As expected Francis Coquelin is out for two months. Maybe he will be out for more, maybe less, we really just don’t know. As I wrote yesterday, combined with Arteta’s injury, it’s a big blow to Arsenal’s midfield. Just how big? I will have to look at the numbers and show some different options but I’ll do that tomorrow. Actually, Arsenal have a match tomorrow, not so that you’d notice it with all the hubbub about Coquelin’s injury, so maybe I’ll do that stats piece later in the week.
Wenger spoke of possible replacements saying
We have players that play in Coquelin’s position like Mathieu Flamini and others that can play in his position like Calum Chambers. Sometimes it is an opportunity for others to show they can do the job.
I like Chambers a lot. I think he’s got the capability to play in midfield as a defensive midfielder if he can learn some composure with the ball. For most folks tackling hard or getting spectacular blocks is what they want to see from the DM position but for me it’s all about composure with the ball. More than almost any other position, they have to be able to hold the ball up under pressure and make the right pass. A mistake there, a little bit of panic, and the ball goes to the opposition in a dangerous area.
That composure is difficult to teach. Some people are just born certain, as if for them there was never any question that they would be the best. For others it takes hours and hours of playing under pressure to learn the patience needed to be a successful defensive midfielder. From what I’ve seen of Chambers he doesn’t have that same tranquility that Coquelin has. So, realistically, while Wenger is talking up Chambers I don’t see that as an option. Maybe Chambers could pull a “Coquelin” and surprise everyone but I’d be surprised if Wenger could catch lightning in a bottle twice in the same position in less than a year.
Personally, I think a player like Ramsey has to sacrifice himself for the team and play the position. He’s got all the tools to be a good DM. I’m sure some of you will complain about his lack of pace, as if you know what his 40m run time is, but I don’t see him as less fleet footed than Coquelin, who wasn’t exactly the fastest player on the pitch. As an added bonus, if Wenger can leash Ramsey to the central midfield position and tell him he’s not allowed to go past the center circle, it might help with his hamstring problems. You know, fewer sprints? Maybe?
That’s all wishful thinking isn’t it? Ramsey isn’t going to curtail his attacking instincts. That’s like trying to teach a cat not to pounce on a moving object.
I guess it’s Flamini then. God save Flamini’s strings.
That’s your discussion for the day.
I do have one other thing I’d like to talk about, the thing I wanted to write about today but for the Coquelin news, the ball.
In Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors there’s a bit between Dromio and Adriana where she is telling him to go fetch his master but he resists because he doesn’t want to get a beating. At last he says:
Am I so round with you as you with me,
That like a football you do spurn me thus?
You spurn me hence, and he will spurn me hither:
If I last in this service, you must case me in leather.
I actually learned of this quote from Soccer in Sun and Shadow. Eduardo Galeano was writing about the history of the sport, just a blurb, but it contains this quote from Shakespeare.
I remember reading that football was played in England for centuries before it was actually codified into rules in the 19th century but here was a glaring proof that not only was there a game but it was called “football” as early as 1594, 300 years before the first “football association” was formed. Next time some American football fan says “you mean SOCCER?” when you’re talking about football, you just bust out that little tidbit on them.
It’s amazing also that the ball in Shakespeare’s time was a leather ball. It was probably stuffed with all sorts of stuffings which would have made it weird to kick. But it was essentially the same ball that some kids play with now: anything that they can bundle into a ball and kick around will do in a pinch.
A few chapters later, Galeano writes specifically about the ball. He calls the ball a lady. He says that the lady doesn’t like to be kicked or hit out of spite. She likes to be caressed and lulled to sleep in the nook of one’s foot.
I’m not sure that we should call the ball a lady. After all, that could lead to jealously guarding her, keeping her away from others, ball hogging. My philosophy is that the ball must be shared. Perhaps jealously guarded from the opposition, but certainly shared amongst the 11 on the team, the 11 in our tribe. That makes for a bit of an uncomfortable metaphor if we think of the ball as a woman.
No, the ball is cruel, it is fickle, it sometimes need caressing and sometimes needs a good punt up field but it’s just a ball and its only imperative is that it must be shared.
I was thinking about that two weeks ago before my Sunday pickup match. We have an 11 year old kid who just appeared at our pitch one weekend. His name is Boubacar and the first thing he told us is that his favorite player is Cristiano Ronaldo. I can only assume he’s never seen Alexis Sanchez play football or he would rightly switch allegiances.
Boubacar came with a ball, a $10 size 4 that had been flattened by a dog. He didn’t seem to mind that his ball was flat and bitten up. It was a ball.
I tried to help him pump his ball up but it wouldn’t hold air. I looked at him for a second and gave him my ball. “Here, you can borrow this. Bring it back next week.”
The ball I gave Boubacar was given to me. Because I write about football, I get stuff from companies all the time. My friend Tise at Soccerpro.com gave me a match replica Adidas Nativo. It’s a $130 ball and everyone in our group loves playing with that ball. It’s kind of an amazing ball, some kind of genetically modified advancement on the whole ball genre.
Boubacar brought the ball back this weekend and I told him, “that’s your ball now, write your name on it, take care of the ball, don’t let your brother kick it over the fence where the dog will bite it.” He was genuinely chuffed, even if he didn’t say thanks. Kids these days and their lack of manners.
Giving him that ball was a bit reckless on my part but I got the damn thing for free and I don’t use it during the week. He will probably use it every day. It seemed worse for me to jealously guard the ball in my truck, to hide it away, than to give it to someone who will love it. Besides, he’s got a job to do now; he’s got to bring the ball back to us safe and sound. And then he’s got to share the ball with all of us.
P.S. if you feel like sharing the ball with some kid in your neighborhood, check out soccerpro.com. They have a wide selection of balls to choose from, you don’t have to be reckless and give a kid a $130 ball, I’m sure that most kids, especially if they have a bit up old dog ball, would be happy with anything round that holds air.
There is also a huge selection of balls on Amazon, of course.