Okee dokee, right, lots to get through so let’s have at it. How about we start with:
Goodbye gentle prince, we hardly knew ye. He’s off on a permanent deal to Roma, having had his super agent pal Mino whisper sweet nothings to Raul and Vinay to convince them that £200k-a-week off the books is a good deal for them. I wasn’t sure how true the £10million offer from Roma was in January, but Arseblog appeared pretty clear that it happened and the Andrew’s don’t usually tend to chuck stuff out without doing a little digging first, so I’m inclined to think that happened. Which makes this situation a little unpalatable, because we’ve lost another asset, but it was a dwindling asset and I guess you can see it as money we can scratchj off the balance sheet so hopefully that helps the numbers men at the club.
From a footballing point of view it’s a shame it never worked out. I wanted the player at Dortmund but we got the chewed up and spat out remains of a player who had gone through the Mourinho player mincer and the result was a pretty uninspiring two year’s of Mkhi before he toddled off to Roma last summer. Hopefully he has some success because I personally don’t begrudge him anything.
I do however begrudge that the club even got the mess of a swap deal with Alexis done in the first place. I also begrudge the mess that we appear to be making in selling assets and whilst I know hindsight is 20:20, not getting a fee for a player of Mkhitaryan’s stature in Europe, is a bit of a joke. Covid-19 will affect loads of clubs, but I doubt you’ll see many getting high profile players for nothing unless their contracts have already expired.
Speaking of contracts, let’s also talk about:
Poor ol’ Willy. He was probably quite looking forward to a showpiece final game at St Etienne and even Arteta said yesterday in his presser that he thought he should play. I’m sure Arsenal wouldn’t have minded too much had he played, but the French club put out a bit of an angry note yesterday that the two clubs couldn’t agree the sporting or financial package. Again, this doesn’t exactly cast the footballing administration at Arsenal in very good light, but I’d like to hear through some kind of leak what the blockage was. Apparently there was a £2.5million clause Arsenal had to pay if Saliba played in that game. Now, if we’ve already shelled out a fair bit for the player already – and £30million for a player with good potential seems it to me – if St Etienne are angry because Arsenal have told them they have to pay his wages until the final, then write of f that payment and THAT is what has annoyed them, well, I’m afraid i’d have to side with the club on that one. That’s because it sounds very much like having your cake and eating it from St Etienne in this instance.
But in the middle of all this is Saliba who will miss out on a final. You don’t get loads of games like that as a player so to have this taken away from you must be a bit galling. But that’s just modern day football I suppose. Which brings me to the main event for today, which is:
Norwich at home
Our first home game at an empty Emirates sees bottom of the table Norwich line up against our lads. The club have doe a pretty good job of the banners across the seats by all accounts, but what the focus will be on come 6pm tonight will be the performance on the turf. We’ve had two wins and a third tonight feels like it will set us up for the very tough away trip to Wolves on Saturday evening. We have a cleaner bill of health in the squad too, with Torreira training, as well as Soares back, and the boss had some interesting things to say about Soares. Not least being positive in the attacking threat he offered in the final third, talking about Soares adding a different dynamic to the squad. That’s interesting because we’ve always said that the best thing about Hector’s game has historically always been going forward rather than his defensive side, so to hear that from Arteta genuinely makes me wonder if Soares has been earmarked for more than just FA Cup and League cup games for the subsequent seasons to this. I wonder if he’ll even give him minutes tonight, although give Hector didn’t play at the weekend, I suspect it’ll be from the bench.
But it’s competition that all positions need and if Hector has proper competition from Soares then we can all be happy with that. Likewise I am hoping to see a bit of Torreira at least from the bench too, although I wonder if this game has come too soon for him. So who will join Xhaka – and at this point in time you would have to say it certainly will be Xhaka – in the middle of the park? Will we see a return for Guendouzi? From reading into what Mikel said last night I’m not so sure. He was asked about Matteo and Ozil too and simply said that he’s always open to playing as many players as possible who are willing to do their job for the Arsenal. Asked if both were able to do that he simply said he doesn’t know. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement, is it?
So I wonder if we’ll see Ceballos from the start, perhaps with Willock in front of them and either side of him Saka and Pepe. Arteta is putting a lot of faith in those lads and has given them lots of minutes, so it wouldn’t surprise me if tonight wasn’t the same. But there will come a point in which he’ll have to give minutes to players like Nelson, for example, because the games are essentially every three to four days. A home match against the team bottom of the league feels like it could be an opportunity to do a little more of the rotation, so perhaps we’ll see some changes.
But what shouldn’t change is the approach to the game. Whilst I haven’t enjoyed some aspects of the last two performances, what I have enjoyed is the fluidity of positional movement from the players and so if that is being drilled into them all and if we can move Norwich around the pitch a little more, we might get some joy tonight. I certainly hope so.
All games are tough but if this Arsenal team has its heads screwed on right tonight, you should be expecting us to win, but you just can’t predict with this bunch of players. You can only hope.
Back tomorrow with a match review.