In the words of Professor Farnsworth from Futurama:
Good News Everyone!
Yep, that good news is the return of Gabriel Martinelli in just a few short days and I don’t think there isn’t a Gooner alive who didn’t see the news from the club yesterday and have their heart skip an extra beat of joy, because let’s face it he has been brilliant for us ever since he signed.
Martinelli’s energy is infectious. His pressing, his finishing, his covering ground and just the way he plays the game is great to watch and we’re all delighted that he’s potentially going to be available for the Newcastle game on Monday night. Having seen him roll on his ankle I – like you I’m sure – pretty much ruled out seeing him for a number of week’s and usually as Arsenal fans we’re used to hearing words like “rupture ankle ligament” or something like that which would keep him out for months. But the fact that the club will get him back in to full training in a few days is really positive and we can all be happy that he hasn’t lost himself another big chunk of the season.
Arteta will be pleased too, because it gives him options at a time in the season when sh*t starts to get real. We have two home games against Palace and Newcastle that we desperately need to pick up wins for. I’d even say draws aren’t good enough if we have any kind of ambitions of turning our season around. And it is possible to do that. Just look at United now sitting top of the league having been 15th after we beat them in October. They’ve had huge slices of luck in almost every game (how Luke Shaw wasn’t sent off last night is beyond me, plus there was a shout for handball from Maguire that would 100% have been given if it was for Man United rather than against them), granted, but they are sitting at the top having got themselves a very impressive run of wins and we should be looking at that and seeing just what a good string of results can do for a team.
I don’t think we’ll get near the top this season. We’ve lost too many games and we all know just how close we could be to another crisis of having to play Willian and Elneny on a regular basis. If Smith-Rowe, Saka and Martinelli all get injured then we’ve lost our energy from the team. But at least Man United’s position can give us hope that we can challenge for the European places I reckon. Two wins in our next two games might see us creep up the league a little bit and so that has to be the immediate and pressing target. I know it is a bit of football manager cliche to say “we focus on the next game, that’s all we’re looking at” but I have genuinely just been looking at these two games as part of our recent ‘block’ of games and hardly looked at the other tough games on the horizon.
That might be because we are supposed to have an FA Cup game which is yet to be decided because Southampton play Shrewsbury in the FA Cup to reach us in the fourth round, but given Southampton’s fixture list means they will surely be playing that game when we were supposed to be playing the winners of that match on 23rd January, it sort of feels like we have a bit of a stop after we play Newcastle. That’s what I think the FA will do and if that happens it means our next game will be in the league against them on 26th January, a good eight days after the Newcastle game. So in my head I’ve had these games over the Christmas period as our ‘mini run’ and if we can close out two wins at home then that would be amazing.
Of course that in itself is a massive challenge because our home form has been nothing short of dreadful. Defeats to Leicester, Villa, Wolves and Burnley, as well as a home draw to Southampton in which they battered us because we were down to ten men, have meant it feels like it’s going to be a struggle as it is, so having expectations of maximum points in our next two games feels like a fools errand to me. But that’s what we must do – by hook or by crook.
The other news from yesterday is the confirmation that Rob Holding has signed a new deal until 2024. I’ve made no secret of my feelings on Holding; I think he is a little slow, his long ball passing distribution isn’t very good and he will get turned easily in a foot race. However it would be blinkered of me not to acknowledge that as a penalty box defender, dealing with trouble when we are set up in a deeper defensive line, he has been good and whilst I personally am not convinced by him, the club moving to tie him down can be a positive move. BUT…that is only if we’re looking at him as a squad player. Next season if you tell me that Holding is centre back choice pairing number four or five in the squad, then I’m fine with it. Him and Pablo Mari as deputies to Gabriel and someone like Saliba or another, better, centre half, is a-ok with me.
And on that note I think i’ll leave it for today. That’s quite a nice positive blog for a Wednesday. Let’s hope I’m feeling the same come Friday after the Palace game, but until then, back tomorrow with a Thursday morning match preview.