Happy first y’all. I’m in a grand ol’ mood I can tell you that much. The sun is in the sky in the South East, the weekend is within touching distance, it’s going to be a warm one in England and a bank holiday to boot.
If only there wasn’t the pesky notion of having to play Liverpool at Anfield, eh? I could do without wearing my tin hat this weekend, watching us face down Liverpool’s attacking trio with our back line, but I guess it’s better to get this game over and done with now rather than have a battering over Christmas like last season.
Unai spoke to the press yesterday and delivered the team update and his thoughts ahead of the game. As usual with these events he said plenty without really saying much at all. Comments like “we want to play with our players in this moment with great togetherness” are a mainstay of his press conferences but don’t tell you much about his thinking. He did say that he’d be checking up on Özil and Xhaka today in the final training session before the game tomorrow but call me a cynic, because something tells me Özil at least doesn’t make the trip. It’s not the sort of game we’ve seen him boss in the past and after the good performance of our midfielders last weekend I suspect he’ll want to give them another crack, so I have a feeling that Xhaka and Özil won’t ‘quite’ be 100% ready yet. Just a feeling I have.
One change he might make is for Nico Pepe to come in. He obviously wasn’t giving too much away yesterday in his presser, but the fact he said he’s ready for more minutes having played 15 against Newcastle then 45 against Burnley, lends me to thinking that we might see Pepe from the start. That’d be an exciting prospect; Pepe, Lacazette and Aubameyang as our front three, basically sticking two fingers up to pragmatism and saying “blow it, we’re going to concede anyway, we might as well see if we can do some damage to their defence too.
Quite whether Liverpool will be overly concerned I’m not sure. Both they and City still look streets ahead of every other team in the league and barring some spawny luck and over-reliance on VAR like Tottenham had last weekend, they are both going to win the majority of their home games.
What we need to do is at least have the cutting edge to give them something to think about and maybe that’s Unai’s thinking for tomorrow. I hope it is. I hope we’re aggressive against Liverpool because I don’t think we can contain them. They’re too good. So what we have to do is try to surprise them and an aggressive formation would do that.
Emery was also asked about Guendouzi and his contract and to be honest with you, I’m glad that these rumours are already coming out that we’re talking to the guy about a new deal. He’s made himself a regular in the team and at his age and potential growth in his game, it would seem silly not to tie him down to a nice long contract now. That’s what we’ve always wanted and getting players whilst they’re happy to get that pay rise and there is so long before they can start holding ya to ransom because they only have 18 months on their deals, is sensible contract management. It once again shows that whatever the previous regime we’re doing was so far from best practice it beggars belief.
But we’re beyond that now and we can be happy that we seem to have a structure in place that is at least acting like a modern football club. All the players have to do is deliver that improvement that we’ve wanted to see for the last five years or so.
The final part of the presser that seems to have been picked up by most of the media sites is the Mustafi and Elneny situation. Emery said yesterday in pretty plain terms that he’s told both that they can go. Of course he dressed it up as “I want them to be happy” but ultimately the message is clear: you won’t get game time this season.
Whether or not that is the case if both players are here beyond the end of the transfer window remains to be seen. We’ve seen with the Bale and Real Madrid situation that despite being told he isn’t wanted he has a manager who has said he’ll use the Welsh forward from now on. That’s because nobody will pick up Bale’s wages, I know, but ultimately when a manager has a player he can use he will do so when the window is shut.
Mustafi and Elneny are hardly quality players like Bale that have just fallen out with the management though. They’re footballers who have fallen down the pecking order and seen new players come in ahead of them. Mustafi, for example, will have four defenders ahead of him in the pecking order this season. Even if he stays he’ll not even be guaranteed games in the secondary competitions. Elneny is in the same boat – probably worse – so I suspect both players will get the hint and want to move on in the next week. It’s best for everyone’s sake.
And with that my words are done for another day. Enjoy whatever it is you have planned and I will catch you tomorrow for a pre match preview.