We’ve had ourselves a press conference yesterday ahead of the FA Cup game tomorrow and Mikel had plenty to say on a number of different things, including some of the exits that we’ve had, with Sokratis getting the platitudes, as well as Mesut – to an extent anyway. He has obviously said nice things about the player, but also was asked about the leak in the camp and whether that had now been resolved with some of the exiting players. Arteta refused to comment but sometimes what little you do say can say a lot. I don’t think it would shock anyone to find out that it might have been Mesut telling his agent stuff about the camp, then his agent leaking things to the press and whilst I doubt that will have been the reason he was ousted from Project Restart onwards, it probably didn’t help his cause from this summer.
But the broom has swept clean chunks of the squad and as I’ve already mentioned – and therefore won’t go over again – we have ourselves another opportunity in the summer to cut away the final bits of proverbial dead tissue from this squad so we can look to do a proper summer rebuild.
He was also asked about Odegaard from Real Madrid and simply replied that he can’t comment on players from other clubs. I haven’t seen the video of the recording but somebody said there was a hint of a wry smile there, which if true suggests that we are at least looking at the situation. By the sounds of it the player would prefer Real Sociedad though and whilst on paper you’d think Arsenal is a more attractive option, a move to a club with who me he made 31 appearances with last season, in a league that he knows inside and out, would suggest that I think it is an outside bet that he joins us.
Just think about it; he’d have just six months in another country, he’d need to compete with Smith-Rowe, he’d need to pick up English (unless he is already fluent which could be the case given he’s from a Scandinavian country and often they all speak very good English), plus he’d have to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League. If this was a signing we were making then perhaps you’d say that we stood a chance. But with Madrid supposedly unwilling for it to be a long-term situation and them wanting him to return in the summer, I suspect all roads will lead to the Basque country for the Norwegian.
So I suspect Arsenal will be looking elsewhere for a loan deal and I suspect we might even find ourselves in a situation in which we don’t bring anyone in this month. If you think about it, what are our options, when it comes to loan deals? We can’t go to smaller clubs and tell them we want to take their best players from them for six months and then give them back. What club would sanction that midway through a season? We also shouldn’t be taking Denis Suarez punts on players who haven’t played very often. So given that it isn’t a signing opportunity I am struggling to see what is out there. The Odegaard situation seems to have surfaced that would work for Arsenal, but how many players like that are there, that would give us the required quality in that position, that would be available for a short term loan?
I can’t think of many. I’m no European football guru though, so perhaps they are out there, but I just don’t see it.
The other interesting note from his press conference is that Arsenal aren’t staying down in Southampton during the next five days due to COVID and the restrictions on hotels. That seems like a disadvantage to me. So what, we have players bussing down there today, staying overnight, bussing back Saturday afternoon, rest day Sunday, bussing back on Monday and then play Tuesday? All the while Southampton get training days and less time travelling? I know there is little to be done about it, but it does mean we already have a slight disadvantage and so I’m just hoping the disruption doesn’t hamper the players. There will be some of you probably rolling your eyes at me being overly sensitive perhaps, but we need to remember that these guys are elite athletes. We can all run around and play a game of football after we’ve jumped off a bus, but when professional athletes have such fine margins that often define these games, these kind of details matter. It is why you always hear about the ‘marginal gains’ that teams undertake to give themselves the best possible chance of winning. Well that sounds like a ‘marginal gain’ that Southampton have straight away, I can tell you.
Arteta was also asked about a left back and admitted that whilst we have cover, we have no natural replacement for Tierney if he’s injured. He said that the club are looking and open to signing one, but again I suspect this will be a situation in which we wait until the summer and muddle along right now. We have players who have played there before and whilst Ainsley had a bit of a shocker in his last game, I can chalk that down to an isolated match, because he’s a decent enough player to recover from that.
Other than that there’s not really much else I’d pick out worth talking about. He was asked about Walcott and his form, but of course Arteta just said nice things about a former teammate. The same has to be said for Cedric, with whom he was given the opportunity to wax lyrical. And he did. It was a good game by the Portuguese and if he’s giving Arteta food for thought in terms of Bellerin then great, but personally I suspect that we’ll see Hector back in the team over the next two matches, because our Spanglish right back khas done it consistently over a number of years and we’ve really only just seen good performances from Cedric recently.
Anyway, that’s it from me for today, as I think i’ll save some match thoughts on Southampton for tomorrow. Catch you then.