It’s funny – Arteta delivered us some more juicy content and thoughts on a variety of things yesterday, but what dominated the conversation online yesterday evening that I saw was all around Matteo Guendouzi.
If you believe some of the press it looks like a lot of Europe’s top brass are doing the old ‘monitoring the situation’ with regards to our young French midfielder and whilst he’s the kind of profile that you’d look at and say we were mad to part with (age, potential, etc), Arteta’s comments about players wanting to jump on the boat do seem quite telling to me. So here’s my take; I think that Guendouzi has established himself in the team since joining, his personality is such that he backs himself but is also a player who likes to have a bit of fun, whilst Mikel has tried to make sure he doesn’t joke away his career. We heard the stories about the Dubai dressing down Guendouzi got, plus there’s the other instances in which Mikel has had some words for the player. If the player himself can’t see that he has an opportunity to grow into quite a special talent if he listens to instruction from Arteta, then it’s time to shift him on.
In this regard I am fully supportive of Arteta and his decision with regards to whether we keep the player or not and in my view, Arsenal cannot lose in this situation. If Guendouzi knuckles down, recognises his situation and how he could develop under a coach with a track record (many players at City credit Arteta’s influence), then Mikel will have him in that team. If he thinks he’s bigger and better than he is, well, that will not get him to the upper echelons of the game if he’s not prepared to work at it so we’re better moving on. And given his profile and given that there seem to be so many clubs sniffing around him, my view is that we could sell for a lot more than we bought him, which would also be good business by the club and sensible business too. So in relation to this particular bit of gossip – which is all it is at this stage – I’m relatively sanguine.
I’ll gloss over the questions Arteta was asked about another team who may or may not have done something this week and whose fans ignored social distancing, but he did talk about the FA Cup, which is our primary focus this weekend. It’s a competition he knows well and a trip up to Sheffield represents a very real opportunity for a semi final at the end. But it’ll be a difficult juggling act he’ll need to make between getting the best XI out and getting a team which has players that aren’t in the red zone. I’m thinking players like Bellerin, or Aubameyang, or even just rotating some players in that might need minutes just in case, like Kolasinac or Lacazette. He did say there will be rotation and I suspect we’ll see a fair bit of it on Sunday, but I wonder if Chris Wilder will have the same thoughts? Sheffield United don’t have the biggest of squads and they’ve played two matches now, but with their safety secured and probably a knowledge that their chances of a Europa League spot are in the balance, he might be tempted into a bit of rotation as well. More of that pondering tomorrow in the match preview though.
For the meantime, we look at Arteta’s presser and also on some of the players he was asked about. Whilst the Guendouzi comment seemed pointed when he mentioned about players ‘getting on the boat’, he was also asked about Xhaka leaving in the summer, in which he said that all issues are kept internally. Xhaka has spoken about how he’s much happier now and he seems to have slowly repaired some of the damage done by that Crystal Palace game last year, so unless there’s the potential of him agitating for a move when the season finishes, I’d be surprised if Arteta is party to a plan to shunt him out the door when this joke of a season is complete.
He was also asked about Hector Bellerin and his form and he said that the injuries have played their part. I do think we do need to remember just how many injuries he’s had over the last couple of years. It probably therefore takes him a little longer than some of the other players to get back into your stride, if not for physical reasons then for psychological ones too. I remember Robert Pires getting his nasty injury – against Newcastle I think it was – and it felt like he lost a little bit of confidence after that. It was a real shame back then and if Hector’s injuries have also meant he plays ever-so-slightly within himself as a result of his injuries, I could understand that to be fair.
What that means for the future position at right baqck is interesting because we haven’t seen Soares at all and I suspect this weekend we might get our first glimpse. Whether or not he’s a solution I don’t know, but what I do know is that having that extra option as a right back is important for us. Let’s hope we see Soares sooner rather than later and let’s hope that we can all pick up a little bit of confidence that he can challenge Hector for that position.
That’s it from me again. You go enjoy your Saturday. I have a virtual birthday Toga Party I’m supposed to go on tonight. I’m not entirely convinced. I suspect I’ll just get blind drunk.
Catch you people tomorrow.