There’ll be no homegrown trolley-dash for Arsène

“I definitely wouldn’t go somewhere just because I’m a homegrown player.”

So said Jack Wilshere in the run-up to England’s match against Slovenia: a reminder, if ever it were needed, of the peculiar cachet of being British and half-decent.

Since then we’ve heard (admittedly unsubstantiated) rumours of Mourinho wanting an English Arsenal player – maybe Oxlade-Chamberlain – in return for Cech. Though we could just as easily put that down to a helping of typical Mourinho opportunism.

Man City would take Wilshere in a heartbeat, according to more rumours, but then again – is that because he’s English or because he’s good?

A bit of both maybe, because they’re short of homegrown players. That explains why they’ve bid a whopping £40m – and would probably go higher – for the admittedly promising Raheem Sterling. According to this chart, they’ve got six homegrown players (though that would be five now Milner’s gone). Chelsea, the same graph says, have three. Things may well have changed for both sides since then, I don’t know exactly – but probably not by much. We, apparently, lie on the borderline with exactly eight.

Of course, Arsène has been stockpiling British players for a while now, so compared to some sides it’s not something we need to overly concern ourselves about. What we do need to be careful about is keeping those we have. Partly because they’re good and partly because they’re homegrown.

The homegrown quota system was designed to bring more British players through the ranks, an aspiration I have no beef with at all. As an Englishman, I like seeing British players making it at Arsenal.

It’s a little complicated, but boiled down, a Premier League side is allowed 25 over 21-year-old players in its squad, and of those 25, eight must be home-grown. (This article from @heisenbergkamp explains it quite well, better than I can).

On top of that, Greg Dyke has vowed to extend those numbers to 12, phased in over several years, starting in 2016, and to make the ‘homegrown’ criteria tougher. I don’t know where we’re at with those proposals – not far, I don’t think – but you can see how even the prospect of this raises the premium on young British players.

| A valuable asset |

So good British players are valuable, and they know it.

That’s why, while I’m not remotely worried about Jack leaving, I do think Wenger has to find a regular slot for him (assuming form and fitness, naturally). Jack is valuable and Jack knows it. He wants to play and he needs to play. There are teams out there who’d bite and bite hard if he made the faintest flutter of the eyelashes.

But will any of our exciting young British crop actually go this summer? Wilshere, Walcott, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck, Gibbs, The Ox?

Hot air. Wenger would never countenance it and none of them are agitating for it in any way, shape or form. There is no swerving off the road at contract demands that we know of. Recent history says we buy rather than sell.

The only one who has the perfect storm of contract, age, nationality and ability on his side is Theo.

And until he signs, then you never quite know.

Where’s Wally? He’s right bloody here, that’s where

Arsenal 4-1 WBA

Walcott’s pootled along this season, slowly recovering his potency – oh so slowly – not always convincing on his infrequent forays off the bench, and nobody would have given him a cat’s chance in hell of making the starting eleven for the cup final on Saturday.

Until yesterday.

As timing things to perfection goes, that was straight from the It’s Up For Grabs Now handbook.

Theo was phenomenal, playing through the middle, causing absolute havoc. If he’d spontaneously combusted towards the end of the first half I don’t think anyone would have been massively surprised. He was that hot.

I’d say the general view is that Giroud will start, but I’m not so sure. Compare and contrast yesterday: when Giroud came on he looked languid and tired, much as he has done for the last handful of games. Walcott was the polar opposite. If you were picking the cup final side on form, you’d have to play Walcott, wouldn’t you?

It reminded me of the game he got injured against the Totts. Almost everything he touched turned to goals – that first one was just outrageous from that angle. It was, as my nephew says, ‘toast and meatballs’.

The second was less Hollywood but more deft, a shimmy then a smart finish, and by this point there was no stopping him.

The third, a tap-in, sealed the deal. I’d like to think I could have scored that one but the reality is I’d have been 50 yards back with my arms on my hips, searching for my inhaler, as red as a beetroot.

Wilshere was equally as convincing, though I’m not sure he has as good a chance of starting as Walcott does for the simple reason that the player he’d need to displace – Ramsey in all likelihood – is himself playing very well. Welsh Jesus hit the bar twice when he came on, a gentle reminder that Wenger is going to need to double-dose on Anadin ahead of picking his midfield.

As for his goal, it was a rising rocket. Vieira v Newcastle in 98. Goals don’t get much better than that.

