Howdy howdy party people and here we are at Wednesday. Just a few more days until the weekend but we have to wait until Sunday for the 4.30pm kick off before we play our match against Leeds.
Man that feels like a long way away. Having been playing every few days since the beginning of 2021 a week in between matches feels a long time, but perhaps from the players perspective it is valuable recharging time. Lord knows it feels like we need it. It’s just…well…I cannot stand Sunday games. We get so few of them because of being in the Europa League anyway, you’d think we’d catch a break by at least getting a Saturday fixture on one of the week’s where we’ve not played in midweek.
My irritation comes mainly from a logistical point of view and general irritation at going to football on a Sunday because it means you can’t have a proper session with your mates in the pub and then go on to the game. I know that is no longer a problem and won’t be one for the rest of this season, but it still has a legacy on me and irritates me when we end up playing on Sunday at that time. But I’ll get over it.
Two players we’re hoping to hear from that have ‘got over it’ are of course Tierney and Partey and hopefully they are back for Leeds, but given the schedule after this week I do wonder just how clever Arteta is going to have to be about his rotation now. Leeds are a high intensity team and have had a good few years of Bielsa so are well entrenched in that mode of football. They will also have had a week off and so we can expect a very tough match when it comes around on Sunday. Then we are away to Benfica in Rome, followed by a home match against Man City, then another trip abroad for our ‘away’ game to Greece to play Benfica again, before Leicester away.
That’s one heck of a run and is made all the harder by having to travel for hours to the Greek capital instead of playing on our home turf. It is incredibly harsh and unlucky on Arsenal and will mean less prep time and more travelling for matches that are already going to be difficult enough as it is. This could be a defining point in the season and if we are knocked out to Benfica over the next couple of weeks then the season is basically over for us, barring making sure we don’t spiral into more defeats and finish up in a relegation fight again. Maybe that doesn’t feel plausible right now but we are only on 31 points and until you get to that 40 point mark you are never really home and hosed. So forcing us to play so far away as our home game seems mad to me. Quite why Arsenal couldn’t see if they could get a game in Belgium, or Northern France, is beyond me. Perhaps that’s what they went for but the rules are apparently that the ‘home’ club are the ones that need to find a venue. If that is the case then I find it baffling that Arsenal chose a location so far away. Are we actively trying to sabotage our own campaign or something?
Personally I don’t have a good feeling about the next two weeks. The football has been better lately and even against Aston Villa I’ve seen a few people say that in the second half we were much better and there looked like a plan in place, but the calibre of the opposition is about to go up a serious few notches and if we continue to brain fart our way from match to match we’re going to find ourselves in March with nothing to play for. At all. We’re used to that in the league, but another season in mid table and not going deep in any competitions doesn’t look good for a first season for Mikel.
And whilst I’ve backed him fully and am not prepared to turn away from him and proclaim we need another guy in any time soon, it is hard to look at a season that will most likely finish with our worst points tally for decades and out of all competitions and Europe for the first time since 1994-1995, and not think that Mikel has so much more to do to prove he is as good as we all believe.
Hey, I know he’s been unlucky and I’ve said it myself, but he’s also backed the wrong horses at times this season and with a full season as Arsenal manager under his belt when we finally get to consign this dreadful season in to the annuls of history, there can be no more excuses for the man for 2021/22. This will be his team, his players, he will have weeded out some of those players who will have contributed to the disaster that has been the domestic season so far, so there can be no more ‘yeah buts’. And I’m almost saying this to myself as much as I am to you, dear friendly reader. I want Mikel to succeed so much but there comes a time when you stop saying everything is unlucky and start wondering why stuff keeps happening. Like injuries to key players (poor training regime?), or suspensions that derail our season (ill discipline?), or just putting your faith in the wrong players time and time again (Willian, anyone?).
After these next two weeks we could be in a position where Arteta has the world’s longest pre season to ready his team for 2021/22. He needs to make the most of it.
Catch you lovely people in the morning.