05 January 2015

Live: Smokin' Szczęsny and the Seagulls!

In case you hadn't heard, Wojciech was do distraught after his howlers against Southampton that he was later caught smoking the shower and was fined £20 with rumours of him never playing for Arsenal again. Throw in clean sheet from Ospina in the FA Cup match against Hull, and we have ourselves a juicy l'il tidbit dressed up as news. Adding further fuel to the fire, we draw Brighton and Hove Albion because apparently defending champions have to play against two squads at a time1, and now we're remembering how Szczęsny nearly cost us that one, which reminds us of how he did cost us against Birmingham and against Blackburn, and we're starting to feel a bit more credulous and even relieved. By all means, drop him. He's made his last bone-headed mistake, after all.

However, there are questions worth asking, mundane though they may be. Where did he get the cigarette? From Wilshere? Why of all places would he smoke it in the shower? Imagine the logistical nightmare that poses. The lighting of it. The keeping-dry of it. The setting-it down somewhere of it. And so on. If he wanted to get caught, there are ways of doing so without the hassle. If he didn't want to get caught, well, even for as much of a dolt as he sometimes acts on the pitch, I'm sure he could have figured out how to get away with sneaking a few drags. If that doesn't poke enough holes in the story, well, there's this report from the Press Association:
Press Association Sport understands reports that Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was banned and fined following a dressing room bust-up after the 2-0 Barclays Premier League defeat at Southampton on New Year's Day are incorrect.
Add that to the fact the original, unsourced story appeared in The Sun, which is to factual reporting what Arsenal are to defending set-pieces. In other words, tempest in a teapot. News of some kind of dust-up or dressing-down after the Southampton match may yet leak out, but for now, it looks as there's not enough activity in the transfer-window to generate lurid headlines and so the tabloids find something else to draw us in.

On to actual news of something that verifiably did happen, we continue a recent string of favorable draws by being reunited with Brighton & Hove Albion, whom we last faced back in the fourth round of the 2012-13 FA Cup and against whom we struggled to see off. Szczęsny conceded two, one a head-slapper and the other a sharp header he could little about, and so it might seem as the scandal above comes at an ideal time to remove Szczęsny from the fray—except the FA Cup has been the domain of our back-up keeper in recent years, and Ospina was already pencilled in to face Hull, just as he likely was for whoever our fourth round opponent would be regardless of Szczęsny's performance and (rumoured) antics afterwards.

On to the draw itself, drawing Brighton, along with drawing Monaco in the Champions League, makes for two draws more-comfortable than others we've seen. No Chelsea, Tottenham, or Bayern, whom we had to face in the League Cup, FA Cup third round, Champions League knockout phase respectively. A reunion with Championship-side Brighton might make a few of us a bit tetchy as it does resurrect the uncomfortable memories of barely beating them only to crash out in the fifth round against Championship-side Blackburn, coming just weeks after being dumped from the League Cup by League Two Bradford, which should remind us that we've struggled against smaller clubs just as much as we have against "bigger" ones.

However, for what it's worth, Brighton are not as in-form as they were two years ago. At the time, they sat seventh; at the moment, they're 21st of 24, with only their superior goal-difference keeping them out of the drop-zone. Their manager, Sami Hyypiä, resigned in December, having been hired back in June. This has either the makings of a cakewalk or just the kind of banana-peel we've slipped on in years past. Our own current form isn't much to sneeze, and our confidence is probably torn up worse than kleenex at a snot-convention.

We'll take a closer at the Seagulls ahead of the clash set itself, set for 24 January at Brighton's Falmer Stadium (yes, yes, fine, The Amex. This Yank doesn't find it fitting for an English club's stadium to carry the word "American" in its name). In the meantime, I'm sure we'll learn more about Szczęsny's situation if there's anything worth knowing soon enough. More urgently, we have Stoke paying us a visit on Saturday, which will no doubt be all about sunshine, lollipops, and moonlight walks on beaches.

'Til tomorrow...

1:Yes, I know that Brighton & Hove Albion is just one club.