The second half was a non-event by comparison, but that always happens after first halves that scintillating. Plus, who wants to get injured ahead of the cup final?

Everyone else contributed to the spectacle, with the only worry being the form of Ospina. He did not cover himself in glory either for the Baggies’ goal or for the fumbled long-ranger. Can Szczesny expect a call? I can’t see it. He’d surely have had a warm-up game first. The relationship there is irrevocably broken.

Overall, pretty much the perfect way to end the season, a return to goalscoring form after a mini-drought, and some lovely, lively and convincing auditions for the big one on Saturday.


My mind is racing to Saturday already. Don’t lie to me – yours is too. How would I line up for the final? Based on form (and in Ospina’s case, other factors) I say Ospina, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Bellerin, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez, Ramsey, Walcott.

Sorry Jack, sorry Olivier. Some amazing potential stories in that line-up though, if it came to pass. The rise of Bellerin. Monreal displacing Gibbs. Coquelin the phoenix from the ashes. Walcott coming from nowhere.*

*But what do I know. Plus, I reserve the right to change my mind between now and Saturday.

Keeping the concentration

The battle to finish second – or at least in the automatic Champions League slots – has twisted and turned but with some strange fizzling-outs elsewhere in recent weeks, it’s opened up for Arsenal.

United, who were winning without convincing, have slumped at a peculiar time. Liverpool, ditto, though they won’t have given up hope yet. Man City have won three in a row but have had a strange season.

So we stand on the threshold of Champions League football again. Win tonight against Hull and we’re there, barring a four-game collapse of monumental proportions and a swing in goal difference of more than 20 goals.

It’s a good position to be in, but I can’t help but feel it could be a more unpredictable end to the season than we think, too. It’s the time of year when concentration can drop and bodies are weary (as we are seeing elsewhere). If the ‘goal’ has long been Champions League football (stop squirming at the back) and we make it with four games to go, that little edge might be taken off proceedings. That’s something Wenger will be keen to warn against.

Fortunately, we have three home games to come. Does it matter if we come second, third or fourth? Obviously, not having to qualify for the Champions League would be huge. But beyond that – not much. Runners-up means you haven’t been good enough to come first. Though if you look at it chronologically, it’s progress – we’ve not been second since 2005.

In fact, the two most unpredictable opponents could be Hull tonight and Sunderland at home. The prospect of relegation can do strange things to people; just ask Leicester.

If I was in charge, I’d inject a bit more width tonight. Ramsey is a bit wasted out on the right and I’d be inclined to go bold. For me that means starting with Welbeck on the wing, not Ramsey. He can either play through the middle, giving Santi a rest, or can come on later in the game if we need more midfield discipline.

Of course, fitting everyone in is hard when they’re all so atypically fit. Wilshere is champing at the bit and he won’t be the only one. It does make for an intriguing summer, because while I agree with Wenger that the close season won’t see huge ins and outs, there will be some frustration and agitation to contend with. Walcott, Wilshere, Gibbs, Debuchy, Szczesny, Arteta: all will wonder about their places. That’s not even taking the imminent departures of Rosicky and Flamini into account.

In other news…

Much as I say it through gritted teeth, because there’s a list of things I dislike about them as long as my arm, Chelsea have deserved to win the league and I don’t want to be incredibly graceless about it by pretending it hasn’t happened. All fans are partisan and blinkered, and I am no different, but they’ve won the league by a canter, so fair play to them.

The whole ‘boring’ thing was just an epic wind-up and should be seen as such. For me, the thing to concentrate on is not whether you like their style of play or not (I think they’ve played decent football overall – our own performances hardly tore trees up in the first half of the season) and more about what we need to do to catch them next year.

Points-wise, everyone else is miles off.

So if closing the gap means being more cynical and streetwise at times, and throwing aesthetics out the window if necessary, I’m not sure I’d care too much if it edged us closer to the top of the pile.

As for tonight: Come on you rip-roaring reds. Keep going.

Weave your magic, Tony Colbert

Good morning, and as the French say, ‘April Fish’.

Internationals have been and gone, and there seem to have been wall-to-wall matches since Thursday. Uefa changed this a few years ago, it transpires. Was it changed because:

a. We need to think about the fans more
b. To benefit the players
c. To maximise TV coverage and broadcast income

Clue: this is Uefa we are talking about.

