A wet and grim day in London, made all the more grim because of that ‘orrible lot getting a last minute winner yesterday but still, at least the scousers messed up and with a second defeat in the competition, they’re hardly looking infallible.
As for us it’ll be some words from Unai and the medical team ahead of the Sporting game at home and given we beat them with a rotated team away from home, tomorrow night I’m hoping to see an Arsenal team with a little more rotation again, although it will be injuries dependent. Elneny was out for the League Cup game last week against Blackpool, for example, and when are we going to see Dinos Mavropanos??
There’s also the question about Koscielny and given that he’s been in training for a few weeks and should also be in full training with the first team now, I wonder if we might see him soon.
Probably not this week but the away game to Vorskla and at home to Qarabag must surely be on the cards. Those games aren’t for a few weeks due to another international break looming on the horizon but by the time we hit that game we might be looking at something resembling a full strength team.
Then I suspect in typical Arsenal fashion we’ll have players kicking their heels as the group stages of the Europa League draws to an end and the League Cup isn’t until 18/19 December.
I say ‘typical Arsenal fashion’ because isn’t it just so very is that we’ve had about a month of putting square pegs in round holes at full back, down to our last central defenders, etc, then we suddenly are going to have an excess of defenders who won’t be getting loads of game time. Our injuries in parts of the pitch seem to come in waves. Always seem to have done down the years.
Anyway, better to have a glut of players capable of playing in their natural positions, than having a shortage. Plus we’ve also got to give credit to Unai because he’s made the distinction between first team and second string midweek team so difficult to understand with his rotation policies, that it has kept the players playing well and picking up results too.
Consider that if we can beat Sporting and Wolves at home this week, we’ll go into another international break undefeated since the very start of the season and we’ll be looking at 15 in all competitions. The run will inevitably come to an end at some point and we’ve got some tough old games coming up after the break, but the fact that we haven’t lost over the last couple of months is real testament to the grit and determination that has been instilled in the team this season.
And I think the rotation has a lot to play in that too. The mass rotation and clear ‘Team A’ and ‘Team B’ of last season meant we had some difficult results as the team struggled for momentum, but we’ve been building it well enough in 18/19 and the players are fully behind the way in which the manager is rotating too.
Just look at somebody like Welbeck. He looks a more potent player than last season, he’s contributing goals, he’s having an impact, all whilst basically being asked to be third choice striker. Look at how United are having struggles with their forward line, or the Totts and their over reliance on Kane, or the challenges Morata is facing. Us having somebody like Welbeck feels like an absolute blessing right now.
But that’s because the ‘feel good’ factor seems to have returned to the squad and that is going way beyond the Arsenal social media team capturing players high-fiving each other on the training pitch. It feels like we have a few personalities in the dressing room that are helping to knit the team together and whilst we all know you don’t have to like each other to be a successful team, I do think that it certainly helps, so in that regard it feels like we’re in a good place.
The likes of Auba, Lacazette (and that weird but clearly ‘in joke’ slap on the head thing) and even Guendouzi, are all helping the dressing room but also we have the balance of the wiser heads and more serious players like Cech, Sokratis and Lichsteiner who provide something different to the dynamic of the team. There feels like there’s a good blend and that looks like it is having a positive impact.
It will also have a positive impact on the young players like Smith-Rowe, Willock, even Maitland-Niles. Learning your trade in an atmosphere which has a bit more camaraderie about it can only be a good thing.
Righto, I think that’s me done for the day, so we’ll wait for Unai and see what he has to say as he Spanglishes his way through the press conference ahead of tomorrow’s game.