Still nothing from Unai on the ol’ team update but, with it being Friday and the last weekday available for him to say some words, it’ll not doubt come out at some stage today. It’s unusual because it’s an away game, but for the players and managers who all live around the Cockfosters/London Colney area, it’s not really that surprising because Watford’s training ground is next to ours. So Unai and his charges can have a little lie in as opposed to getting on a buzz to travel the length of the country.
The challenge is Watford and I wonder what he’ll make of the sacking of Gracia and re-appointing of Flores. It’ll be the new-old manager’s first game in charge and so the fans and players will probably have that extra bit of energy in them, so I’m sure Emery will be wary of that; perhaps he’ll even make reference of it today.
They’ll be without Deeney and Capone has had an injury too, although I suspect the latter will play, given that Physioroom puts him at a 75% chance of playing. Both he and Deeney are talismanic figures for Watford so missing Deeney is a positive, although they will have plenty of players who will want to prove a point, not least our ex-man Danny Welbeck. Whilst many of us still have fond memories of him let’s not forget that Arsène Wenger had no hesitation in starting him at Old Trafford in an FA Cup game and he really stepped up. So whilst I’m joyful at the absence of Deeney, I appreciate that Watford have other options that can do us damage.
Let’s face it though, most options in the Premier League would do damage to our ailing back line, with the international break bringing with it plenty of time for media websites and television shows to bring up the errors in the Arsenal team, or errors in Arsenal players individually too.
I saw a stat that said we have had more individual errors leading to a goal than any other team in the Premier League since 2017/18. That’s mental and especially so when you consider the other teams that were on the list I saw: Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Brighton, etc. All teams towards the bottom of the league or no longer in the league. It’s a pretty damming statistic but I do wonder whether the fact we play more attacking and expansive football has a bit of an impact there. As a team towards the top of the division you’d expect the Top Six to be going forward more than defending but there aren’t many other teams who even finished in the top ten last season who have made as many mistakes as we have.
Something needs to change at the club and Unai Emery really needs to be looking at ways to address it. The hope is that the return of Bellerin and Tierney will represent an upgrade in that respect. Going forward Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac are probably very close to the two injured full backs, but defensively both Bellerin and Tierney are more switched on than the current two and that should provide us with more solidity. We all certainly hope so anyway. Something needs to change anyway, because some of the goals we’ve conceded already this season are levels of stupid that you wouldn’t have thought existed on a top-flight football pitch.
But hopefully we see that return sooner than later and the medical team have been saying September return so I’d expect them to play some sort of part in a game in the next couple of weeks. Perhaps a cameo against Villa at home next weekend, followed by a run out in the League Cup in midweek after that? That seems like a decent opportunity and providing that timeframe works it will be very timely indeed given that we go to Old Trafford at the beginning of October.
Man it would be good to have a better looking defensive four there, which may even include Rob Holding, who I have a sneaky suspicion might get some minutes this weekend, given he’s now fully fit. Another welcome sign but for me the key thing is that he can recapture his pre-injury form. It was games that got him up and running as a regular because the season before that he looked a little wobbly at times, so I’ve got everything crossed that he can come back and pick up where he left off, ironically and potentially getting back to full fitness by the beginning of October. Returning to the scene of his crime where he went out injured last season after a poor tackle and awkward fall on the touchline.
So from an injury front things are looking good at the moment. Let’s hope Unai Emery has more positivity today, followed by the team doing the business on Sunday.
Catch you tomorrow for a post-press conference digest.