I know you don’t want to read another piece banging on about Mesut Ozil and I certainly don’t want to write a piece on it, so I won’t, but I do need to quickly pick up on the comments that have come from Big Per Mertesacker that emerged yesterday. I think it was on a podcast of some kind but I’ve seen quotes emerging from him talking about how he trains well, he is always around and isn’t showing any signs of malcontent or mischief on the training ground. Perhaps the first admission from an Arsenal official employee that there is something non-football related that is keeping him from at least making the squad.
However he did also say that perhaps Mesut’s priorities have shifted after marriage and fatherhood and that is also as damming – from a football perspective – when thinking about him getting on to the pitch. Once again I find myself thinking what a shame it is and how he could be useful. Especially now we can’t offload him and he’s admitted he won’t leave.
Anyway, he’s part of our history and not our future and that immediate future involves an away trip to Rapid Vienna with, what appears to be, A FLIPPING CENTRE HALF CRISIS!
I mean, only at The Arsenal, eh? Only at our club could you have a team with an army surplus of players in one position, yet STILL be wondering who gets the nod on Thursday night.
What’s worse is that this is the sort of game that you’d want mass-rotation to take place. But as it stands Rob Holding’s injury – of which the rumours are he’s out for three to four weeks – means that in all likelihood there will be at least two players who will have to play on Thursday evening and then Sunday evening. Those two appear to be the only two fully fit first team centre halves in Gabriel and Luiz and so I suspect both will play, although it would be comforting to see Pablo Mari, Chambers or Mustafi back in the side on the bench at some stage in the next couple of games. Given who we are playing you’d hope we’d still have enough about us in the other positions to get the result on Thursday and although the centre back position may cause us issues, at least Arteta should be able to rotate plenty elsewhere on the pitch. We play Leicester at the weekend on Sunday and you can be damn sure that they will heavily rotate their side from playing in the Europa League on Thursday.
It does seem a little unfair that teams can’t pull out some ’emergency’ selections based on injury problems, with the 25 man rule I mean. For example Liverpool have named van Dijk in their Champions League squad and yet he’s not going to play for them throughout the group stages you’d expect. If Holding is out for a month then you wonder whether or not an emergency ‘substitute’ should be allowed to be made for the competition. I understand that UEFA – and the Premier League with their squad rules soon to be announced (I’ll come to that in a second) – might want to encourage teams to dip in to their youth squads to replace injured players, but we do that anyway in this competition. Plus, if you had a ‘contingency’ sub you could make where it is one player maximum, it covers any long term injuries or situations like we have where we have fit centre halves, we just can’t play them.
I suspect, for example, that if we could, we might be giving William Saliba a run out in the competition. This game could be ideal for him to come in alongside David Luiz, for example, to get some minutes. He played for the under-23s at the weekend and got minutes, but nothing will make him feel more integrated than playing for the first team in this competition.
I bet Arsenal would love to do it as well. I think the only reason he wasn’t selected for the squad was because Arsenal thought he was heading back out on loan back to St Etienne this winter. But unfortunately there appears to be a bit of a cock up in that regard. Still, no use crying over spoilt milk ‘n all that. Just have to move on.
Move on to the squad announcements that should come out today and whilst Saliba, Ozil and Sokratis missing from the 25 man squad was a surprise, I don’t think there will be as many surprises with some of the news that is announced today (I think it is today). Saliba is under-21 so he doesn’t have to be named, which is also the case for Saka, Nelson, Willock, Nketiah and Martinelli. By my calculations we have 19 players who are within the rules of ‘non-homegrown over 21’ which means both Ozil and Sokratis will miss out, if we’re making the same assumptions as the Europa League squad. It will mean another bit of a ‘hoo-hah’ from the Ozil supporters, but them’s the breaks.
Personally I’d go with just two ‘keepers because Macey ain’t getting near the first team and that frees up room for Ozil, but I don’t think Mikel would want to roll that particular dice somehow.
All-in-all it makes for yet more dredging up of the Ozil debate and we will all be glad when it is over next summer. But for now we have to just deal with these final few months of discomfort as it draws to a close.
That’s it from me today. Catch y’all tomorrow.