Well here we are, back to the proper football weekend’s, which also means some words of wisdom from our young manager. Mikel Arteta had his press conference yesterday and talked about the proposed bust up of Luiz and Ceballos, the international breaks, as well as team news ahead of the weekend as we show down against Leeds.
He knows it’ll be a tough game, made tougher by the injury and fitness situation of a number of players at the club, as well as the fact Leeds haven’t had as many players away on international duty as we have had. What Arteta did note – and I think he is right to – is the physicality that he’s expecting from Leeds. They press high and hard and they will know that we will have a few bumps and bruises, so will be up for this game and probably expecting a bit of an upset. They have players returning, we have players missing, as confirmed yesterday by Arteta with Parety being out.
I’ve said this before but I do feel for Arteta. He still hasn’t hit one year in football as a manager and when he reflects back in 20 years time on his managerial career, I bet he’ll scarcely be able to deal with it. Injury crisis at centre half meaning we have to order an army surplus of defenders that we then can’t shift due to COVID, saga’s over players with big wages not playing, no fans in stadiums, contracting the virus himself, plus more. He sort of alluded to the misfortune yesterday when he mentioned that every week he expects somebody to walk through his door with bad news, but what I like about Arteta is that he didn’t dwell on it yesterday. He acknowledged, it , then went on to talk about the international breaks and protecting player welfare. And we really need to be at a stage that this is being looked at. I mean having a player like Aubameyang sleeping on the floor of a hotel airport is an utter disgrace and when you hear situations like that you have to look at the football authorities and say that if they don’t do something, the clubs should be within their own rights to refuse players access to joining up with their national squads.
Imagine if Aubameyang has now spent a day or two a little stiffer than usual because he hasn’t had the best preparation for a game like Leeds this weekend. We would be looking at a player we are forking out hundreds of thousands of pounds a week to represent us, who isn’t at 100% because of the actions of the Gabonese FA. It is farcical. It’s like sticking diesel in your petrol Ferrari.
He also spoke about the supposed bust up between Luiz and Ceballos and admitted that these things happen, which is fair enough, but what I also think is fair enough is that he seemed pretty cheesed off that this info had been leaked to David Ornstein in the first place. Like a Spanish Liam Neeson is Taken, he ominously said “I will find who has done this” in reference to the leaks. Whoever it is at the club, they better keep one eye over their shoulder…
In other team news we still don’t know whether we’ll see Willian from the start on Sunday and if there wasn’t already enough evidence against him starting for his recent performances, then we can look no further after the Dubai nonsense. Arteta merely said “it has been delt with internally” and “I told him what I expect” and that sounds like a pretty cheesed off manager to me. I would be stunned to see him start on Sunday and only a series of injuries or fatigue to players returning from international duty will surely have an impact on whether he does actually make the first XI or not. Of course from a personal perspective, to preserve the integrity of the supposed ‘meritocracy’ that Arteta is building, I hope he spends some time out of the team now. Could he be replaced by Willock? Maybe. Arteta hinted at it by saying he’s told Willock how well he’s doing, but it would require a shuffle of approach if he did I reckon. Willian has occupied that right hand side in the last few games and we won’t get the best out of Willock if we just shunt him out there. It means that we would probably need to get somebody else in that position to free up space in the midfield for Willock. I wouldn’t be against it given his last two outings in the Europa; we might as well see if his confidence is such that he gives an improved performance from the youngster who tailed off so much towards the back end of last season. But as I say, that would probably mean a tweak beyond just one-in, one-out, for example. Maybe it’ll be a shift that sees Auba, Willock and Pepe as a three behind Nketiah, for example? Nketiah was talked up again by Arteta and scoring in the Under-21s for England yet again will have done his confidence no harm at all. He’s got to be in a little more confidence and form than Lacazette and if Arteta still remains reluctant to play Auba through the middle, why not give Eddie the chance to show Bielsa what he should have been doing by playing him on Sunday? Maybe Eddie will have a little extra point to prove?
More thoughts on possible team line up tomorrow. Until then, have a grand one.