As we all suspected it was a press conference day yesterday and, whilst I still don’t think we’ll be getting anything from the game on Wednesday night, Arteta’s convictions and the way he articulated himself in the press conference, had me thinking that maybe…just maybe…he has some kind of blueprint for success.
It’s unlikely because City will have a number of key players like DeBruyne back for them and they’ve had our number for quite some time now, but at least Tricky Micky is giving us a slither of hope with his “I know exactly what they will do” spiel yesterday.
The team news isn’t as rosy though. If Ornstein is to be believed Hector is nursing a groin injury and with Soares still not 100% fit it could mean Sokratis at right back tomorrow evening. Him up against Sterling or Sane doesn’t bear thinking about so I think I’ll stop there and focus on some of the other team news that came out from yesterday!
Like Tierney, who is back in training and that’s probably just as well, because our reliance on Saka has been a concern for us and Dave and I spoke about it on the radio last night. We all love what Saka has been doing on the left but at his age he’s going to fade at some stage – that’s just natural – so being so reliant on him as we have done is a real cause for concern. The return of Tierney brings not only competition for the young English lad, but also an opportunity for him not to be overloaded by pressure, so I think we all have to welcome that. We just need him to sign that new deal with us!
And we need to work out what our midfield pairing is for the rest of the season. Ceballos and Xhaka have been doing it of late but the worry I have is how easily they get bypassed by quick, powerful and energetic midfielders. What we’ve faced over the last three weeks are teams that want to sit in a low block, hit us out wide on the counter and on set pieces. If every team did that against us between now and the end of the season then that central midfield pairing would be fine. But that simply won’t happen and so I do worry about hope they will cope when we line up against the better teams like City on Wednesday.
But anyway Arteta says he has a plan and right now we have to cross everything to hope that is the case.
The other question he was asked that he himself will have to work out the answer to is whether it’ll be Lacazette or Nketiah. He seems to be rotating both in equal measure and on Saturday it was Lacazette that came on and made the difference. He got the eventual winner and hopefully that will have given him some confidence, but he still hasn’t scored away in the Premier League in over a year and I’m not holding out much hope that he’ll break that duck tomorrow night. Conversely Nketiah is still young and a bit raw and relying on him is clearly not something Arteta feels he can do at the moment. So it’s a difficult one to work out who gets the nod. Arteta did acknowledge that Lacazette has been training superbly and I think he’ll be given the chance against City tomorrow evening, perhaps with Eddie getting another shot on Saturday depending on the performance we see from the Frenchman.
It’s going to be tough to see how we can get top four, even if Arteta acknowledges that we have an outside chance of it. It’s really outside of you ask me; like, middle of a frozen lake in Alaska, kind of outside. We spoke about it on last nights GunnersTown show and Dave reckons we’re looking at 24 from 30 to get Champions League spots. That means 10 wins out of 12 and given we still have to play Leicester, Wolves, City, Tottenham, Liverpool, it seems rather like an outside bet more than anything else. Picking up maximum points against those teams given the season we’ve had feels almost impossible, but until it is impossible, I guess we have to wait and see how the season unfolds.
Right, that’s yer lot from me, so I’ll catch you tomorrow with a bit more of a match preview.