Cesc to Barca not again and My greatest Arsenal team

Just when you thought it was safe – it starts up anew. Those seekers after truth at the Daily Star are splashing on Cesc to Barca rumours again. The story has also been picked up by the Spanish sports daily Marca, quoting a “source” at the Nou Camp saying, “Pique returned to Barcelona. Now we want Cesc to return. We know he’ll do all he can to return.”
I’ve always thought it likely at some stage in his career that our little Catalan wonder would return to the team he supported as a boy and which gave him his start in football. You have to experience the Nou Camp to understand the pull of the place. It’s not only a football club. It’s MUCH more than that. The club slogan is Mes Que Un Club (“More than just a club”) which is very true. It’s a fundamental part of the Catalan identity. Those of you who were, like me,  present on that heart-breaking night in Paris at the Stade de France in 2006 may have noticed that the stadium announcements were in four languages. French, English, Spanish and Catalan.
The Barca fans booed the announcements in Spanish. You would probably also have seen the t-shirts handed out to their fans (which were SO much better and colourful than our dowdy yellow and grey efforts). The slogan on them was Tots a Paris! (“Everybody to Paris!”). I would have thought the day of the final was a good day to commit burglary in Barcelona. Ever form of transport that could roll or fly seemed to have been commandeered to transport the entire Catalan nation the 645 miles north to Paris. At least the Spanish part of Catalonia anyway. Over the border in France the French Catalans love their rugby union and rugby league too.
We didn’t do badly ourselves of course, but then again we’re only 211 miles from Paris, even if we do have the English Channel to cross (or go under, courtesy of the Channel Tunnel these days). London is a fantastic city. I adore living here. But then again I came here when I was five years old. Fantastic as it is, it can’t boast a Mediterranean climate. Cesc grew up in the balmy sunshine and warmth of Catalonia. Although Barcelona is a much smaller place than London (most places are. London is the eighteenth biggest city by population and the fourth biggest by size on the planet) it is a gorgeous place. You can see its attraction, especially if you were bought up there. It also has one of the biggest football clubs on the planet too. Who wouldn’t enjoy turning out for Barcelona every weekend and getting paid handsomely into the bargain? Good or wot?
Don’t get me wrong. I desperately want Cesc to stay, at least for four-five more seasons. I just think we have to be realistic about how likely that is. It’ll be a sad day if (and I do hope that “if” is a LONG way off) he leaves. It was a terrible day for me when Liam Brady, my Arsenal King of Kings left to play in Italy in 1980. It was a good job I was working overseas in 1987 when George Graham declined the chance to sign him again when he returned to Blighty after six and a bit seasons in Serie A with Juve (where he won two scudetti), Samp, Inter and Ascoli. I would probably have got myself arrested for criminal damage. I still remember the reception he got when he returned to Highbury with the ‘appy ‘ammers.
Let’s just sit back and enjoy him whilst he’s gracing the Grove. Even though he’s far from his best form at the moment (who is on top of their game just now at the Grove?), he is pure class. Pure, pure class.
To quote Eric Hall, a man whose duplicity is only exceeded by his rapacity, I “monster, monster” believe that tomorrow’s breakfast time kick-off (I don’t do mornings, especially at the weekend) against Yoonited will be a turning point in our League campaign this season. A win and the wheels will be back on the wagon. A draw or loss could see us struggling for the Champions League spot we’ve all come to take for granted under Arsčne. After all we’d only played in the top European competition twice before his time (1971-2 and 1991-2). We’re now in our tenth consecutive season.
You could argue that the goalposts have been moved with teams finishing as low as fourth entering in the current format, rather than just the champions of each country plus the previous season’s winners. True, but Arsčne would still have steered us to three entries, even under the old rules, which is twice more than any other manager has managed. George Graham would have managed two of course, if that poisonous dwarf Colin Moynihan, then UK sports minister, hadn’t declined to allow us to compete in 1989/90 as UEFA had offered.
No mad or bad transfer rumours to report on today. They’ll start flowing thick and fast as the run up to the transfer window approaches I imagine.
I thought as something different,  I’d treat you today to the start of a series on “My Greatest Arsenal Team”. The rules are it can only comprise Arsenal players I’ve actually seen play in the glorious red and white (and, yellow and blue, and navy blue, navy blue and sky blue and redcurrant and white and, for one season only, the navy and green). So it’s only players who’ve represented The Arsenal since January 1968 when I attended my first match at THOF (The Home Of Football) at home against Sheffield United.
Just to add a variation to a well-trodden theme, I’m also going to select an All-Time World XI to play them. Again this team is based on only on players I’ve seen in the flesh. Both teams will have seven substitutes each, plus an additional seven squad players to make a 25 player senior “A” squad which every club in the Champions League is restricted to.
Today we start with the goalkeepers. In each case, I’ll select a short-list of five players for the starting spot in each position, with each team playing in a 4-4-2 formation. Any player selected for Arsenal is barred from selection for the World XI (why would I let an Arsenal player play against us?)
The five on the short-list for the Arsenal squad are, in alphabetical surname order (drum roll, sound of golden envelope being opened):
Pat JENNINGS ( Northern Ireland)
Jimmy RIMMER ( England)
David SEAMAN ( England)
Bob WILSON ( Scotland)
The shortlist for the World XI is:
Gordon BANKS
(Chesterfield, Leicester City, Stoke City, Cleveland Stokers, St Patrick’s Athletic, Fort Lauderdale Strikers & England)
(Peñarol, Atlético Mineiro, Granada, América de Cali & Uruguay)
Peter SCHMEICHEL (Gladsaxe-Hero, Hvidovre IF, Brøndby, Manchester United, Sporting Clube de Portugal, Aston Villa, Manchester City & Denmark)
(Leicester City, Stoke City, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Derby County, Plymouth Argyle, Bolton Wanderers, Leyton Orient & England)
Dynamo Moscow & the USSR)
And the starters for Arsenal and the World XI are……..tell you next time!

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