Morning all, happy Thursday to you and yours, as we count down to the weekend and the first home game of the season.
I’m on a bit of annual leave today, hence why the delayed post from normal and, with the game a fair way ahead of us with the fixture being an evening event on Saturday, I wonder if we’ll still get the usual medical team stuff today about who’s fit and who’s not. The one I’m interesting in is David Luiz because his neck injury didn’t seem to have much detail in terms of the prognosis. We’re led to believe it could be short term or longer term, but aside from that after Gabriel’s impressive debut, does Luiz slot back into the centre with his fellow Brazilian shifting left?
If that happens does Kieran Tierney move to left back and if that happens, what about Maitland-Niles, who has hit form of late?
All of a sudden it feels like we have squad depth and with the performance from last weekend it is going to be harsh on anyone being dropped. There’s a case for Ceballos in for Elneny, but the Fulham performance showed us that some of these so called ‘deadwood’ players seem to have upped their game. We even heard earlier in the week that Kolasinac has said he wants to fight for his place. This is a guy who by all accounts is probably fourth choice left back right now if you take into account Tierney, Maitland-Niles and Saka can all play that position. Plus we know that if Arteta shifts to a back four then Kola has even less chance of making it, given how bang average he is in defence. But he has been telling people he wants to be part of this ‘project’ and that speaks volumes. In a week in which we’ve had Aubameyang officially signing on and telling us that he wants to leave a ‘legacy’, we have more and more players that are buying in to Arteta’s philosophy.
Right now it is an exciting time to be an Arsenal fan. There will be hiccups. We will question Arteta’s decisions, but you can’t doubt that he’s got the players on side and wanting to play for him. Even Emi Martinez, upon leaving the club, spoke so highly of Arteta. He is a guy who demands a lot, pushes a lot, but already the players have seen that if they come on the journey with him, there is silverware that can be had. Because they’ve already tasted it.
We know Arteta demands a lot because we hear it. If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to watch our games with no fake crowd noise. It is a fascinating insight into the intensity of the man we have in charge. Every few minutes in a different language there is encouragement. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard “allez Nico! Allez Laca!” from the manager. He is on them because he knows that they know that if they let up, if they stop their intensity, we will be punished, so he keeps going and it is a constant reminder to those players that they have to fight for every second.
I remember playing for my Uni way back when. I was a centre half and we played in one cup game in which I’d had a great game. Blocked everything, headed everything away, was having a stormer. But – probably as a result of boozing the night before or something like that – in the last five minutes I didn’t get on to a ball over the top. I wasn’t out of puff or anything like that, I was just mentally fatigued, but so was my centre half partner, who was also the captain. He was always directing, instructing, driving us. For that ball over the top he was tired too and didn’t give me the shout to get on to it. A simple instruction. I knew what I had to do but the mental fatigue of the game had just caused me to switch on to some sort of low-battery mode so whilst I still had enough in the tank physically, me not being switched on cost us a goal.
That’s what I think about when I hear Arteta shout “allez Laca!” in the second half. He knows Lacazette has the physical ability to press, but perhaps in that moment he’s just switched off a bit. It happens. But when you’re coach is reminding you of your duties, you’re going to do them, because you want to play the next game.
It’s that intensity that the players are buying in to and that’s why they want to stick around because they can see that Arteta is making them better players. People talked about the importance Arteta had on the likes of Sterling et al at Man City, but I guess in my head I wondered whether Arteta could squeeze any extra juice out of what are clearly some not very good Arsenal players. I’m hppy to admit when I’m wrong because what we’re seeing now is that some of these players, if organised and motivated enough, ARE good enough to get us moving up the league. There are lots of people saying we’re probably good for about sixth with the current squad, but I think we can get close to fourth with Arteta giving each player a minimum of 10% improvement on their game. In elite sport that kind of improvement is massive and can turn us in to a team challenging for top four just with what we’ve got.
Like I say, it is an exciting time to be an Arsenal fan, watching this ‘project’ slowly come to life.
Let’s hope we can carry it on this weekend and for many more.