The squad flew out to Norway yesterday afternoon and I have to say I’ve never been more pleased to see so many young faces board the plane. I realise that the Europa League squads are massive and five subs enables the manager to name a bigger squad and give more players game time, but with the rate at which our players seem to be dropping like flies due to injury (as a result of the ridiculous number of games being played), seeing that we are looking at doing a fair bit of rotation gives me heart.
There’s also part of me that just wants to experience something different tomorrow night and certainly the Europa League has provided that. Three wins from three, goals and an opportunity to qualify for the knockout stages with two games to spare awaits The Arsenal tomorrow evening and that is welcome respite from the drab, dreary, dull and frankly boring performances in the Premier League, that has seen us go game after game without scoring.
So seeing the likes of Balogun, Azeez and Smith-Rowe get on that flying metal tube with wings was heartening, that’s for sure. Whether or not many of them will start I’m not entirely convinced, but at least we have the hope that we might see something different tomorrow and that’s what we’re all hoping for. A change of fortunes, a different approach, a tactical switch, a young player who has an impressive game, anything. We are looking for anything that we can hang our hopes on and hopefully we get something today from Arteta that gives us some hope, as well as tomorrow in terms of performance.
He’ll do his press conference today and I really hope he hints at loosening the attacking reins a little at some stage. What we’ve seen this season has been an impressive defence, but it feels like it has almost entirely been at the expense of any kind of attacking impetus and whilst we can debate for every whether that is down to manager or personnel, there is no doubt that we now have enough data (games) with which to see we have a very big problem. The game at the weekend against Wolves is one I dread, but then again I’m dreading every Premier League game right now, so that’s no surprise. So the Europa League feels like a weirdly nice distraction. In my mind I’m just looking at that as the ‘next game’ and I’m not over thinking or worrying about Wolves because there is another match that is closer to us on the horizon.
There’s also the slightly irrational hope that in the likes of Smith-Rowe or Balogun we find some sort of solution that can be fast-tracked to the first team. What we’ve seen from the creative and attacking players so far this season is a collective of well played players who are all uniformly performing terribly. The impact of that has been this atrocious run of games without scoring. It’s never been an issue for us over the years and now we find ourselves in a position in which it feels – rather irrationally – like we may never score again.
What I will offer up now though, is this slight glimmer of hope; we all thought that we had a rag-tag bunch of uncoachable defenders. A year ago we all said our defence is a farce and there needed to be mass player movement in that area. Yet here we are in November 2020 with one of the best defences in the league. Alright, we also have one of the worst attacks, but defensively Arteta has turned that around so the thought of him being able to unlock our attack – given how we felt about the back line we had, doesn’t feel like it needs as much of a momentous leap.
It just feels a little dark right now. We all know that. We all want to see a change in fortunes. We all want to experience that feeling of goals and wins. We will get there eventually, but we just have to ride out that rough patch, I reckon. It’s crap now but it won’t be forever.
Maybe tomorrow can be a change? Maybe we can see a Pepe with a fire lit from underneath him? Maybe Smith-Rowe steps up and gives us hope for that creative connector role between midfield and attack? Maybe our front line clicks? Who knows. All I do know is that I’m done with being despondent…for now….I’m hoping for good things tomorrow and hopefully Arteta and his charges can deliver.
Catch you wonderful people tomorrow.