Happy Friday to you and your kin. I hope you are feeling fantabulous? More fantabulous than me no doubt, whose feline friend has discovered how to open does and so has taken to jumping on mine and The Management’s bed at 5.30am in the morning to say ‘hi’.
But such is life, we just have to ‘get on with it’, which is what Mikel Arteta said when he talked about the switch of dates for The Scum’s Europa League tie on Thursday next week. We play them on the Sunday at home but by switching the tie around it means they don’t have to travel, meaning more rest time ahead of the North London Derby. It’s a pointless bit of jiggery pokery by UEFA because there are no fans in the stadiums anyway, but with every passing day I get more bemused by decision making in football authorities and those that run the game, to be honest. That disgusting football team have had their fair share of advantages, it has to be said. Nice rest period over Christmas with a game called off, a string of games in the League Cup that has given them a final to contend, fixtures switches like the Dynamo Zagreb situation, as well as what we saw yesterday, which was a farcical application of VAR in their favour. I do wonder if we are now at the stage where players will need to consider amputation if that disallowed goal from Fulham is the ‘letter of the law’. Hands by your body, not moving, then the ball is booted against it. If you are a defender you are looking at that and thinking “if I’min trouble in my box, I might as well try to flick the ball up at an arm to gain an advantage.
But that’s the administration of the game by the PGMOL. They are a big contributing factor to ruining football and until something is done with that football body, we’ll still get the most extreme forms of inconsistency imaginable.
But enough about that detestable team and their odious manager, let’s focus on us, as well as the challenge we have tomorrow lunch time, shall we? Burnley will prove a tough nut to crack and Arteta will need to make some selection decisions based on the fact we then play Olympiakos and the Scum a few days after. He didn’t really give too much away in his press conference on Wednesday, but he was full of praise for Burnley, saying that they have a style and it has been effective and that Sean Dyche should be praised. Dyche and his team hate Arsenal enough as it is and up until that game at The Emirates they hadn’t got a win under us. Perhaps that will mellow him out a little but I doubt it. He’ll probably have nice things to say about Arteta because, perhaps as Mikel has done himself, he won’t want to fuel the fires ahead of the game. Nobody wants the old cliched ‘stick that on the dressing room wall’ approach and I suspect Dyche will take the same direction when he speaks to the media today. But it will be interesting to find out who is available for them as he has suggested there are one or two question marks over their first teamers who normally start.
Arteta was asked about top four on Wednesday too but I think we all know the ship has sailed. in terms of keeping players motivated of course you can’t concede defeat publicly and the players need to have that focus to try to maintain concentration with so many games still to play, but I think deep down we all know it is too far. There are just too many teams with too many points ahead of us. Tottenham, Everton, West Ham and even Villa all have a fair few points over us and if it was one or even two teams you’d have an outside bet I reckon, but not when there are at least five who have more, including Liverpool too despite their shoddy form.
So whilst that ship has sailed, the flag still flies in the Europa and that is what we need to focus on and the good news it appears, is that Emile Smith-Rowe will not be out for long. If we can earmark him for a return in less than a week then maybe he can have a role to play in our Europa League game against Olympiakos next week, but until then it gives more minutes to Odegaard and so hopefully tomorrow he can impress.
There was also some stuff about Balogun and whilst the manager sounds bullish, I think most of us have seen this record play out, because unlike Saka last season the player himself just isn’t getting game time. If he really wanted to stay and if the manager believed he was on the verge of signing, I suspect he’d be in the squad a lot more to keep him sweet. But he’s got nowhere near the first team for ages now and so I suspect his time is done at the club too. If the rumours are true that he’s demanding £40k-per-week then I think that is fair enough. We have seen too many players come and go and not deliver after youth team hype and whilst Balogun looks a real talent, Arsenal have the likes of Saka and Martinelli in the attacking positions and if Lacazette and Nketiah move on in the summer then we’ll have a bit of cash to look for a centre forward anyway if/when Balogun jumps ship. I get why some people are anxious; we’ve seen Gnabry kick on, De Bruyne and Salah leave Chelski and rip things up when returning to the Premier League, so naturally there’s a few of us worried that the player himself goes on to be a superstar. But the margins are so fine in football that it simply doesn’t work out that x + y = z. Football player development is not linear. Just look at Reiss Nelson. Tore it up at the Emirates Cup when he was 16. For the first few months of a loan spell at Hoffenheim he looked like he was going to be a beast. Then he tailed off, rejoined Arsenal and has not really looked like the same player, which has also seen his time even on the benched almost completely evaporate. Balogun may be a superstar. But he may also not. We just need to accept that he will be one who we’ll need to keep an eye on from afar. It is what it is.
And that is it from me for another one. You have yourselves a great Friday and I’ll be back tomorrow with a match preview ahead of the lunchtime kick off at Turf Moor.