Press conferences always give a little bit of a nugget of info about the upcoming game, but the press don’t usually use it to gain some kind of insight into how the clubs might tactically set up, instead using it as an opportunity to stoke the fires of possible discontent and rivalry between managers. So when a North London Derby is on the horizon we all know that there is only one direction the gutter press will take the conversation. Especially when it is a team managed by Jose Mourinho. An attempt to get a soundbite that can be twisted and repeated to Jose to get him to bite back.
So that’s what we got yesterday at the Zoom call. But Arteta is an erudite man and is savvy to what would lay before him, so he batted away every Mourinho question by talking about how much he respects his opponent.
Good. Let’s not give them any more motivation – or Mourinho – ahead of Sunday afternoon’s game. We don’t need it, they don’t need it, we move on.
The boss has given his charges a day off just after the Leicester game and my hope is that the extra two days rest that we’ve had can be an advantage to us when it comes to tired legs. We’ve seen a few very good first half Arsenal performances which have followed by second half dropping of intensity like during the week against Leicester, but a North London Derby doesn’t really afford you that, so it’ll be interesting to see how the players react over the full 90.
It’ll also be weird that there are no fans in the ground and you’d have to assume that it is to the benefit of us. People make plenty of comments about how quiet the Emirates is but I can tell you this first hand, derby day is totally different, and the atmosphere is fever pitch when we’re at home. It’s the same when they play at home and so my hope is that the lack of fans will play into our hands tomorrow. Arteta was talking up how much of ‘shame’ it is that their fans won’t be in the ground but I’m sure secretly he’s more than happy about it. I know I am. But he gave nothing away in his presser about that and simply said that it was unfortunate.
A bit like VAR which, let’s all be honest here, is about unfortunate as you can get this season. Once again the assembled hacks tried to get a rouse out of him with regards to VAR and the fact that it is Michael Oliver who has been selected to ref the game but once again he was having none of it. I must say I’m loving how composed Mikel is in front of some of these questions designed to get a rise out of him. It bodes well for the future I feel and it also makes me think that if he’s that calm in front of the hacks, he has the same approach to critical situations as they unfold on the pitch during matches. Of course we’ve all wondered about his sub decisions at times, but ultimately he’s still learning that side of the game and at least he seems to be getting it right – from the outside looking in – on most of his other duties.
What he did mentioned, which surely has to be one of the first points on the table when the season finishes, is who at the end of the season some of the principles need to be more properly applied and a review of the current situation is needed. I promise I won’t go on and on about VAR, but this week in particular it feels like it has been brought into stark contrast because of the lack of proper application by our incompetent referees. That needs to also be brought into the spotlight and I just hope that suitable pressure from the FA and Premier League is put on the PGMOL for a root and branch change needed when this current car crash of a season has been completed. We can’t have a another series of farcical decisions after farcical decisions taking place week-in, week-out, like we’ve had this season. It doesn’t happen as much in mainland Europe and that’s because the application of VAR is better, but whilst we continue to see idiots like Mike Riley in charge of the PGMOL, then perhaps we’re always going to get this flawed approach.
Anyway, like I said, I’ve probably had enough to say about VAR over the last few days. I should just wait for the inevitable Harry Kane penalty, of which he’s had five in the last eight matches against us. So you know it’s coming tomorrow, right?
More on that in tomorrow’s match preview but for now, I’ll leave it there, hoping you have a good Saturday and not too many nerves ahead of Sunday afternoon’s activities.