Arsenal: Wenger On Home Struggles; Barca Target Bellerin; Leicester Motivated By Gunners' celebrations
Arsenal’s season is already settling into a familiar pattern; the kamikaze opening day defeat aggravated by a lack of signings, the arrival a few new players late in the window and then a period of recovery in the autumn. Next Saturday’s home fixture against Chelsea is a major bump in the road, a game that could jump start their season or open up some old wounds.
Nevertheless, wins over Watford, Southampton and Hull as well as away draws at Leicester and PSG have been a decent response to their 4-3 home defeat against Liverpool. Arsene Wenger though, has noted that the Gunners have looked for comfortable on the road thus far when speaking to the club’s official website:
“Away from home, we look more convincing at the moment than at home. I believe that when we lost our first game, it was a mental shock for us and for our supporters.
“Straight away you have a little bit of scepticism and doubt in your head. So it was important for us to win the Southampton game. Hopefully now we can have the same quality at home.”
Some self-loathing Arsenal fans have suggested that their home struggles are due to a ‘toxic’ atmosphere inside the stadium, with fans divided about the future of Wenger and the direction of the club. This is a gross exaggeration. Wenger has gone on the record on numerous occasions to say that his team’s performance sets the vibe in the stadium, not the other way around.
People also need a bit more perspective. In Brazil and Argentina, fans try to get into their team’s training ground to physically assault the players after a defeat; this doesn’t quite compare with the huffing and puffing that goes on at the Emirates. There is also a tactical aspect to this problem; Wenger’s men enjoy away trips because the games tend to be more open and opponents don’t sit quite so deep.
Elsewhere, The Daily Express are reporting that Barcelona have made Arsenal right-back Héctor Bellerin their primary transfer target. Bellerin went through the famed Barcelona youth system at La Masia, so there is more than a faint hint of the Cesc Fabregas situation about this. The Express say:
“The report claims Roberto Fernandez, the club’s technical secretary, and manager Luis Enrique have made it clear to one another that Bellerin remains at the forefront of their plans going forward.
“They hope to conclude a deal before the Spaniard renews his contract with the Gunners.
“Reports during the transfer window suggested Bellerin was in line for a new deal in order to fend off interest from Barcelona – despite his current contract running until 2019.”
It’s hard to believe that Bellerin is still only 21, and is approaching the two-year anniversary of when he established himself in Arsenal’s first XI in January 2015. The Spaniard has not looked back since, and the club will want him to be their right-back for the next ten years. Bellerin has already made 78 appearances for the Gunners, and though it may sound a long-way off, David O’Leary’s record appearance tally of 772 is not completely unreachable should the Spaniard stay at the Emirates.
A return to Barcelona might seem inevitable, but Bellerin is quite anglicised; he has an English girlfriend and speaks with a slight cockney lilt. Manchester City, given the age of their four full backs, are also likely to make a play for him.
Finally, Leicester’s Robert Huth has claimed that the sight of Arsenal players taking selfies after their victory over Leicester in February inspired the Foxes to go on and win the title. Huth said:
“Everyone was celebrating, they were doing selfies. Even though we were still top.
“A few of the lads stuck a few those pictures up and it got the blood boiling. It gave us an extra yard in the next few games.”
It was a clever piece of motivational ‘kidology’ from the Leicester players, and you should use every method available to you in the heat of a title race. There is no doubt however, that this issue got far more attention than it was worth.
There has been a strange movement in the last few years, often on social media but also vocalised by Roy Keane, where fans of other clubs reproach other teams for ‘over-celebrating’. Manchester City have been criticised for ‘over-celebrating’ winning the League cup. This dreary, po-faced mob would do well to remember that football is about moments of spontaneous joy; those moments shouldn’t be restrained by too much self-awareness.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Emrah Partal