Still not a lot going on in the Arsenal world today, well, other than the ladies football in which the Arsenal women drew yesterday. But I’ve never really been able to get myself ‘in’ to it to be honest. It’s the same with the youth football too. I want players coming through, it is great when Hale End produces some good young talents that break through in to the first team and of course I recognise that none of that happens without the academy players and the various teams that Arsenal have at different age groups, but I just find it hard to get myself as excitable or wound up about ladies or youth football like I do with the men’s team. It’s just one of those things.
So all that really happened yesterday was that we got ‘treated’ to yet more international football, which I have to say features even lower on my list of priorities than the under-11s Arsenal team. I just can’t really find it in myself to get too excited about it unless there is an international tournament and even then I would say my ‘nerves’ are only about 25% of what they normally are when Arsenal play. I will be more nervous this weekend when we play Leeds United away, than I was when England played Croatia in the Semi-Final of the World Cup in 2018. That’s just how it is.
I suppose if we’re going to go trying to sniff around for some Arsenal news, the ‘AFCBell’ chap on Twitter who only seems to post in Arabic, has said that Partey is ok and will be fine for this Sunday’s game. That’s good news from our perspective because when he went off we looked even worse than we had been in the first half against Villa last week. The midfield of Elneny and Ceballos looked to have about as much dynamism in it as Jabba The Hut and so a power-runner with a bit of pass distribution about his game would be useful.
Actually, any kind of functioning midfield will be useful and whilst we can all point to the players who are stinking up the join in our attacking third, the midfield seems to have got a free pass so far this season, which I find odd. It is odd because last season we all saw how we needed something different injected in there. Ceballos and Xhaka looked like a bit of a patch up job and whilst the Spaniard managed to find some good form for the last half a dozen games towards the end of Project Restart, he doesn’t seem to have recaptured it. Xhaka too has also not looked as great as he had done just a few short months ago, although I suspect that’s because we’re not leaning as heavily in to our need for him to occupy that left channel position as he did to such effect when Arteta took over.
Elneny has, I think most of us agree, come in and done a decent enough job. He’s looked good in some games, clearly limited in others, but all-in-all we are yet to see a midfield combination that has consistently impressed. We got one game out of Partey and Elneny and that feels like it worked in that one instance, but the first half at Villa showed that we need to add a slightly different flavour to our midfield sometimes. I do wonder what a midfield two of Ceballos and Partey might have done had the Ghanaian not come off in the second half. Ceballos likes to travel with the ball, he likes to twist and turn and he is busy and industrious when he is in the middle of the park. Partey covers ground, has a pass in him and can win the ball back quickly. It feels like the two of them could work. But if we also drop a Xhaka in behind them I also think we have three guys with a decent passing repertoire, but also the engine and ability to cover spaces that Partey has would mean that Xhaka would hopefully not be as isolated as we’ve seen him be in a midfield two with the likes of Elneny or Ceballos.
It ‘feels’ like a three that would work to me. It was tried in the Leicester game but Partey sat in the middle of the three and every time he tried to drop to collect the ball from his centre halves they seemed to just bypass him. I’m pretty sure there are a few videos floating around of him with his arms in the air after he wasn’t passed the ball for the third or fourth time in quick succession. This is a guy with the ability to travel with the ball, with the strength to receive it and hold off players, yet we just didn’t see enough of it. Perhaps dropping Xhaka off into that deeper central role to collect the ball and play the next pass to either Ceballos or Partey, is the better option for us? It would also mean that they receive the ball higher up the pitch and maybe that stops teams from pressing as high if they know that if we break their lines we have a very good player like Partey who can spring the trap of releasing the likes of Saka, Aubameyang or Pepe, for instance? It is certainly something I would be hoping to see. Of course that does assume that Xhaka isn’t pressed high to lose the ball by opponents in our defensive third and if Ceballos and Partey are both higher up the pitch it gives him less protection, but we haven’t seen as much of that from opponents dispossessing Xhaka as we did a year or so ago, so perhaps Arteta has simply found a way to minimise the impact of us having a turnover so deep in to our own defensive territory?
I think that’s a midfield combination I would like to see and certainly hope Arteta has it in his mind when thinking about team selection for Sunday’s game. Of course we all know that some changes need – and hopefully will – be changed in the attacking trio, but if you have those three behind we might see an Arsenal side who can let the front three off the leash a little bit more, whoever is in that attacking trio.
In one more bit of Arsenal-related news, it appears the club are going green. Arsenal are the first club to sign up to a UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. It is a commitment to be a little more sustainable and I think this is a good thing. If everyone makes small steps towards change like has been outlined here, the impact can be clear and obvious and this is the sort of pioneering stuff that we always used to hear about with The Arsenal. We used to always be the ‘first’ with socially conscious initiatives like this and to see us taking these steps is nice to see.
Anyhoo, that’s about it from me today. Catch you lovely folk tomorrow.