Morning gooners and welcome to another week. Last night I made a roast dinner which took a while as it was roast pork, but during said meal preparation, I decided to watch the Tiny Totts against West Ham. I missed the start but managed to switch on right at the moment in which the Totts made it 3-0 and thought “blow this for a game of soldiers, I’ll stick on a movie instead”. I am mightily glad I did you know, because I am convinced that had I watched that match yesterday in its entirety, Tottenham would have got six or seven. As it was they completely Spursed it up and West Ham snatched a point at the death. Delightful stuff.
It made my evening and afforded me a few hours of Schadenfreude as the last ebbs of my weekend ticked away.
What it also made me do is start thinking about the fact that all of the ‘Big Six’ have all been dropping points this season and with Leicester also threatening to be a contender last year, I looked at them as a bit of a potential thorn in our side too. But even they succumbed to Aston Villa yesterday and looking at the table this morning it feels odd to be pleased after a weekend in which we’ve been beaten. Of course it is far too early to make any kind of sweeping statements or judgements but with arguably the two toughest away grounds visited in the league already ticked off our list, it feels like there is a real opportunity for Arsenal this season, if we can get our act together in those other games in the league. So for example turning that 1-1 home draw last season against Sheffield United into a 2-1 victory like we already have. Or maybe picking up three points at home to Wolves, where last season we managed a draw, for example. Managing to pick up three points away to the likes of Burnley, Everton or Crystal Palace, as opposed to the draws we picked up at those grounds last season. Mikel has us difficult to break down but he needs to find the balance between defence and attack and whilst we can all see the progress that is made in those big games in making us more competitive, we also need to be able to see progress in breaking teams down. Otherwise we’re going to see similar failings compared to last season.
Perhpas Partey’s arrival see’s Saka freed to play a little more permanently up the sharper end of the pitch? Perhaps it allows us to get a little more bodies and creativity in to the team. That is what we are all hoping and the game next weekend against Leicester at home will give us an insight into how this team evolves I think. They’ve just lost Ndidi and Soyuncu to long term injuries so that will be a blow to them but with Vardy sure to return to face us next weekend I’m expecting there to be something of a litmus test for our season when we line up against them on Sunday night.
There was also the news of Van Dijk also being out for most of the season that I thought I’d briefly touch on. I didn’t realise this but until this weekend he’d played 95 of Liverpool’s last 96 Premier League games. For a guy who is the rock in that team that is a massive blow but what it also serves to highlight to me is just how important keeping players free from injury is if you are going to have success. Last season Liverpool blew everyone away and were deserved Champions, but they also didn’t seem to suffer with any long-term injuries to key players last season and that was key to their success. Alisson spent a bit of time out last season with a calf injury at the beginning of the season but he’s a ‘keeper and to some extent you can mitigate that. but if you think about their key players they have, plenty were fit for the whole season. Robertson didn’t miss a game, neither did Alexander-Arnold, Salah missed one game through injury last season, Mane missed a total of eight spread out across a few competitions, whereas Firmino was fit the whole time.
Big injuries have impacts on teams and with Arteta we’ve already seen an injury crisis in central defence, midfield and in goal in his short time. I’m not trying to say that we have a chance at the title and I think even without Van Dijk Liverpool are still a better team than us, but if Arteta can keep key players fit this season then you have to think Champions League football via the domestic route is obtainable. There are so many sides already dropping points that it feels like getting some form of consistency by winning the ‘smaller’ games could very well be the difference for us this season.
But feet on the ground, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah and all that jazz. Before we even start thinking about the Premier League again next weekend there’s the commencement of European football with the team travelling to Vienna this week to take on Rapid in the Europa League. I suspect they’ll travel on Wednesday and we’ll get some kind of team news update around then on who has travelled. I wonder if Arteta goes full rotation or whether he blends it? We’ll have to wait and see.
Catch you all tomorrow.