Certainly a fair ol’ chunk of stuff to get our teeth in to this morning, eh?
Firstly the signings, which will be announced today and there are even one or two fuzzy/grainy pics going round of what looks like Martin Odegaard with the media team at Arsenal doing a video shoot outside. I think we can all take it as red that he’s a Gooner and I’ve already spoken of my delight. Look forward to absorbing all of the delicious #content later on today when it is confirmed. The second one expected to be confirmed is Aaron Ramsdale and whilst I’ve never really been a fan of the deal, I still think it is too much money, he is here and also expected to be announced, so as soon as he wears that cannon on his chest he is one of us and I look forward to seeing him. I suspect he’ll be on the bench on Sunday and then go in to the side on Wednesday night when Giles and I make the trip up to West Bromwich for the second round of the League Cup.
Whether or not both will be available on Sunday, however, is probably the only bit of information we DON’T have on these players. For Ramsdale it feels like it’ll be 95%, whereas for Odegaard it sounds like 5%. And the reason I put such a low percentage on that is simply because it supposedly relates to there being some visa challenges. We all know that football became more complex after Brexit and so I am fully expecting the UK government to ponce around and take up to five working days to stamp a virtual document which clears the player to work in the UK. Public sector man, it’s what they do…take ages…
One player who WILL be available on Sunday, for which I am mightily relieved about, is Aubameyang. I’ve seen plenty of Arsenal ‘fans’ getting themselves on the internet and spending a fair bit of time bashing Auba, which I’ve always thought was harsh, but yesterday the club confirmed that he, Lacazette, Willian and Runarsson all contract COVID-19 with a positive test rest and that’s why none were near the first team squad last week. It was a desperate bit of bad luck that Arteta was missing his two strikers and it does make me wonder how often this might happen over the coming weeks. Will we see other clubs lose three, four or five players at a time? Or will it just be the curse of the footballing gods that Arsenal are the only side hampered with this particular issue? My minds on the latter, because it suits my own irrational fan narrative that Arsenal are the unluckiest team on the planet and no other club will have players contracting COVID-19 between now and the end of the season.
Of course the reality will be different I know, but it just seems quite a quirk that the two main strikers we have both got it at the same time which thereby hampered our preparation. I know they’re good mates and probably got it from all of the off-field hugging and cuddling they must be doing.
It was a little weird not announcing a positive test for these players last week though. Would have saved a lot of speculation about internal bust ups, etc, but I guess that’s just the way PR is handled at Arsenal these days. Sometimes they nail it, sometimes they’re just not on the money with their decision making. It happens, we move on.
Having Auba back has given me a little glimmer of hope for Sunday now. I know he hardly looked amazing in pre season, but a lot of the time he was played wide left, which we can all clearly see that doesn’t suit him any more (not that it ever really did). It means that he’ll take up the central role and whilst Balogun wasn’t terrible against Brentford, you could see their defenders gave him a rough ride, so having Auba back will give the Chelski defenders at least something to think about at the weekend. Remember, it was just over a year and a month ago in which he turned Zouma inside and out to win us the FA Cup Final. So whilst Chelski will know all about him, will also have seen he isn’t in as good form, they will still know his threat and perhaps that can be a positive for us.
I still think we’ll probably lose on Sunday, but if Auba plays and if Odegaard is fit and able to play because the paperwork gets sorted, then you could see how going forward we could look a little different to last weekend. Imagine those penetrating passes from Odegaard being slipped in to Auba. Imagine it is Odegaard on the ball in the final third instead of Granit Xhaka just refusing to slip players in and playing it out wide to Kieran Tierney to put in our 75th cross of the game. Having those two players back in our side instantly make us better and it’ll at least give us some hope ahead of the game this weekend.
The fans will be buoyed by the signings too, which means we could get a better atmosphere. Everyone loves shiny new things and we’ll have two of those by the time the game comes around, even if we can’t play one of them and my hope is also that having seeing the euphoria of fans back in the stadium for the Brentford game, Arsenal fans find their voices and make The Emirates a louder place than it’s ever been.
I do think we will get that on Sunday. At least for the opening exchanges. We’ll be loud and joyous that we’re all back inthe stadium together, but that can soon have water poured over it if we quickly go behind or if it is clear that Chelski are a cut above us. We heard that very briefly in the Brentford game. After the first ten minutes I thought it got a bit quieter until they scored, as Arsenal took more possession, even if we didn’t really test Raya, so I expect the same on Sunday. I think Arsenal fans will rise to the occasion, but that will only go so far. The players then have to step in and take control and ensure that the symbiotic relationship between stadium fans and players can be maintained by the football we play. That has to be incisive, chance creating, as well as good to watch. That certainly wasn’t the case last weekend but hopefully some new players back in the side changes that.
Anyhoo, I think i’ll leave it at that today, as I have a busy one of work ahead of me. You have a good Friday and I’ll catch you all tomorrow.