The Arsenal women came close to ending their unbeaten run in the WSL yesterday afternoon. It simply didn’t look like being their day against north London rivals Toots. Chances came and went, certainly in the first half but the woodwork the Toots keeper Tinja-Riikka Korpela, prevented Arsenal from scoring. Had it not been for Korpela, Arsenal would have had the game won by halftime. Around the hour mark, the home team went ahead and Arsenal were facing defeat. Then in the final minutes, up popped Vivianne Miedema with a fantastic header to level the score. They might even have nicked all three points had the referee not learned what ‘playing the advantage’ means during her training. Her officiating overall was far from the best.
From one Finland international footballer, Tinja-Riikka Korpela, to another, Jukka Raitala. His ‘challenge’ on Sead Kolasinac during an international fixture between Finland and Bosnia & Herzegovina, was ghastly. Kolasinac limped off with what’s likely to be a really bad injury, Raitala went off courtesy of a straight red card. Sadly, I don’t think we’ll see him again in Arsenal colours. Kolasinac has been one of the marmite players during his time with the club but when he first arrived, he was great, just as he has been more recently too. To see his career at the club cut short in such a fashion is horrid. I hope he recovers well.
Sky Sports Paper Talk has a few corkers this morning. The Mirror suggest Arsenal’s squad overhaul will continue in January as six players are set to leave. The same paper writes that Mauricio Pochettino wants to return to the Premier League which is exciting for Manchester Utd because the players want Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gone but The Sun disagree as they report that Brendan Rogers is already house-hunting in Cheshire ahead of his potential move to Utd.
Then there’s Nicolas Pepe, a name all over the back pages this morning. Ok, slight exaggeration perhaps but Arsenal are reportedly ready to part ways with the player for a cut-price fee of £25 million. Logic actually suggests there might be more to this story than just a headline because let’s be honest, Premier League football and him hasn’t worked. When Arsenal signed him, I was thrilled because he’d been in great form for Lille. 23 goals in 42 appearances during the season before he moved to England was a pretty good return I thought. Young, quick, can play left, right or central, marvellous. But English football isn’t as easy as playing in a French League where other than one or two clubs, the challenge on a match day isn’t anywhere near as hard as playing against Premier League teams. Compare his stats in France with those for the Ivory Coast and there’s a big difference.
Interestingly, Marcelo Bielsa was his manager at Lille so perhaps he’d be interested in taking him to Leeds, assuming he’s still in his job come January or the summer. This is Pepe’s third season in England so if he was going to make a difference to the Arsenal team, he would have by now. These days though, he struggles to make it into the team and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him move back to France before too long. Arsenal won’t recoup much of the reported £72m paid for him in the first place but that’s football for you. There’s always a chance a player who has looked good in another League can’t adapt to a footballing life in England. Pepe wouldn’t be the first and he sure as heck won’t be the last. So if Mikel Arteta can’t see a way forward with Pepe in his team and he is sold for cut price, let’s not be too hard on the club. After all, it wasn’t Edu or Arteta who brought Pepe to the club in the first place.
See you in the comments.