The international breaks are over and players are returning to London ahead of the big clash this weekend between Arsenal and their farm team, Southampton.
Arsene already took a training session with the players available including Mustafi, Walcott, Özil, and Lucas. We can’t judge much from these training sessions — Mustafi is snapped pointing and looking like a laser-focused defensive killing machine. But you can’t tell much from a photo because that is exactly how I remember Thomas Vermaelen looking when he first moved to Arsenal. Let’s hope Mustafi has a better Arsenal career than Vermaelen.
One of the more remarkable photos of the session (used here for illustration purposes only) is one with Walcott, his muscles bulging. His body transformation over the years has been quite remarkable. He went from skinny kid to suddenly packing on the muscle in the last two years.
I would imagine that he’s put on this weight in order to help deal with the rigours of the Premier League but it could just be part of his tireless efforts to stay fit and regain a starting place in the Arsenal front four*.
One thing to note about such a body change is that it can take time to adjust as a player. I know, I know, “we’ve given Theo all the time” but wouldn’t it just be perfectly Arsenal for Theo Walcott to suddenly blossom into a 20 goal a season striker? Maybe he’s like that corpse flower and it takes him 28 years to bloom? His defensive work has also improved this season when he was deployed wide, again, indicating a player hungry to prove himself.
On a not totally unrelated point, new defensive recruit Shkodran Mustafi gave some quotes. My favorite is about Perez where he says: “He’s someone you can play well with. He doesn’t just run around and wait for someone to give him a pass to score a goal. He works a lot for the team as well and he creates chances.” I know that Mustafi isn’t talking about Walcott in that quote but he could be. Not in the “works hard” part but in the other part about “just run around and wait for a pass”.
That was the biggest problem for Arsenal when Walcott was deployed as a center forward, he couldn’t (or didn’t) drop to collect and bring his teammates into the game. Instead he seemed to always be making a run and demanding service. Now that he’s back on the wing, Walcott is back working for the team again. It’s almost as if — and I don’t want to get too technical here — Walcott didn’t know how to play center forward.
Xhaka didn’t practice yesterday because Switzerland were playing Portugal. His team beat the 2016 Euro Champs 2-0 but Xhaka went and got himself a second yellow for a silly challenge from behind. But hang on, maybe it wasn’t silly? Maybe he got himself a nice little break from the next international break! Smart kid that Granit.
While we are talking about international breaks that aren’t breaks: can we address the fact that Fifa is running these young men to death? Look no further for proof of Fifa overworking these players than Chile sitting in 7th place and running a major risk of losing out on World Cup qualifications.
There is literally no debate here. I don’t care about Fifa one drop. Fifa is a criminal organization which does no good for football and exists simply to enrich its board members through bribery. If Fifa would like to sue me for defamation I welcome them, they are the ones who most recently admitted that they were taking bribes which they had to do because essentially every single board member for the last 20 years has been convicted of bribery.
Fifa are nothing but a machine which uses forced labor to extort capital from players, fans, clubs, and countries. Fifa’s rules allow them to compel players to show up to their national teams when they are called up. If a player refuses a call, his local FA is required to ban him from club football for a period equivalent to the time he would have spent playing for Fifa. There are also complicated emotional ties that these players have to their national teams which Fifa uses to keep everyone in line.
We literally just finished with Euro 2016 (run by Fifa’s gangster cousin UEFA) and the contrived “Copa America Centenario” (run by UEFA’s gangster cousin Fifa) and three weeks into the new season we are back playing more international matches — two games in a week. And with Chile, the number of matches that they have played for Fifa over the last two years is astonishing.
And Fifa also extracts capital out of clubs. This weekend’s match is the perfect example. Arsenal have two players they can start at center forward: Giroud or Alexis. Both of those players went to the final game of their respective summer tournaments and both just went to this absurd international break. That leaves Arsene Wenger with a choice of either playing one or both men or throwing on his newest player, a guy with zero Premier League experience. Fifa (Chile, France) don’t rest players, the club has to be the one to rest players. And it’s the club who pays these players. It’s the fans of the club who pays these players. And we fans are the ones who pay the price for Fifa to have yet another money-spinning tournament, where they can extract bribes, like the Copa America Centenario.
I feel like I have said this 20 times over the last 10 years. Probably every single time that we have an international break and Fifa gets to force players to play for them. I feel like this is never going to change as long as the players allow themselves to be used like this by Fifa’s rules. Some brave player is going to have to stand up to Fifa and say no mas, I’m not going to go play in a tournament that is used simply as a means to extract bribes.
*Sort of a joke. We do seem like we play a 244 for most games.