Happy Monday peeps. Yesterday I had a stinking hangover, so didn’t compile any thoughts on the Wolves result, but I gotta tell ya I was mighty impressed I have to say. It was the first ‘statement victory’ that we have had under Arteta and no wonder he had such a beaming smile afterwards.
I know we beat Man United over the Christmas period and that was a great performance that boosted us all, but it was a home game and at the time I wasn’t that impressed with United at all if I’m honest. They’ve picked up now and look a better outfit thanks to the inclusion of Bruno Fernandes, but at the time we played them they didn’t have that, so it was under a different set of circumstances that we got the win.
But Saturday evening’s win felt like a mature performance. It felt like a gritty display that was born out of a solid defensive display and an organised Arsenal unit finally getting to grips with what Arteta is trying to install into them. I was pleased and the fact it was away, the fact it was against a team who I think have been better than us last season, the fact they haven’t conceded since the restart, all contributed to what felt like a big win for us and the team in terms of their evolution under Arteta.
But it is a game in isolation and if we’re going to see that improvement from this group of players then we need it to be followed up and that’s where tomorrow night’s game at home to Leicester City comes into play. Leicester are another good outfit; they’ll no doubt get Champions League football next season and for most of the season have looked a very organised side under Brendan Rodgers. They are another big test and Arteta knows that. He had his press conference via Zoom call again yesterday evening and was obviously quite positive about Leicester City.
He talked up the need for us to continue the momentum, as well as the fact that he knows how good Leicester are in possession, so this game tomorrow will be yet another litmus test for our young manager. What we need to hope is that he has his plan in place and he has an idea on how to beat a very different proposition than Wolves at the Emirates tomorrow night.
He was also asked about Özil and Guendouzi and repeated his mantra of how something needs to change and nothing has changed so far. We’re five games from the end of the season, a season that will be over in 20 days time and unless something drastic happens, I suspect both players will be out the door when the season is done. We know the Özil situation is complicated because of his wages, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Arsenal offer to pay like £200k of the supposed £350k-per-week wages that Özil gets from Arsenal, just to get him off the books. But it says something that Arsenal could pay £200k-per-week of a players wages, and the loaning club would STILL have to pay £150k-per-week if we could strike up that deal. What a mental decision that contract was in hindsight, eh?
In terms of Guendouzi I think it’s a little simpler. It looks like he’s not doing what Arteta wants from him, he has a value and apparently clubs interested, so putting the feelers out for him to move on now seems to make sense to me. Arteta talked about people wanting to get one the boat’ and clearly the kid thinks he’s bigger than our boat, so let’s get him in a dingy and tell him to row to another cruise liner. Or something like that.
What we do need to do is make sure we get good cash for him so we can reinvest in shaping Arteta’s side how we want it. Guendouzi has been a good player, he certainly has his flaws, but I won’t be crying into my cereal one morning if I wake up to find he’s been sold. For me his positional discipline is something that has frustrated at times and from a technical point of view there are a number of things he isn’t great at doing. Running back towards his own goal it looks like he’s going through treacle at times, his heading is atrocious, plus he does sometimes hold on to the ball a little too long for my perspective. Plus, if we can get a shedload more cash than the £7million we paid for him, then it’s good business if you ask me.
But there is still more games to play and we still have the opportunity to see if he’s willing to turn things around. But like Arteta said, it’s up to him really, so something has to change.
The only other thing I wanted to talk about was Jamie Vardy. He’s 33 and Arteta was asked about him and how he’s maintained his goalscoring and competitive nature. Arteta gave him praise – as you’d expect – but it made me think of Auba. That’s because Vardy was seen as a speed merchant four years ago, but that will obviously have dipped a bit now he’s into his thirties. However he’s still as important to this Leicester team and when we’re talking about Aubameyang’s contract, the situation is the same, because if Auba does somehow sign a new deal (and I remain very sceptical on that by the way) then I think we can look at how Vardy has performed into his thirties and see what we could get from Auba for the next three years. If there’s an opportunity there and Aubameyang does want to stay, we have to take it and give him the money. He might lose more pace over the coming years, but that predatory instinct will remain and so we need to try our upmost to keep him.
That’s most of what I picked out as the big talking points, so I’ll leave it there for today and get back to you tomorrow with a match preview.