Interlull round-up + Willian’s dubious Dubai trip


This Interlull is almost over. Here’s what I can glean from an Arsenal perspective in terms of our players being involved.

Spain beat Germany 6-0 (oof!), but Hector Bellerin was not involved in a game which provided substantial fodder for headline writers as the Germans hit ‘A new Low’, ‘An all time Low’, and other things which don’t really work because of the pronunciation but seem fine in print if you use ‘Low’ and not ‘Löw’. Perhaps there’s a tennis one to be made, but I’ve spent far too much time on this already.

Granit Xhaka would probably have played for (and in) Switzerland against Ukraine, but that game was called off hours before kick-off due to a number of positive tests for Covid-19 among the visiting players and staff. It’s almost as if significant groups of people travelling from one country to another is a bad idea in the midst of a global pandemic.

Elsewhere, Eddie Nketiah added another couple of goals to his record England U21 tally as they beat Albania 5-0. You can see the goals here and here. Nicolas Pepe played for the Ivory Coast as they drew 1-1 with Madagascar, with Julien King scoring late-on for the islanders. Tonight, we have to worry about Bukayo Saka as England play a Nations League dead-rubber against Iceland; Sead Kolasinac might be involved for Bosnia-Herzegovina when they take on Italy; while Scotland and Kieran Tierney are in Israel.

At least the players who have been spared international duty have been ensuring they don’t put themselves at any kind of risk.

What? Oh …

Ok. Let me say first and foremost that the full facts are generally important when commenting or having an opinion on something. Perhaps Willian’s visit there was for either work or educational purposes, and his visit to a restaurant where he didn’t maintain social distance from the salt sprinkling meatwanker was all above board. It still looks terrible though.

Even if he was there to set up some kind of foundation for kids, like the Willian Willian School for Kids Who Can’t Play Football Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Not That Good Too, it’d be difficult to say he was being in any way sensible. There is a pandemic. Cases are on the rise almost everywhere. Footballers are supposed to, as much as possible, stay within the ‘Elite Sports Bubble’. Flying to Dubai – regardless if he went first class or by private jet – is just stupid right now.

Not only does he put himself at risk, but everyone else he’s in close contact with – and that means the players, staff and so on at the training ground. We can all understand players being given some days off but, you know, stay at home in your goddam mansion with everything you could ever want. Who amongst us right now wouldn’t fancy going somewhere … anywhere … having spent the last 8 months adhering to lockdowns, restrictions and paying close attention to public health advice?

Let’s see what his explanation is, but I’ll say this: from my perspective, he has got a lot to do to win over this particular Arsenal fan. He was brought in on big, big money to come into the team and make an immediate impact. His experience, his knowledge of the Premier League, the fact he wouldn’t have to settle in or any of that, were things that justified his signing, if not the length of the deal. The three year contract we gave him remains an act of rank stupidity … at best. If you were more cynical, you might put that decision in a column marked Dubious Deals which includes a few others we’ve done in the last 12-18 months.

While I fully accept that as a collective we have been poor this season, and other individuals have struggled for form, he stands out. Like it not, the fact you arrive from Chelsea means you have a spotlight shining on you every time you step on the pitch in red and white, and that spotlight has not been kind to Willian. Bar the opening day at Fulham, he has been off the pace, his work-rate sub-par, his defensive work non-existent at times, and he looks every single one of his 32 years with a few extra added on for good measure.

When you’re playing well, you can ‘get away’ with things. People will forgive an in-form footballer pretty much any off-field indiscretion because ultimately what you do on the pitch is what matters most to them. When you’re trudging around the pitch like a bloke who has come to play out a comfortable few years at a luxury retirement home, you don’t get that kind of leeway. The season is long, there’s still a lot football to play, and Willian may well improve and contribute in a more positive manner, but right now he’s been a big disappointment and does not deserve a starting place week in, week out.

Whether this indiscretion, if you want to call it that, is enough for him to miss out against Leeds on Sunday remains to be seen. Mikel Arteta has created a culture where what he considers poor behaviour has a direct impact on your chances of being picked, so unless there’s a perfectly innocent explanation for Willian’s trip to Dubai which he’s completely satisfied with, then his involvement for the trip to Elland Road looks in some doubt.

Right, fingers crossed for all the lads involved tonight. More from me tomorrow.

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