Morning folks and welcome to Sunday. It’s kind of a match day day, in that there’s a match going on, but it’s a friendly against that lot of financially doped scummers from West London, so to me it isn’t a ‘proper’ match day. There won’t be the same nerves, the same excitement heading to the ground, nor the sheer volume of people that you get on a match day because of how ridiculously high Arsenal priced these tickets for a friendly match.
It’ll probably even feel like there is some kind of COVID restrictions taking place I reckon, because the top tier is going to be empty, as well as large chunks of the bottom tier. So whilst it’ll be great to see some fans getting back in to the stadium, it’s hardly going to feel like the same jeopardy that comes from a Premier League match at home.
Hey, that’s fine though, because what is important is more minutes in legs and players looking better and better, as we approach the first game of the season against Brentford.
I wonder who will start today and whether Arteta will continue to mix it up a bit by playing most of the first team for about 60 minutes, then bring on a load of rotation and youth options. He does have some thinking to do in that regard, because he doesn’t want to show his full hand against Tuchel and Chelski, because the German is resourceful and clever and he’ll have a plan to alter his team by the team the proper football gets going. We play them in our first home game of the season and so there’s a bit of gamesmanship to be had by perhaps playing a different way to how you will play in about three weeks’ time.
But there is another consideration to be had, because so far we’ve spread the minutes around the whole squad. But at some stage you need to make sure some of those first team players have gone the full 90 in at least a semi competitive game, because if we don’t, we’ll find ourselves out of puff as we head in to the second half against Brentford, which is certainly not something we want to see. Especially if you think about the last couple of seasons and how we aren’t exactly a team that blitzes sides away in the first half, then sits on leads, are we?
So for me it is a delicate balance that Arteta needs to get right and it will therefore be intriguing to see how he sets his team out today.
I also wonder if we’ll see anything of some of the late returning players? Xhaka and White will be, you’d expect, two players who would be starting in a few weeks time – certainly Xhaka – but he’s only just come back from holiday and so his fitness won’t be great. But if he doesn’t get at least some minutes at the end then we’ll have the friendly next weekend against the Tiny Totts for him to get some match fitness minutes.
I guess the good news about Xhaka is that he isn’t the most mobile of people, which means I don’t think it’s as obvious that he’s lacking match sharpness as, say, somebody like Aubameyang, or Tierney. Xhaka gets run passed when he’s fully fit, so it’s not as if we’d be able to tell, is it!
What I’m trying to say – being flippant aside – is that he should need less time to get back in to the side and so my hope is that perhaps he gets five to 10 minutes today, then more minutes next weekend, so we can have him ready for Brentford. There will be a few of you reading this and probably cursing that I’m even saying that, but to me Xhaka is a decent player, has good passing range, has just come off the back of a great Euro’s, and clearly developed a decent relationship with Partey when they got any length of time playing together. If he and Partey are in the middle of the park it is the best midfield we have right now and I want our best players in their best positions to play when it all kicks off in two weeks’ time. Simple as that for me.
I also think that Xhaka is a solid pro too. No moping about, no going on strike to secure his move, no visible unhappiness when on the pitch. He will give his all whilst in the shirt and you can’t say fairer than that at this stage.
Other than that there’s not a ton of other interesting news going on today. Not worth getting excited about, anyway. A few outlets yesterday went with the Lautaro Martinez story again but I really can’t be bothered getting invested in a potential deal that needs about seven complicated moves to happen before it pays off. Let’s just forget about it and focus on the fact that we have a game today with which to totally over analyse tomorrow and decide whether the upcoming season is destined for either amazing success or catastrophic disaster.
Catch you peeps on the flip side.