Anyway, what do I care. I did watch England dismantle Lithuania. At the start of the game my ‘Eyes on TV to iPhone’ ratio was about 90:10, but after about ten minutes it was about 10:90. Gave me a chance at least to organise the folders on my phone (‘Stuff 1 and Stuff 2 are all over the place) and reinstate my Bergerac ringtone. So all’s well that ends well.

I watched England against Italy too, and quite enjoyed it. It made me feel a bit dirty, but it was nice to see Woy tweak and twang and turn a bit of a dog’s ear of a first half into a second half more akin to a sow’s purse. [How did your idiom training go? – Ed]

I thought Gibbsy did OK, though he did miss a Monreal in the second half, but Walcott was involved far too little. It seems very peculiar to me that he’s been playing centrally so much when it’s patently not where he is at his best. Against Monaco away, when we needed one more goal, he dolloped about in the middle when we could have done with him delivering the shizzle from out wide. He did the same against Italy, as well as playing at No 10, which is a bit like asking Berkgamp to fill in at right back.

I’ve been a big advocate for patience when it comes to Walcott, as he had a stinker of an injury, but he’s very peripheral at the moment. On this kind of form, the question is less “Can we turn down £25m for him” and more “Who would pay £25m for him”, but form changes fast and I’m sure his will improve. I’d still keep him, of course I would, but I am worried about how he’s played since his return, a few well-taken goals aside.

Incidentally, the answer to “Who would pay £25m for him” is still “many teams”. He was our top scorer two seasons ago.

Partly because he can be so much better than this, partly because it’s not a big outlay for an established international and partly because he’s English and so many teams have completely forgotten to buy or bring through English players.

Great to see four of our crocks back too – immaculate timing. As Arseblog says this morning, it will be interesting to see how we can fit them all in, Jack in particular. If Wenger has the nerve to genuinely rotate our midfield, then we might see a fair bit of him. He tends though to go with the same players when they are playing well – which is perfectly logical and reasonable – so Jack might have his work cut out unless we get an injury or two. What are the chances of that happening at Arsenal, I wonder?

Diaby, well let’s not hold our breath. Best case scenario is that he’s fit for a bit and can find himself a new club in the summer rather than having to retire. I suspect the options are that stark.

Saturday still seems some way off, but it’s pivotal. Before then though, it’s the Tony Colbert Magic Sponge Show.

Enjoy OK Wednesday. The starter gun has fired for Not Bad Thursday, then Good Friday. I’m hoping for Excellent Saturday, but if things go a bit sour we might need resurrecting ahead of the FA Cup semi-final.

Don’t worry, I’ve already got my coat and fled.

Arsenal: Draw specialists

Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham

It’s hard to know what to make of this Arsenal side at the moment. In terms of personnel, we’re stronger than last season. But as a team? It’s just not working properly, as two wins in nine testifies.

All the possession in the world, but what’s the point of that if we lack the means to go for the jugular?

Don’t get me wrong, a point is no disaster, but we’ve been a curious side to watch for much of the season. Generally not bad – apart from in Dortmund, where we were awful – but certainly not quite good enough.

Getting the right system right and bedding new players in is clearly vexing Wenger, as it is with several managers, so I suppose the fact that we are unbeaten in the league is something to draw comfort from. We’re not easy to beat.

But we’re six points off the pace, and should we see the kind of top four away-day Collaps-o-Arsenal of recent years next weekend (I don’t think we will ship six, but it’s a fair question to ask), then we’d be nine points off the top at the beginning of October. Time to get worried, or a bit of perspective required?

The latter, to be honest. I think we’ve got a very strong team, but it’s one that has yet found the groove. New players, World Cup returnees, etc etc – it’s not an excuse but it’s a factor.

As for yesterday, there were good shifts put in by most players. Oxlade-Chamberlain looked strong, Ozil and Welbeck worked hard, Wilshere was always looking to drive forward (and was felled on most occasions). Like I say, curious. We didn’t look bad. We just didn’t look quite capable of knocking the door down.

And to cap it all off, Arteta and Ramsey are now out. Of those, the former is the biggest worry as Flamini didn’t cover himself in glory yesterday. Why we have no other options in that position is of course a question that’s been asked a thousand times before, given our millions in the bank. But there you go – there are only so many times you can say it before it becomes boring.

