With Ghana wrapping up their irrelevant friendlies yesterday we finally got to see an interview with Thomas Partey in Arsenal club colours. It was the usual glossy affair with pictures of the man himself, then a training ground three-minute video in which he said what a great club Arsenal were and how he watched the Invincibles when he was a kid. It’s funny you know, because that really was a historic moment for the club because so many people reference it even these days. Perhaps it is because of the increased media coverage everywhere, but I don’t remember too many interviews of the 90s where the Arsenal players referenced teams of the 70s and 80s. It might be because for a big chunk of the 80s we were pretty mediocre as a club, but I think the Invincibles reference from players just serves to highlight how massive that achievement was.
I think what it also shows is how long we’ve waited for a Premier League title and whilst I can’t see it in the immediate future, I have to keep reminding myself just how difficult it is and so when your team does win it, you need to drink in every last drop. I was born in 82 and didn’t get into football until I was seven. That means when I was getting in to The Arsenal we had 89, 91, an FA and League Cup double in 93, the Cup Winners Cup in 1994, then another league title in 98. We then won the league in 2002, FA Cup in 2003, the Invincibles season in 2004 and thereafter it was 2005 for the FA Cup, before 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2020.
I’ve seen Arsenal win trophies for 13 of the 30-odd seasons that i’ve been supporting the club. The reason I’m pointing this out is to show just how much of a force we’ve been during my lifetime, although whilst Partey talks about us getting back to where we want to be he’s looking at that period around the early 2000s and wanting to make his mark as a player that in 20 year’s time, we hear new Arsenal signings talking about in the same reverence.
It feels like we do need to build that next historical team. People older than me talk about the 71 side, or the side of the early 90s, but there’s not many that will wax lyrical about the late 2000s or 2010s sides, because they didn’t win the big prizes.
I think in Mikel Arteta we have a guy who can certainly give us a good shot and the fact that he already has an FA Cup to his name is already a ‘doesn’t win trophies’ black mark that was erased from his copybook before his career had even started. Players see that, they hear what other players are saying and I think as much as Partey always wanted to join Arsenal (we were linked before Arteta was on the scene), I think there is genuine excitement from him about what this group of players can achieve. As I said yesterday my judgement on fighting for the title is very much reserved until December, probably even until next season, but for now I’m just enjoying the feelgood factor back at the club. And that’s in the wake of this COVID crisis as well as some of the saga’s we have with certain players who shall remain nameless.
There’s also good news from the younger ranks too. Eddie Nketiah broke the under-21s record for goals last night and whilst he won’t have much longer in the side at 21 years of age until May next year, there will be other opportunities for him to add to that tally and it’s great to see for a young man whose confidence will be high right now. I’ll admit that I’m still not sure whether he’ll make it as Arsenal’s number one striker, but what I think I do have to appreciate is that he is only 21. He turned that only a few months ago and he’s been in and around the first team, bagging himself a few goals too, for about a year. He’s been given opportunities already this season and already has two goals, including one in the Premier League to snatch all three points against West Ham. There will come a time where I will have to recognise that he is going to be a good player. I don’t like to make comparisons with that scummy lot up the road, but Kane had his breakthrough season at 21 years old. That season he bagged 31 goals in all competitions, although he started off as a sub and then his scoring led him to being promoted to first choice. Eddie is on the cusp of it with his battle with Lacazette and if he keeps bagging goals then there is no reason why he couldn’t become first choice by the end of it. But it does feel to me like it needs to happen now. There are no talks on Lacazette and a new deal, he’s at the age where we need to make a decision and next season the Frenchman will have a year left and be 29. If Eddie could displace him as the main man that would be amazing for us as it would mean that we have that fabled ‘internal solution’ up top, but I think in order to do that he’s going to have to emulate Kane to some extent.
The route for the dribbly one at Tottenham is surprisingly similar. He came on as a sub for the first game of the season against West Ham (sound familiar?). He then had impressive displays in the Europa League and bagged plenty of goals in that competition, as well as scoring against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup. All sounding familiar, eh? He only started playing properly in the November of that year and the dirty scummers were already about 12 Premier League games into the season by then. But that’s all I want to reference about him and that disgusting excuse for a football club. Let’s get back to Eddie, who has already made his sub appearance against West Ham and scored, scored in the League Cup against Leicester City and will no doubt play a big part in the upcoming Europa League games. His trajectory is good and when I think about it the reason I am a little sceptical as to whether he’s going to make it is because he’s been around the first team for so long.
But if he’s going to be a future star at the Arsenal team it does feel like he needs to kick on this season. I don’t mean he has to bag 31 goals in all competitions like Kane did, but if he contributes 15 in all competitions then we’ve probably got ourselves a guy who might just make it. If you count his goals at Leeds last season then he got nine in all comps. If he ups that to more than 15 in Arsenal colours, then maybe we can start to get excited. It’s all there for him, he just needs to take his advantage and if he does, well then the chances are we’ve also had a very good season and that can only be a good thing.