I was at an anniversary meal with The Management last night, so couldn’t watch the England game, but apparently Saka started, starred, got man of the match and the press are now saying he should surely be a shoe-in to start in the next round.
Catch up guys, us Gooners have known Saka is mustard for a while now and this morning I am choosing to think of the positives this could have on his game, from an Arsenal perspective. Hopefully he’s waking up this morning having scooped the man-of-the-match award and he’s feeling a little bigger, walking a little taller and hopefully he starts getting more game time that only improves his own belief that he’s one of the best players there. I suspect he already has that kind of self-confidence because otherwise he wouldn’t have made it to the top of the sporting pyramid, but I am speculating in my head this morning just how good it could be for his longer term development running in to next season.
Saka has had a great season but we will need him to further evolve after this Euro’s, because if Arsenal are going to be successful next season, he will be one of the chief catalysts. He can play almost anywhere and finding his optimum position next season is Arteta’s challenge, Saka’s will be to continue to show he has the highest ceiling possible in his game.
I suspect we’ve already found his best position in right wing, as he can beat a man on the outside and also drift inside easy enough. That inverted winger approach works for him and whilst he’s also dynamite on the left, he plays a slightly different role I think. When he’s on the left he is often whipping those pinpoint balls in from the side, whereas on the right he tends to drift in field more and be more involved in the more dangerous centre sections of the pitch. I have no data to back this up other than the eye test, but I’m thinking about the Leeds game last season where he was fouled for a penalty that was chalked off by VAR, then was given a second penalty that was given, but in both instances it was him shimmying across the penalty box to try to fashion himself a shooting opportunity. That’s the kind of thing we want to see more of next season and when Arteta talks about him and ESR adding more goals to their game, it is what I am thinking about.
I think he and Emile – providing they can stay fit – can have a massive impact on our season coming up.
One person who sadly won’t be having any more impact at The Arsenal is Steve Bould, who leaves the club after 33 years at The Arsenal. What a fine defender he was, what an ambassador for Arsenal he’s been, but with the new regime forming and many changes having already happened in the last year alone, perhaps this wasn’t completely surprising. The Under-23s have also not had a very good season and just as we can appreciate and thank Wenger for his work but also acknowledge that his time was up when it came a few year’s back, the same could be said for Steve Bould. It is a shame to lose somebody with such a close affinity at the club, but people cannot remain in positions just for nostalgia. I’m not saying Steve Bould was just there because he’d been around for ages, but it is clear the new regime under Big Per, Arteta and Edu, all want to reshape the club and this kind of cabinet reshuffle was perhaps always inevitable.
What isn’t inevitable though, is how our season might pan out and to get us started Arsenal are wedging plenty of friendlies in between now and the start of next season. Two new games have been announced as part of supporting mental health awareness with Mind and we play Chelski and the Scum at the beginning of August. So that means our friendlies are:
- 13th July @ Hibernian
- 17th July @ Rangers
- 25th July v Inter Milan in Florida
- 28th July v Everton or Millonarios in Florida
- 1st August v Chelski at The Emirates
- 8th August v the Scum at the Toilet Bowl
I am not minded to check back in the annals of time for how many friendlies we normally play in a summer, but that seems like quite a lot to me, although I suspect there won’t be too many stars at the Hibernian game. I could be wrong and it could be a full squad, but that’s just a few days after the Euro’s has finished and whilst we don’t have too many players at the tournament, I would expect that the club are mindful of ensuring that players get a decent enough break after essentially playing almost continuously for the last two year’s, with only an enforced lockdown as any period in which they didn’t work.
Hopefully all of these matches will be used by Arteta to get his players in the absolute best shape possible because let’s face it, we have one heck of a difficult start to the season. There won’t be many people expecting us to pick up any points against Man City or Chelski, so the need to be perfectly conditioned for the start of the season is so important. We can’t do much about the fact that both teams are, pound-for-pound, better than us. But we can at least ensure that the players are in their best possible shape. So maybe that is why we are wedging in as many games as possible; Arteta will need them to hit the ground running.
And that’s all I got for today for you. There’s been some Guendouzi to Benfica speculation, plus some noises about Saliba being sold, but I can’t be bothered to go in to too much detail on that. The transfer silly season is already starting to wind me up!
Catch you all tomorrow.