Ramsey has perhaps epitomised Arsenal this season. Not bad, but just not hitting the heights of last season. Fortunately, it’s one position in the team we have options. If he’s been carrying a knock for a while (and it’s the second time he’s been out this season, so that could well explain something) then it’s probably best that he lets his body mend properly.

Onto the Champions League we go, where we’ve little room for error already. I guess we just have to KBO* until we get the balance right.


Alexis marks the spot

Arsenal 2-2 Manchester City

It was one of those games where disappointment at the final whistle pretty quickly morphed into satisfaction. It was our best performance of the season so far – though it wasn’t quite enough to see off the champions.

It was all about Welbeck before the match (no, I’m not shortening his name and adding a zed, before you ask, and nor shall I be referring to him as ‘that chap’). His name got the loudest roar as the line-ups were read out. I think he had a decent debut, though he faded a bit in the second half. He wasn’t the only one to be fair.

It would have been an even better debut had his chipped effort, which lofted over the Head and Shoulders of Hart, hadn’t bounced back off the post. Should he have hit the target there? Harsh – he had the goalie thundering out at him and in the circumstances he did the right thing.

Our weakness was down the left, with Monreal playing fast and loose with the notion of left back. We got away with it once when City counter-attacked down that side, but not a second time: Nigel Flamini was involved at the start and finish of the move.

Step in Jack Wilshere, who played as well as I’ve seen him play in a year or two. He and Sanchez were absolutely superb all game. Jack was always looking to go forward and seems to have found that extra yard of pace that was missing at times last season. He was such a menace City upended him on plenty of occasions (something they did systematically when Arsenal broke or approached the area). Pellegrini had steam coming out his ears at the end of the game, moaning about fouls in the run-up to both our goals. All the while handily ignoring his own side’s methods to break up play. City are very streetwise, and if that’s what we’re becoming, then amen to that. About time too.

Wilshere’s goal was a joy, a blur of pass and move and a bounce of pace to make Clichy look like a fool. Which is always nice.

Sanchez was immense too, his energy often putting his teammates to shame. Where does he get that drive from? Bottle it and sell it and you’d be a millionaire. We’ve got a lot of attacking talent at the club, and he’s fast becoming the one you simply can’t drop. Low centre of gravity, incredibly skill in tight spaces, an eye for goal and amazing tenacity. And what a strike.

Booked for taking your shirt off. I’ve always disliked that rule, when people tug and nick at people and feign injury and dive without so much as a by-your-leave from the ref. Pah.

Downsides? I thought Ozil was a passenger until quite late on when he found a burst of energy. His body language, always hard to decipher at the best, spoke of frustration. That translated to the stands. He didn’t look that fit. Ramsey too looked less dynamic than usual.

At the back, we let our fourth headed goal of the season in (topping the table in that regard), and Wenger was happy enough to concede that we need a bit of work in that area. We were defensively suspect for both goals.

Then there’s Debuchy, who went down in agony, thumping the turf. “You wouldn’t go down like that if it wasn’t bad” suggested Shedman. “Giroud does it all the time”, said my brother. Nothing’s broken, but it’s a bad sprain and we’re now down to the bare bones at the back.

In fact his injury came at a very bad time. I thought we lost concentration during the time he was treated and a bit of momentum, and City’s equaliser felt like it was coming before it did. Frustrating.

In the end, we could have lost it with City hitting both posts, so we can’t be too upset. One win and three draws, six points from twelve. I wouldn’t read too much into any of that. The main thing is that we’ve picked up some form and wobbly defence aside, we’ve got some incredible attacking depth. We’ll need to fit Walcott back in at some point.

Nice problem to have.

Wenger: The last of his kind?

By Ronnie Macdonald from Chelmsford, United Kingdom [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


It struck me the other day, as yet another manager was sent packing after a season and a half (on paid leave! Wrong job Jim, wrong job!), and with more managers threatened with the sack by the day, how odd it must seem to a newcomer to the Premier League to see a man who’s been in the same job for over 17 years.

In that regard, Wenger really is the last of a dying breed. With Ferguson gone, and Moyes moving, he’s far and away the longest serving manager in the Premier League, and I suppose it says all you need to know about how things have changed that the second longest-serving manager is Alan Pardew, at just over three years.

Times, as someone once said, they are a-changing. Up until 1989, West Ham had only had five managers ever – and while that was the exception rather than the norm, things really have shifted the other way to an extraordinary degree.

