Had I bothered to write an entry on Friday night, I would of course have opened with the predictable ‘Gone The Baptista’ headline. As it was, I didn’t, and now it’s too late. No need to expound on that one, apart from to say he never seemed particularly keen to come, so not getting him A) comes as no surprise and B) is probably for the best.
It was pretty difficult to draw many conclusions from the Ajax game, as it was played at a subdued pace – a classic pre-season match then. It’s the third year we’ve played in the tournament, and apparently Lupoli’s goal was the first strike we’ve managed in that time. A festival of goals tonight against Porto? Don’t bet on it.
I’d say we’re in pretty good health for the upcoming season, and Hleb looks an excellent addition to the squad. However, The Grauniad picked up on something that concerns many Arsenal fans at this late stage of preseason – the shallowness of our squad. In fact, its reporter described the bench as “callow”, a word that pretty much hits the problem square-bang on the head.
Hleb, Hoyte, Cygan, Bentley, Lupoli, Eboue, Howard, Djourou and Muamba made up that bench. Hleb and Cygan aside (the former untried in the FAPL and the latter a wizened old man compared to the rest), there’s not much Premiership experience there.
In mitigation, Campbell and Gilberto are still out, and Cesc (all 18 years of him – point reinforced) is still not around, but there’s clearly a need for a couple of additions – and not raw, untested youths. We need some Champions League experienced players to fill the gaps left by Vieira and Edu, and to be honest, they don’t even need to be long-term prospects. Just players who can add a bit of balance to a squad that is big on ability but small on the school of hard knocks.
That’s maybe why we were linked with Dacourt – a player who is long in the tooth, but hugely experienced. He would have been a stop-gap, nothing more, while Cesc, Flamini, Bentley et al put a few footballing miles on the clock.
I’m not sure what to make of rumours this morning that Hoyte and Bentley might be sent out on loan. From what I’ve seen, Bentley could get 15-20 games this season, and he’d be the better player for doing it with us. He’s an extra option too, one we could do with.
Hoyte too – he can fill in at centre-back, right-back and left-back (as he has been doing this pre-season), and given we don’t have a lot of cover in two of those positions, I reckon he too could get 15-20 games this season (he pretty much got that last one).
Still, they’re only rumours, and currently not strong ones.