Another one bites the dust.
Yep, there’s another Arsenal player who will be missing from the ability to be selected this weekend when we play Leeds on Sunday and that player is Sead Kolasinac, who tested positive for COVID-19 after travelling and playing for Bosnia in this latest round of pointless and utterly stupid international matches that are seeing more and more players dropping like flies for the clubs that pay their wages.
So that’s Elneny and Kolasinac who Arteta won’t be able to call on and we just have to hope that there aren’t any more nasty surprises that we’ll find out about in the next couple of days. When you also add Willian’s apparent indiscretion at heading over to Dubai during a national lockdown – with which we’re still waiting to find out the details and whether it can be classed as a ‘legitimate’ trip or not – it means that Arteta will most certainly have to shuffle his plans accordingly for the next few games.
Now I know that Kolasinac probably wouldn’t have played on Sunday and yes, given Willian’s form, many of us know that he may not have featured. But the point is that Arteta is being hampered on making decisions; these are effectively being forced rather than him managing his squad accordingly, which will be incredibly frustrating for him. Elneny not playing may have been part of the plans on Sunday as it was too, but do we think that neither Elneny or Kolasinac would not have played in the away trip to Molde this time next week? I would argue that both would have been involved and that hits home just how important it is to have as many players as fit and ready to go as possible, because now Arteta is going to have to do some calculations on player fatigue that perhaps he wouldn’t have had to do had the players not come down with COVID.
When you also look at the fact that Bukayo Saka played for most of the international period for England, as did Kieran Tierney for Scotland, it means we could end up having a situation with both players if we are not careful. Both have had little knocks and bruises and Tierney spent a large chunk of the season out injured. The job that both are asked to do by Arteta is that of high intensity and therefore is it fair to expect both to be fully fit and firing having just played in these three matches? Possibly not, but what other choice do we have with Kolasinac now not able to play.
Elite level sport is – as we all know – about fine margins and players being slightly off their game in the Premier League gets you punished. Leeds go into this game at the weekend with less players on international duty, probably on better form, but certainly with less worries about individuals as a result of COVID or their own transgressions. I don’t want to start making excuses before a ball is kicked but these little details, these ‘marginal gains’ that clubs are always looking for, can be the difference between a draw or a defeat, or a win or a draw.
And we’re not in a position where we can afford either defeats or draws in too much volume right now. Not given what the ambitions of the club are and should be.
It all just leads to more disdain that I have for these international matches. I didn’t bother watching last night and whilst it is nice to hear that Southgate was impressed with Saka and that he had a good game, we can’t ignore the fact that what we will probably be handed back is a slightly tired young player who feels like he’s been on the edge of a muscular injury given his playing time anyway. We just have to hope that he can make it through this weekend if he is selected. Then I’m just hoping that we get the kind of performance from him that he showed in an England shirt over this period.
We need some performances this weekend, that’s for sure, because the form we’re exhibiting going forward has been anything but exciting. Worrying, in fact, which is why we need as many of our attacking a ‘flair’ players to be properly on their game when we go to a decent Leeds side who will probably fancy it against us having watched our performance in the game at home to Villa.
Plenty of time to get myself worked up and worried for that though, given that it is on Sunday at 4.30pm!
A quick ‘P.S.’ before I clock off. The men’s first team photo pic was revealed this week, featuring the lesser spotted Ozil and Saliba! It was taken at the beginning of the season so I wonder if Arteta told the lads they wouldn’t be in the 25-man squad straight away after it??
Catch you all tomorrow.