So, boys and girls, what did we learn from yesterday’s pre-match presser with Unai Emery ahead of the travel to Watford on Sunday?
Well, for one thing, we’re going to be missing Alexandre Lacazette for the game, plus for the rest of September, which also rules him out of that game at Old Trafford in a couple of week’s time. That’s a blow. A big blow. Lacazette and Aubameyang between them have started off where they left off last season, both bagging goals despite the Frenchman carrying an injury, but it’s clearly got to the point where patching him up and sending him out isn’t really a viable option. We’d be the first to chastise the management and medical staff if he exacerbates the situation more and is out for longer, so I guess taking this decision to secure him for more of the season moving forward, is the right thing to do. It also explains why he keeps being taken off and whilst he was probably pissed off to come off in those games, you could see that Emery was just thinking of the players welfare, which is important.
What it means for the foreseeable future is that the main man and goalscoring threat will come from Aubameyang as the main striker and whilst I saw many happy that he’ll be playing there for a few weeks, I’m just sad we’ll be missing Lacazette. He offers the team so much in his energy and his workmate, as well as goals, so I think we’re going to miss him sooner than a lot of people think.
It does mean the manager needs to make a decision on who replaces him and there are a couple of options people are talking about. A 4-2-3-1 with Ozil, Pepe and Nelson behind Auba is one. Bringing in Ozil for Laca and asking the three to rotate is another, or just a swap for Nelson and playing a 4-3-3 with Nelson, Pepe and Auba up top is another opportunity for a selection change Emery could make. Whatever he decides to do it will impact us but if we’re talking the next four or five games then it really does give FReiss Nelson an opportunity to stake a first team claim I reckon. If he gets his chance he needs to take it and whilst he’s done well since the start of the season we need to see that he can do more than just ‘do well’ and make a telling contribution in our final third. Pepe hasn’t score yet and Auba and Laca tend to spread the goals, but we need others to start stepping up now.
Emery was asked a number of questions on returning players and whilst he wouldn’t give a timescale on Tierney and Bellerin, the expectation that they’ll be ready for October must surely be there. They’ll need a couple more weeks of first team full training and then they’ll need to play a game or two with the under-23s, as Emery himself admitted, but i’d be expecting to see something of them sooner rather than later.
It’s the same with Holding. Again Emery was cautious and talking about the Under-23s but he’s already had a game or two so must be getting close to a first team return and that will be a welcome one. Not least because he improved us last season and with the NLD showing that those senior players still have mistakes in them, it will be nice to see Holding giving some competition to some of the first team centre halves.
He was also asked about this stupid five captains situation and said he’ll announce something next week. I think it speaks volumes about how unsure so many players are for a guaranteed starting slot that he still hasn’t named them. But it’s daft to have five anyway. Just give it to one and have one player as a vice captain and be done with it. We’ve been used to seeing the captain write the programme nots in the home games and then not get on to the pitch, so it’s not like it matters. This whole ‘everyone should be a captain’ mantra is tired and cliched and I haven’t met many Arsenal fans who think it’s a good idea. We all know he’ll probably give it to Xhaka but that doesn’t mean the guy has to start every week. Like I said, we’ve gotten used to seeing the captain earn his weekly wage with some words in the match day programme and that’s it; it started with Vermaelen and feels like it’s become a bit of a tradition anyway!
I haven’t really mentioned much about Watford but that’s because there doesn’t seem to be much to tell. Emery said he respected Gracia, he respects Flores, he doesn’t think their style will change much and we will have a hard game on Sunday. He also said Watford will have the backing of the home fans, which is kind of like saying the sky is blue, the grass is green and British politics is a waste of time.
My hope, which is what i’ll probably elaborate on more tomorrow in the match preview, is that we look to press ~Watford high and win the ball back higher up the pitch by pinning them in their own half. I suspect we’ll have more of the ball anyway so we might as well see if we can set up that base camp in our own half.
Anyway, more on that tomorrow,. but for now I’m going to go and enjoy the last remaining remnants of the summer in England which seem to have turned up this weekend.