I haven't deigned to comment on Ash's book over the last few days as there seems quite enough vitriol flying around the web at the moment to drown even the most happy-go-lucky of people in bile. As far as I can tell, Ash has never, ever done anything wrong. Take the supposed tapping up incident. He was just twiddling his thumbs in a hotel room when, out of nowhere, Jose turned up and they made 'chit-chat'. This 'chit-chat' was completely innocent. Apart from the minor matter of Jose telling him 1) we need a lb 2) you are the best lb in the world 3) are you happy at Arsenal? Y'know. The trivial matters in a footballer's life. Arsenal then had the disrespect to try and use this as a means of getting a points penalty inflicted on Chelsea, and 'hung him out to dry'. Poor Ashley.
When this is combined with 'its not about the money but Arsenal wouldn't give me the extra £1.3m I wanted [over 5 years]', the almost slavish devotion of Ash to the seemingly whiter-than-white Jonathon Barnett [boo!!], and the 'I'm not gay, how dare they call me gay, I'm a real man', which almost reads like the famous 'not that there's anything wrong with that' Seinfeld sketch, there is enough material in Ash's book to make it a true classic of comedic fiction.
Yet its not all bad reading. The part serialised in the Times today about the pizza-throwing culprit - apparently it was little Cesc - is actually quite touching. The moment when the pizza slid down Fergie's face and all our lot creased up, most almost have been the last hurrah of the invincibles. I feel that Ash partially left because a new type of team spirit was being built in the dressing room, which was notably different to then on he'd grown up with. Whilst his insinuations against big Phil are probably untrue, and I would hope that Rvp and Freddie do actually talk, his words do seem to hammer home that the belief and spirit of the invincibles did break down in the aftermath of the United game, and that this was far more fatal to the team's performances than any loss of footballing ability. It also seems that Ash was very much affected by Paddy's departure, with the lynchpin nature of Paddy's contribution to the team is further emphasised.
One almost feels with Ash, that there was a more interesting, and far more plausible book, within him and his ghost-writer - one that should have been written once he'd retired and had the benefit of cooling his temper somewhat. But instead, as Ash refuses to accept any blame for anything, and is also seeking to maximise profit from the publication, we've been served up a hotch-potch of fantasical stories with only the merest basis in reality. I'm sure Ash will regret the book in 10 years.
Ash's book has swamped a lot of far more interesting news that's emerged this week. Firstly Cesc is on the verge of signing an astonishing 8 year deal. As Gunnerblog has correctly pointed out, this will mean that the summer of 2013 - the year before it runs out - will now be unbearable, but I'm sure we all agree that this is fantastic news. And if he did leave we should be able to get about £500m for him, given inflation by the earlier 2010s.
For tonight's game against Hamburg, we'll be wearing a special one-off shirt with 'Dubai' on it, as Hamburg are also sponsored by Emirates. We'll also be without Thierry, which has led to a lot of speculation that Theo might start. I would hope that he or Rosicky start on the left, and that we play 4-5-1, with Baptista as a half-striker, and RvP or Adey up front. Hopefully will have overestimated our poor start to the season and we can rip them to pieces ce soir. We need a decent win before Sunday.
One interesting thing I noticed last night: Chel$ea had the second lowest Champions League attendence of all the CL games. Only 32K turned up [of a 42k capacity] for their game against Bremen - only Sporting Lisbon had less and even PSV and Olympiacos managed more. I'm not gloating, I just think the fact Chel£ struggle to sell out their matches say something fascinating about the current perception of the club.
Finally, if you're as slow on the uptake as me, you may not have realised that ANR has 'moved back to highbury', as they put it, as they're just so popular. I preferred the old site anyway.