When Wenger hangs up his sleeping-bag jacket, or screws the final lid onto his pesky water bottle, will we ever see another Arsenal manager surviving 17 years? I can’t see it. Can you? Football has changed so much since 1996 that three or four years has become the norm – much as it has always been on parts of the continent.

Maybe English football has finally ‘caught up’ with the rest of Europe. Maybe its global appeal, and the money sloshing about, have made long-termism impossible. And maybe the legion of overseas owners, businessmen predominantly, see football like any other business.

We always read in the press that managers are not given enough time, and are knee-jerked out of their jobs at the drop of a hat, and I think on balance that I agree with that. But is longevity a guarantee of success? You could argue that you only last that long if you’re exceptional in some way. Wenger’s got us into the top 4 since time immemorial, and his first 8 years were phenomenal, but we’re potless in a while. Would he have lasted this long elsewhere? Perhaps not. Over at Chelsea, they operate at the opposite end of the spectrum, hiring and firing without so much as a by your leave. Some of their fans may resent that, but I bet there are plenty who look at the cabinet and conclude that it’s not a bad thing if there’s silverware at the end of it (and money helps on that front, of course).

I think Wenger’s done a terrific job so far this season. I’m just saying that when he’s gone, we won’t see longevity like that again. Not at Arsenal, not anywhere. I hope I am proved wrong, but it’ll be a good 15 years until I can be, so I feel able to say that with some confidence…

Only fifteen years to go, Alan.


Two game ban for flicking the bird? Fine if everyone from now on gets the same punishment. But will they? I suspect there’ll be a few Arsenal fans monitoring that.

Happy Christmas, FA.


Unless I get cut out and cast to the wind (and it’s always a possibility – watch me backtrack if that’s the case), I’ll be on the Arseblog Arsecast on Friday. I fear that I am remarkably positive on it. Which is a little odd and may come back to haunt me.

Arsenal’s lead whittled as floodgates open

Manchester City 6-3 Arsenal

I keep hearing how this was a cracking game for the neutral. That would be all well and good if I was a neutral. From my perspective we leaked six goals and there’s only so much heart you can take from your team being involved in a game that everyone but its own fans went away from with a warm glow. Everton last week was another cracking game for the neutral. Glad to be of service but we’ve taken one point from six…

It was a game of many facets though, hard in a way to pigeonhole. City scored six but could have had eight, we had the ball in the net five times and could have had a penalty. Our parsimonious defence chose a rotten day to switch off, but then again who can deny the impressive firepower of City? They’re tonking pretty much everyone for fours and sixes at home these days. I also read somewhere that we should take some comfort from scoring three times (five, if you’re cross with the linos) at a venue at which barely anyone else has ruffled the net yet. Small comfort but I suppose if there are two positives that do come out of yesterday it’s our ability to score goals and our determination to keep going when all seems lost.

On that note, a good game for Theo Walcott – absent all season – who scored two nice goals. It’s easy to forget that we have reached Christmas without two of our biggest scorers of last season, Walcott and Podolski, who between them got 37 goals. If you want to take another positive from a six goal clumping, it’s that we now have those two men back, and just at a time when both of this season’s main scorers, Giroud and Ramsey, have hit a dry patch.

At the back, we couldn’t really cope. Mertesacker was his usual composed self but Monreal – so good against Hull City – had a tough game and we were breached far too easily for my liking. Our midfield didn’t help, with Wilshere especially sloppy, and I think fatigue, though Wenger tried not to blame it, had an increasing effect as the game wore on with misplaced passes aplenty and losses of concentration. This was personified by Giroud, who missed several presentable chances and wore the hang-dog expression of a weary man.

We were never in control, really, always trying to chip away at a City lead rather than being able to hold what we had. The nearest we got to looking like we might get something was at 3-2, when Theo’s goal gave us a shot of energy, but almost immediately conceding a fourth did for us. The game was lost then.

We shall see what effect conceding six goals has on us psychologically. It’s hard to say but what is certain is that City look formidable. We’ll find out soon enough of course with Chelsea coming to town a week on Monday. One thing we’ll know for sure is that nine days off gives us a good opportunity to recharge our batteries and nurse our lacerated knees.

We are still top.

Which is worth remembering.

