Afternoon folks and welcome to another weekend, this one on the eve of what feels like it might be #Lockdown2 in the UK unfortunately. It’s going to be another tough winter and for those who are struggling to look for a new job, like Huss Fahmy, it might be a difficult Christmas.
Yes indeed, the changes appear to continue to be ringing out at The Arsenal and this time it is our chief contract negotiator who has fallen on the legacy sword at Arsenal, with the Arteta and Edu broom sweeping away another part of the old infrastructure that Ivan Gazidis put together. My hope is that this all works out, because how much of a more damming indictment of that fraud Gazidis do you need that essentially in just over two years since he left his entire legacy and regime has been almost completely wiped out.
And let’s face it, whilst Huss came with a good reputation and was apparently well thought of, we’ve essentially had little change from previous years in which players have run down contracts, rejected contracts, not signed up, etc. We got the Auba deal over the line and Saka too, but by the sounds of it that had more to do with Raul than Huss.
And maybe that was the problem and why he was leaving? Maybe he was essentially the guy who stood by the fax machine waiting for the paperwork to come through only to hand it to others so they could sign things? Who knows. But what we do know is that it is yet more change and I suspect it strengthens Mikel’s power base even more at the club.
Which makes you hope that ‘Project Arteta’ works out. I believe it will. We all have faith and he’s already won us a trophy, steadied the ‘structure’ ship and given us hope that we’re moving in the right direction. He’s also won enough faith from KSE that they’ve dipped into their pockets to get him Partey and for a sports company like them to actually do anything which involves guaranteeing any kind of purchase out of their own assets, that’s really quite something.
But we do need this situation to work out. We need to see the fruits of Arteta’s labour come good and that means we need to always be seeing those small steps in the right direction. Like I said he has made us structurally better. We are still struggling in creativity and that is something he needs to look at next, as well as getting this frustrating monkey off of our backs that is the appalling away record in the Premier League against the ‘Big Six’. That could be tomorrow and I’m sure you’ll join me in crossing everything in hope that it is. But it will be a stern test for him and he knows that, taking to the mic yesterday to talk to the press ahead of the game, looking at how he can pick up our first three points in coming up to a month in the league.
The creativity thing is weighing on everyone’s mind and my hope is that he is softening on the stance of Auba not playing centrally. It really does feel like it is in the post at this stage, with Eddie and Laca not exactly ripping up trees and Saka looking better and better. A front three of Saka, Auba and Pepe is what so many of us are pining for and I think tomorrow is no better time to give it a go. In today’s game there seems to be such a reluctance to flood the centre of the pitch. Teams seem to transition through it as quickly as they possibly can, or they go around it by an emphasis on the flanks. We are no different and tomorrow it will be interesting to see how Arteta sets up the team. I think we can all imagine it will probably be with a three at the back, but if he does decide to do that and we decide we want to draw United out, then we will need pace on the counter. The isn’t Lacazette at the moment but it could be Pepe and Saka. And if you’ve got the likes of Partey and Xhaka in the middle of the park, the emphasis needs to be those forward ranging balls to move us quickly from defence to attack. United will give us more space than so many teams would sitting deep at the Emirates and so when we transition the need for us to do it quickly will be obvious.
I think Arteta will know that and that is why I think he was talking up Auba centrally, but also why he pulled off Pepe from the pitch on Thursday night. I just hope I’m right.
What Arteta has recognised from his talking on the official site, was the way that United can adapt their formations and as much as we are less predictable in how we are going to set up, Arteta acknowledged that so are United. That means when we start the game tomorrow we need to see how we are stacking up and Arteta needs to be brave and not afraid to change it if it doesn’t look like it’s working. His subs have been questioned at times and sometimes I think some of us feel he delays them a little bit, which we all understand is a learning process. But let’s all hope that if it isn’t quite going to plan tomorrow – and let’s face it, it almost never does at Old Trafford with our record – then he needs to be ready to change and change quick.
I think i’ll leave it there for today. Plenty of time to stew over formations, starting XI and how we are going to arrest our frankly awful record up in Manchester.