the weight of his team on his shoulders and probably like us all, is frustrated they can't successfully jump cleanly the final hurdle.

For me one of the most interesting answers the manager gave  was to the last question from the journalist from Sky. Wenger was asked if he'd had any further thoughts of Jack Wilshere playing in the Euro under-21s this summer.

"It would be better for him not to go with the Under-21s but I will accept the FA decision.
"The senior team has a friendly in August and if the Under-21s stay to the end of the tournament, I will have to give him four to six weeks' holiday.
"That means he might not be available for the friendly or the qualifiers because he won't be ready.
"FIFA rules state you have to give four weeks' holiday to a player."
No to me, that's the manager playing hard ball with the FA. Although I'm not really sure there is a rule which exists which says players have to be given X weeks holiday. I hope there is!

For me, Wilshere is now part of the England first team and should not be used in the under-21s. If he is to be selected for Stuart Pearce's team, I think Wenger is well within his rights to order Jack to take a long holiday after going to Denmark to recharge his batteries.

A first full season completing approximately 45 games will take its toll on his body. And if we are to see him back to his best he's got to complete a rigorous pre-season which won't have him fit to play for the England national team in August and possibly September.

This is the decision Wenger has put to the FA to make. Which is most important to them: Wilshere playing for the under-21s or for the full national team. In time we'll see what they see as their main priority for Wilshere.

The manager has also spoken about the incident last weekend in the dressing room at Bloomfield Road where Robin van Persie and Abou Diaby had an exchange of words over the Frenchman's booking.

"Van Persie was concerned about Diaby getting a yellow card and what would happen if he got a second ... we all know what happened at Newcastle [when Diaby was sent off].
"Diaby accepted it and said OK. Of course, I'm pleased [about the passion]. I never was worried about the mentality of the team. This team is focused."
Now I've got no problem with van Persie and Diaby having a discussion over this. I think it would have been very one way, with Robin pointing out to Abou the errors of his ways and the Frenchman agreeing with him.

But if we're told these players have no commitment to the club, this is certainly an example of one of the players stepping in and telling a team mate what they've done is not good enough.

Straight away after Diaby got booked last Sunday, Cesc was there putting an arm around Diaby's shoulder and having words with him. If Fabregas and van Persie are stepping up, I'm sure there are others who will do the same.

In The Sun, Patrick Vieira talks about us lacking from players with a more physical edge to them. The Frenchman also questions the futures of Fabregas and van Persie at the club if this doesn't change.

He's not the first person to recognise we are lacking players who are fighters. I think whilst this is true, we are able to get by at the moment and I definitely think this is an area the manager will strengthen with a couple of signings in the summer. 

But the manager doesn't expect our majority shareholder Stan Kroenke to make signings for him.

"We will run the club with the technical department having the decision on what is technical. 
"For all the rest I have of course to answer to Stan Kroenke and I am ready to do that for any questions, but I run the technical department."
I certainly don't think that Kroenke will make any major changes until the summer. I can't see the American making any investment of his own personal cash into the club. In fact, with the player transfer fund having tens of millions in it sat idly in the bank, we don't need his cash for transfers.

Early team news for tomorrow is Wojciech Szczesny is likely to return in goal, with Johan Djourou and Alex Song passing their fitness tests.

However there are doubts over Bacray Sagna (knee), Aaron Ramsey (calf), Tomas Rosicky (unknown) and Manuel Almunia (knee).

The manager also confirmed Thomas Vermaelen is likely to play again this season.

Finally there is more talk that Pat Rice could retire at the end of the season as he's still to sign an extension on his present deal. The Daily Express believe Rice is probably going to leave the club and that Steve Bould could step up from managing the under-18s to become Wenger's assistant.

They also drop in the name of Dragan Stojkovic, who Wenger has already named as his own successor in an interview this season. Patrick Vieira's name is also mentioned.

From what I've been told, Rice is yet to make up his mind if he wants to continue. Steve Bould is not interested in the assistant manager's job - although that could change were he to be offered it.

This close season at Arsenal looks set to be one of the most interesting of recent seasons in the clubs history given the potential for changes both on and off the pitch.

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