Happy Saturday friends. How are we all doing? Feeling happy that it’s the weekend? Or troubled that we have to wait one more day to get the real football back in the shape of The Arsenal?
At least we had a press conference with ol’ Unai giving us an update on where he thinks we’re at as a team and what he was thinking ahead of Sunday’s afternoon kick off.
Team news-wise we got our update from the club on Thursday so there wasn’t really anything specific that we didn’t already know about the team for this weekend. Koscielny is going to have a game with the under-23s and that will be good for him methinks. I do find it funny how with most outfield players there has historically been a fan foible of building up an injured player as the answer to all of our woes (Santi, Diaby, Ramsey, etc). But with Koscielny it feels like the opposite has happened. I’ve had two or three discussions yesterday with fellow Gooners talking about how he’s lost his pace, won’t be the same and should be further down the pecking order when he does return.
Hold on a second; six months ago he was our best defender, so what’s changed? Our defence has hardly become rock solid without him and whilst last season wasn’t a good one for him, you can hardly say it was great for any of our players, so why couldn’t he come back and have a better time of it?
I think he will and I think he’ll be a very valuable asset to us between now and the end of the season. I certainly hope so anyway. So let’s just hope the under-23s game goes off without a hitch and we can start to see him playing again in the first team soon.
Anyway back to the press conference and Unai seemed to be in good form, talking up how he’s made some small changes to the team and also giving a little bit of a spikey retort when asked about comparisons between him and the previous manager. I think he’s right though; the last thing he wants people to think is that he rode in on a white horse and saved us all because it hyped him up too much. What we need is a level head and I think we’re seeing we’ve got that in the manager. The players have certainly bought in to his way of thinking and even though we haven’t been scintillating this season, you can see the stylistic changes in our play starting to come out.
It’s also good that we’ve got a man who is constantly wanting more. He’s not happy with three draws in a row and although it’s obvious to just say that in a presser, for me I genuinely believe he’s thinking even harder on how to get us back up and running with those wins. We’re still within touching distance of the teams above us but another draw or defeat tomorrow – especially with our difficult games coming up – and suddenly we’re looking down the table instead of up.
December will be a challenging month not just from the types of games but also the volume of games we have. The boss was asked about this yesterday and admitted that he’ll be shuffling his pack somewhat. I think we can read a little deeper in to what he said though because he was mentioning the young players like Willock and Smith-Rowe, etc, but he has already been playing those players this season in the midweek games and when asked about it previously he’s talked about having a strong squad. Now his message is about rotation and so it wouldn’t surprise me to see a very youthful looking team in a few games. Like the Vorskla and Qarabag games we have coming up, for example.
I’d be perfectly happy with that. I’m a kid from the Championship Manager era of fitness being determined as a percentage so if we can keep those senior players as close to 100% as possible then that’d be grand.
Enjoy your Saturday folks. I’m off to paint some walls.