Can he get it back?
Before I get started on the Villa game I have to refer to yesterday's announcement of the extended sponsorship deal with Emirates. When I read the start of Arsenal's press release I thought "this is a really good deal", getting the Club £150m over just five years. However, when you read on you see that the naming rights on the stadium are also included and extended for a further 7 years. Effectively the stadium sponsorship has been given over free of charge. Officially the money is divided between the shirt and stadium deals, but that means that the kit deal is crap again. Okay, we're not Manchester United, but only Liverpool can rival Arsenal in terms of the sort of Worldwide appeal that can be enjoyed by sponsors of an English Premier League side. Surely Ivan Gazidis should have been looking for £150m for the shirt deal alone, and then more cash for the stadium? If Emirates weren't willing to part with more then Arsenal should have been telling them to jog-on and sell the deal to other major companies. Obviously I'm no businessman, but it looks more and more as though Mr Gazidis is more Alan Sugar than Donald Trump. I can't help feeling we've been short-changed in a major sponsorship agreement yet again. Meanwhile Manchester United continue to move further away on the commercial side.
There's a really good interview in today's Sun newspaper with Aaron Ramsey. He tells the fans they need to be patient with Jack Wilshere now that he has returned as there is still a long road to travel for him. Ramsey points out that Jack was out even longer than himself, but there is one big difference of course. Jack's injury was basically a stress problem on his young and developing bones, whereas Ramsey had his leg shattered by a scumbag. There were complications as Jack worked on his return, the reasons for which are up for debate. I have been surprised that Wilshere has so far not suffered a bit of a Diaby-esque mini breakdown. Players that are out long term often suffer niggles before finally getting back to full fitness. That may well still happen to Jack. It certainly happened to Aaron. However, I think his worries about the fans not being patient with Wilshere are unfounded. I strongly suspect that he was really referring to his own situation with the fans. Rambo has been really suffering for the past 12 months as his lack of pace becomes more and more exposed. I really want Aaron Ramsey to come good. Having battled back from what Shawcross (England international?! Good God!) did to him he deserves to be a success. He has the football ability, but he must learn that he is now a passer of the ball first and foremost as he doesn't possess the speed to beat people. Arsene Wenger also has a role to play here by not bringing him on when he is not required - like last week when we lost the midfield battle after he replaced Wilshere - and not playing him on the right wing.
With two games in 5 days I can see Ramsey being involved from the start at either Villa or Everton. Given the need to still protect and nurture Wilshere it seems unlikely that jack would play three games in seven days any time soon. Personally I would rather see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain deployed than Ramsey but Wenger still seems to want to place plenty of trust in the Welshman. If Abou Diaby or Tomas Rosicky was fit then I expect Ramsey would be deployed on the wing again at Goodison, but options are limited right now. With Theo Walcott out we are quite stretched out wide too, but Gervinho has boosted us there with his return to fitness. Tomas Eisfeld and Serge Gnabry were both absent from the U21 match yesterday so they could well be involved at either Villa or Everton, though there is also an FA Youth Cup match in the week for which they may have been rested.
We are entering a point in the season, over the next six weeks, where there are a lot of games and a lot of points available. I would take a win and a draw from our next two difficult away matches (Villa may be struggling, and we have a fine record against them, but Villa Park is still a tough away day). After that we have eminently winnable matches coming up. A challenge near the top could yet ensue if this Arsenal side keeps the right frame of mind, and the necessary purchases are made in January. It's vital that the players put themselves in the right place to take advantage of any slips from City and United.