Morning party people, happy Friday! Let’s hope that this weekend might bring that most precious of things: goals and three points to The Arsenal!
I don’t know why I’m starting off today’s blog with such unbridled positivity, because I’ve woken up at 5.15am and I feel absolutely shattered. Plus there’s a leaving party at my work later which means a bit more booze and probably more interrupted sleep ahead of tomorrow’s match against Norwich. And I say all of this because I feel really excited about the game tomorrow and I don’t want that excitement to be tempered by sleep depravation and a hangover.
Check me out; I am contemplating drinking less so that I can have a better experience on Saturday when I – ironically enough – will be drinking more ahead of the game tomorrow in the pubs round the corner from the ground.
Of course the difference in the instance tomorrow is that my drinking tomorrow has a purpose: I am trying to make the potentially hazardous performance of The Arsenal seem a little more hazy by consuming more beer.
Anyway, enough of me and my life, what of The Arsenal, eh? Well, Mikel had his press conference yesterday and I did wonder whether he wouldn’t do it on Friday but I suspect that he will want to use as much time as possible today to get the players that have just arrived back from internationals on the training pitch as much as possible to try to assess whether he can chuck some of them in to the game tomorrow. Also, by doing the press conference today it gets the media duties out of the way. If he’d have had that full training day with no media duties today then perhaps the instructions, the discussions, etc, are a day less fresh for some of those players so I kind of understand it if that is his thinking.
There was also an interview with him about the summer and the strategy behind the transfer window and I’ll probably get pelters from some people for this, but I really do enjoy listening to him when he talks about football. What we see on the pitch hasn’t really matched up to how well he articulates himself in front of the cameras over the last year, but when I listened to that interview I saw an articulate, young manager (it pleases me to call him ‘young’, because he’s roughly my age!) who makes his points with an air of authority that makes you believe him. Of course you have to caveat that by saying that the style of football and what we are trying to do is not matching up to that, which I agree, but it is the way he talks that makes me think “come on, let’s just have it all click, can we?” and that is the hope I cling on to at the moment. I am not sure if it can, but I so desperately want him to succeed. As I have every Arsenal manager. Even at the end of Wenger’s reign, I still wanted something to suddenly change and for him to turn in to the Wenger of the first seven or eight years, even if the more evidence each week showed that it wouldn’t happen. That’s because we all want Arsenal to win football matches. All the football matches. All the time. It is why we do what we do. It is why we get up early for matches in different time zones, it is why we spend thousands of pounds on travelling to games and paying for tickets each year, it is why we are all together. To watch The Arsenal win. So what I want is for the good game Mikel Arteta talks to start translating it on the pitch.
So, to the press conference itself, in which he said that later yesterday they would update on team news. Elneny is out with a hamstring, Xhaka is suspended, which really does only leave Partey and Sambi as the first choice central midfielders, so despite the fact that I had a couple of debates – legitimate concerns too – with people on Twitter speculating whether or not Partey should be on the bench for this one, at least from the start, I don’t see how Mikel doesn’t throw him in tomorrow. He hasn’t played Maitland-Niles as a central midfielder much and I just can’t see a midfield pairing of Sambi and Ainsley, so I suspect that’s what we’ll see. More on team set up tomorrow though.
The rest of the team news is pretty positive though. Gabriel is back, White is back, Nketiah is back and you have to think that the two centre halves will play given that they both started in the behind closed doors friendly game against Brentford last week. It’s a real boost for Arteta and he admitted he doesn’t want any more excuses – from inside or outside the camp, they must deliver and he knows that it simply cannot be anything else but a win tomorrow. If we even draw that game you wonder how long he might be able to continue with the form as it is. But, as he alluded to and I might go in to more detail on tomorrow, he also admitted that delivering a good performance is key. You can win 1-0 and be absolutely terrible. We had a few matches during the Emery winning streak that had us a little worried with how we were cut open at times and rode our luck a bit, but we pushed those to one side because the victories were there, but Arteta knows that a scabby victory where we ride our luck may be welcome, but it won’t stop those doubters from their doubts.
He was also asked about Maitland-Niles and his response was obviously to not give too much away, but I just wonder if he might get a little more game time this season. Personally I’d be kicking Cedric in to touch and telling Chambers that AMN is going to get a go ahead of him for a while at right back, then I’d be thinking about him as an auxiliary midfielder too. Perhaps give him minutes there against Wimbledon because if he plays more minutes there and does well, then maybe he can even shunt Elneny further down the pecking order. That would certainly be welcome. He was asked whether he was in the UK after the German national team had to have their plane land in Scotland after some difficulties. I was on a plane on Sunday evening coming from Faro (Calum Chambers was on the same one!) and we encountered some turbulence. The old I get the more I worry these massive metal boxes fuel of flammable fuel will fall out of the sky, so having a plane make an emergency landing like like might have shaken him up a bit. But after 24 hours I suspect he’ll be fine and the next question is whether the delays have impacted training. Arteta said that he will have a look at him but perhaps that leaves the door open for Ramsdale to start?
We shall see. I’ll do some more thinking on how we might line up, as well as Norwich, tomorrow. In the meantime, you kids have a good one.