Where there’s a Wilshere, there’s a way

Arsenal 4-1 Norwich

I don’t wish to get all meta about things, but do you ever wonder why you like football? The comfort of routine, the camaraderie, the sense of belonging, the escapism, the commitment and the competition? Well, yes, it’s all of those things.

But sometimes the pleasure you take in football can be summed up in one pint-sized package of play, lasting perhaps no more than ten seconds. It doesn’t have to be a moment of real consequence, such as the one that ended with Thomas squirming in the turf in 1989 or Adams barrelling through to score from a Bould assist in 1998. It can just as easily be a split second of pure skill and nerve, like Bergkamp spinning on a sixpence to score at Newcastle in 2002.

We all remember those moments, the ones that take your breath away and make strange parts of you tingle whenever you think of them. Because they are so out of the ordinary, so rare in the grand scheme of things, they give you a warm fug that’s sometimes hard to explain and – I suspect you know where I’m going with this – I got it when I saw Wilshere’s goal yesterday. And when I thought of it just now. And when I think about it tomorrow, it’ll happen then too.

It was just so preposterously good. To pull a move like that off, one between that many players, requires confidence, skill, but above all luck – those touches are so deft, the smallest error or the most infinite of hesitations would have brought the move to a crashing halt. Everything worked, from everyone. Gibbs, Cazorla, a flurry of outrageous touches between Giroud and Wilshere then a one-touch finish. That’s football, for me. That’s why I love it. It was worth the £35 on its own.

Other moments of great skill yesterday will justly feel left out of my paean. Ramsey’s this-way-and-that jink and finish, his cutback for the fourth, Giroud’s laser-guided cross onto the Ozil bonce for the second – all magnificent. Just not quite as magnificent as that first.

Soak it all up, because this is good stuff. The irony has not been lost on me that in a season where Arsenal have made the best start in ages, and are playing their best football in ages, my own attendance is showing relegation form. I’ve been away, or otherwise engaged, for four of the six home games this season – very much a case of #eastlowerout.

I intend to start putting this lamentable form right, beginning on Tuesday against Dortmund.

In the meantime, I might just watch those goals again.

And again.

And again.

Me: Not efficient in the zones where it matters

And so it came to pass, as they said in the olden days (along with other common but now old-fashioned phrases like ‘Willlttttttooooooord!’ and ‘it’s up for grabs now’). We lost the derby and I went into hiding and swore a vow of blogging silence. That, at least, is this week’s feeble excuse. Honestly, how Arseblogger and other Arsenal bloggers do this every day at the moment – well ever, really, but especially at the moment – remains beyond my comprehension.

And then this random mid-season break of 11 days came along, which arrived courtesy of the FA Cup, a tournament you may or may not have heard that we are no longer participating in. (It still needles, yes). These 11 days form part of an entire month of no home games, all of which I feel I ought to blame on Sepp Blatter, so I will, irrespective of evidence.

I’m eager to get the home games flowing again. I still miss the starter and pudding of matchday, you see, if not always the main course.

Wenger admitted after the derby defeat that we were not efficient in the zones where it matters, which he then named as at the front and at the back. It made me laugh at the time. You know the kind of laugh.

So it’s a bit like me with this blog, then – I am efficient when it comes to intending to write something regularly, but rather lacking in the zones that matter, namely the writing of the blog and the publishing of it (and there’s an additional zone, which is writing something that makes any sense or has a structure, and is worth reading, and I’m not enormously efficient there either). Not efficient in the zones that matter. So good I ought to make it my new tagline.

Anyway, it got me thinking a bit. Which area are we most likely to have a bit of luck fixing? Defence or attack? My initial view was that our defensive errors are so stubborn that Wenger should concentrate on eking out some more goals from the people who have stopped scoring them – Giroud, Walcott in particular, but let’s be honest, we’re not scoring enough so from everyone. But then I read Tim Stillman’s excellent piece arguing that we should go all out to tighten up at the back, then build from there, and I can see the logic in that too. And then I thought, why can’t we do both? Got ahead of myself a bit, I know.

I bet all three options have been considered over the last ten days, albeit probably in a more lucid manner.

And what of Munich away? I read tonight that Wilshere is a doubt, and I just wouldn’t risk him if that’s the case. Winning 3-0 or 3-1 is pie in the sky. Play for a bit of pride, yes – but not if it sidelines Jack for more realistic matters.

But at least it’s looming, it’s nearer – and we can all get back to normal. Or whatever passes for normal just now.