Happy Saturday folks. I don’t know what it is that meant that I couldn’t sleep first thing this morning, but I find myself up at 6.30am on a Saturday, and I can tell you I do not like that one bit. I think I must have had plenty on my mind because I’ve got a day of chores as usual, including taking a load of rubbish to the dump and no, I haven’t been asked by Mikel if I’d swing by London Colney and pick up Willian and Elneny unfortunately.
Perhaps I also subconsciously was a little grumpy that despite The Management being a Silver Member who has been unable to watch a single game this season due to the pandemic, there will be no refunds on the money spent on her membership. The club are offering a membership pack which we opt out of anyway because I get one for my season ticket, so the fact that the only reason we pay extra for the silver membership is because of the ticket purchase options, makes it a little galling that we have to cough up again. For me it is first world problems though, because I am fortunate enough that the money side of it isn’t really an issue, so I’ll say no more on it. Just feels a little hollow from the club not offering a refund.
So what else could have kept me up last night? I tell you what it wasn’t, the opportunity to play a new team in the Europa League, because once again we line up against Olympiakos. I wonder if they are as sick of playing us as we are of them? When we were in the Champions League it feels like they were in our group stages every year. Then we dropped in to the Europa and here they are, once again, playing us in another couple of matches in the competition. They knocked us out last year in a two legged affair that really did take the wind out of the sails of the early Arteta time. I am still a fan of the boss and I think he will come good, but if you were to look at moments in which some fans might have had questions, that game at home might stick out as a starting point of questions. We weren’t good that night and if my memory serves me right I think there were a couple of grumbles around the decision making on his subs.
Olympiakos staged a bit of a smash and grab last season and Arteta – and probably Auba too after his late miss last season – will surely be looking at this and thinking “time to right a wrong here”. I hope that’s in their minds, anyway, because if it adds a little fuel to the fire in their bellies, then I’m good with that.
Of course for the players they’ll also have familiarity with the place, given that it has also been our ‘home’ ground this week and with no fans in that stadium, perhaps it will feel very different against the Greeks this time around. You can say what you like about the quality of the team in Greece, but their home support has always been extremely vociferous and if the stadium is empty when we play them, surely that gives them less of an advantage?
That of course is probably going to be leveled out by the fact that Sokratis is essentially nailed on to bag a goal and have the defensive display of his life against us, we all know that, right? There’s no club like Arsenal to deal with a ‘narrative’ by completely leaning in to it!
My fatalistic outlook on my football team aside, you have to look at teams like Ajax, Tottenham, Man United and AC Milan and probably think that it could have been a lot worse. Olympiakos can certainly beat us, they showed that last year, but we all know how tough this competition starts to get from now and so to avoid those teams is probably a good thing. If we progress against the Greeks then we will inevitably come across one of those sides – if not sooner then later – so perhaps there is no point in looking at getting more favorable draws. But having seen the Scum play weakened teams in their games over the last 10 days, you can see how a better draw in the earlier stages can help things like momentum, because they go into the game this weekend against Burnley with a fresh first team, whereas we travel to Leicester having flown for hours in midweek and then having to play our full strength side against Benfica.
Arteta spoke about the game about how the team is travelling back in the early hours of the morning and then have to go again a few days later, but he admitted we can’t use it as an excuse. He’s right: you can’t fight hard to get in to Europe and then bemoan the challenges brought about by the midweek football you have to play. But there’s no doubt that fatigue will play a part in the selection decisions this weekend. We just have to hope we’ve got enough about us to get something from the game.
That’s probably enough from me for today. Off to do my jobs and listen to a few Arsenal podcasts I think. You have a good one peeps.