More bloody internationals?? I wasn’t expecting this! Yet here we are, having had to endure yet another round of them crammed in, with players being away from their clubs even longer and probably only reporting for training tomorrow ahead of the weekend’s action.
Still, it could be worse, because we could have a team full of Brazilians. Mad, eh? That FIFA and Brazil’s national federation can control Premier League clubs who pay the wages of Brazilians and force them not to pick some of their stars this weekend when they pay their wages. I bet the likes of City, Liverpool and Leeds are going mental right now.
We’re lucky we don’t have any Brazilians and probably lucky that we don’t have that many players away on international duty. Xhaka went away and got COVID, although he is suspended for the next three games anyway so that doesn’t impact us too much, Sambi was with Belgium and didn’t play in llast night’s game, nor did Saka and I think Leno was the same for Germany. So at least there shouldn’t be any injuries and at least it means Bukayo hasn’t had the intensity of a match for around a week. He’s young enough to cope with multiple matches but all the same I’m pleased Southgate forgot about the concept of substitutions last night.
I didn’t watch the game because, well, you know, it’s England and international breaks always bore the pants off me. But I’ve had a little read and it seems some people are a little grumpy at the ‘no subs used’ thing. Meh. His approach and style got England to a cup final so right now questioning his judgement feels a little moot.
But I’m not minded to talk about England any more, because focus can now start to shift to the weekend and the game against Norwich. I suspect we’ll get some form of team news yesterday and off the back of seeing all the players melting in the north London sunshine over the last couple of days, it’s been good to see so many familiar faces. I’m actually quite looking forward to this weekend’s game. I don’t know whether it’s because it’s the first 3 O’clock kick off i’ve been to in about two-and-a-half years, or because I’m once again meeting up with some friends who I haven’t seen in ages, but I am already getting ‘up’ for the game. I’m also hopeful that the home support can continue the good work from the Chelski game, because I thought the fans in the stadium really got behind the team for that match, despite the woeful performance.
Perhaps it is the fact that in the international break we’ve had quite a visible ‘line in the sand’ following our opening three games and there is genuine ‘start of the season’ optimism that I’m starting to see amongst the fans that I interact with? I hope so. I’d like to go to games with a lot of hope and expectation, rather than a small slither of hope and no expectation of an enjoyable afternoon whatsoever.
The big news we want to hear about from Arsenal is on how fit Partey is to play, as well as ESR and the other players returning from international duty. It already feels like we’ve had enough injuries to last a season, so getting a clean bill of health confirmed on the official website is something I think we can all cross our hands over. I suspect we will only get the ‘cleared to play’ noises from the club website though; it’ll be whenever Mikel gives his press conference that we’ll hear first hand how ‘ready’ the likes of Partey is.
What is frustrating about this Arsenal team is that it feels like we need to basically be operating in perfect conditions in order for us to be able to make a judgement and with this Norwich game I think most Arsenal fans thought “well, NOW we’ll have these players back and NOW we’ll start to see this ‘process’ bear some fruit” and so the thought of even having to wait another game to see a full strength first XI is annoying. I know the long term sensible option if a player isn’t 100% is to keep him on the bench and bring him on, but I guess I’m just desperate to see this Arteta side take shape. He needs it to, because anything other than a victory on Saturday and it feels like the wheels will already be set in motion.
The fans inside the stadium haven’t – I believe – turned against the manager yet. But they are the last line of defence in terms of fan sentiment. The fans in the ground are usually the last ones to raise their pitchforks and when people on social media are going mental, you don’t always see that in the ground. But when it does happen, it’s almost always impossible to recover from. Arteta still has some backing but I feel like it might turn on Saturday unless the football is good and the game is won.
He’ll be more than mindful of that and I wonder if that will push him to play players even if they aren’t 100% fit. It’s a balancing act. Play these players now to try to get the results asap, or recognise that easing them in over a few games might be more prudent, with the risk of the fringe players letting you down and costing you your job.
These are the trials and tribulations of a manager though. Arteta knows this, he knows the pressure at a club like The Arsenal, he has to deal with it and come out the other side.
Right, I think I’ll leave that there for another day. Have a good one and I’ll catch up with you tomorrow.