Could all just be rumour. Could just be ‘The Internet’ and ‘Internet People’ being all ‘Internetty’, but with ESR not in the Under-21s England squad yesterday, as well as not being in the squad for the full international team over the weekend, the rumours started to circulate that Emile was ‘ill’ and in the current climate that always feels like a worrying and ominous sign. I saw somebody say ‘if ESR has COVID then we really are a cursed club’ and whilst it isn’t just us suffering – Everton were apparently missing five at one time at the start of the season – just looking at the Premier League’s COVID positive cases on a week-by-week basis shows that we have certainly borne the brunt of it so far. Here is the current list. I’m guessing we were in that cohort of players through the 9th to 15th August, but of the 11 that week we had Auba, Laca, Willian, Runarsson, which is about 35% of all positives. Then the following week we had Ben White as one of the 16 that had been confirmed as contracting it. So of the 42 players that have so far been confirmed, Arteta has said that nine have been impacted, which means we’ve had 21% of all cases so far. Figures haven’t been released for this week and probably won’t until Monday next week, but that is a big chunk of first team players missing if you think about the fact you’re probably talking of most teams having at least 22 players in their squad, which means 440 players on average in first team squads as an estimation. if you’re talking about 42 out of 440 then that’s 9% of the squads on average testing positive, which means we’ve basically been hit doubly hard if we’ve had 21% of all cases so far.
All of this isn’t to excuse Arteta by the way. The one thing we should be able to say is that the players should be interchangeable, but the playing style should be consistent. The problem we’ve had all season and in pre season is that we haven’t seen much of a system. We don’t high press with intensity throughout games, we aren’t a low-block team, we don’t try to retain possession in zones of the pitch where we can do damage to opponents, etc. I could go on because after these first set of games it hasn’t really felt like we do anything. We’re a bit of a hotch-potch of styles and I suspect that causes confusion amongst the players and contributes towards the poor form we’ve shown.
We’ve all known we’d lose to Chelski and City but what we wanted to see is at least some kind of consistent style and approach. Should we have seen that then I think many of us would have probably been a little less apprehensive about the next few games.
As it is, it feels like this could continue to be apprehensive because the club and gone and bought a whole raft of players who will take time to bed in. A lot of us have been talking about the end to this international break as a line in the sand; it’s time to start the season afresh and look to pick up points. For me it was about looking at players who would be returning to the team, instantly improving it, kicking us on and looking very different to the rabble that failed so drastically at the Etihad. Yet talking to Charles Watts on Twitter yesterday, we speculated whether some of those big name returning players would even be available or fit for the game.
Is Partey fit to start? We know he’s been in training with the first team but as Charles rightly pointed out, he’s only been seen in a couple of the training sessions and given his injury record with us and what happened last season at the Scum where he broke down because he was rushed back, would it not be better to ease him in cautiously. I get that and perhaps it makes sense, but there’s part of me that wonders whether we’re going to be constantly worried about Partey breaking down. At some point we need to throw him in and hope that his body isn’t just Abou Diaby’d since he joined us from Atletico.
The question over who replaces him will be an interesting one and you have to admire the commitment Arsenal have to leaving us with no central midfielders of any real quality available if Partey doesn’t start and Elneny leaves the club today on Turkish Transfer Deadline day. Galatasaray apparently made an approach yesterday for his services but Arsenal rebuffed because they are looking for a better fee. I agree we should try to look for the best possible deal, I also agree we should try to offload a very average player for us if we can, but if Elneny does go today, then we’re looking at Sambi, Xhaka, Partey as our stand out central midfielders.
Does that potentially lead to an opportunity for Maitland-Niles to stake a claim? I don’t see why not, but it will probably depend on how much stock we all take in these supposed ‘clear the air’ talks that Arteta and Ainsley had. A player going rogue on social media is never a good look and we’ve seen already how Arteta has no problem torching players, but he might have to swallow his pride on that one and just give Ainsley more game time if he’s going to let Elneny leave.
And hey, I’d be more than happy with that, if I’m honest. He’s technically a better footballer than Mo, he is more athletic, offers more progressively with the ball going forward and is more flexible in terms of the positions he players. He’ll also feel a little more loved if he has more opportunities too, so if Arsenal can get the Elneny deal done and AMN is in fact going to get more minutes, then that works for me, personally.
Let’s see how it all plays out today. There should start to be that trickle of information today and certainly during the course of this Wednesday we’ll see if Galatasaray return for Mo. They have to do it today if they want him so it’ll be resolved one way or another.
Catch you all tomorrow.