Arteta did his press conference yesterday and as you’d probably expect, he gave nothing away when asked about who will start tomorrow – despite many attempts at probing!
He was asked about who starts in goal on Sunday. Nothing.
He was asked about who plays up front and if Lacazette’s future is an issue. Nothing.
He was asked about Granit Xhaka and whether he would play. Nothing.
But we do have a few titbits to go on. Thankfully when asked about if he has an idea in his mind about who plays, he said he did, which is comforting. If he knows who he will play then today the players will all be well aware and they’ll be lining up in training knowing just how big the game is going to be tomorrow. It means they can all start mentally preparing and bar any kind of last minute knock, they’ll have themselves ready to rock and roll come 4.30pm tomorrow.
You also hear stories from players and former players about how in the week lead up to the game, everyone at the club is talking about it. That’s how intense it is and Arteta himself said – when asked if the new players understand – that he would ‘make sure’ they did understand the gravity and intensity of this. It is a big game. Because of the respective fortunes of both teams and how evenly matched they are, it is probably the ‘biggest’ game for us and them. Both teams can’t get close (from a league standing perspective) to Liverpool, Chelski and Man City, but they can get close to each other and you don’t have to go far on the internet to see how people are talking about both sides and how this is a big match because these sides are so evenly matched.
The best news of the press conference yesterday came from the fact that we have nobody currently on the treatment table. I feel like that happens for about two to three weeks in the season and so it’s really encouraging to see. It’s also encouraging to see that some players also have minutes under their belts. For the North London Derby at the Toilet Bowl stadium, Partey wasn’t fit and we rushed him back. This time around he is at least fit to start. He’s had 30 minutes against Norwich, 75-odd minutes against Burnley, 60 minutes against AFC Wimbledon and so should go in to this game with his engine up and running and at least purring a little bit. That is what we all want to see because even in midweek you could see what he offers with his progressive football. He’s also a quick mover of the ball. One-touch football comes naturally to him and when you can pass accurately like that it can very quickly break lines of teams. So that’s what I’m hoping for tomorrow and i’ll talk then a little more about how I think we’ll tactically line up.
Arteta spoke glowingly about Tomiyasu too and you can understand why. It feels like he’s been here years already. It’s funny how with some players you talk about adaptation periods, about getting used to the league, about slowly bedding them in. There are many examples of that you can show. But Takehiro waltzed straight in to that back line and was at home. He wasn’t over-awed and he didn’t flinch. That’s why everyone is so excited that he’s here. In midweek he spoke about how amazing it was to hear the roar of the home fans and when I was reading his interview from earlier in the week this morning I thought “you wait until Sunday mate”. If he can marshal Son – who is most likely to start on that left hand side for Tottenham – then he’ll have another big feather in his cap in terms of us Gooners. Son is rapid but the good thing about Takehiro is that we’ve all seen he’s no slouch either. Plus, with the way that we set up Tomiyasu will most likely sit back. Aain, I’m bleeding my tactical thought process in to today when I wanted to do it tomorrow, so I’ll wind it back in a bit for now and get back to what Arteta said yesterday!
The inevitable Harry Kane goal will be coming and he was asked about how we deal with that. Arteta just came up with some fluff about being aware of all of Tottenham’s threats but I don’t buy that if I’m honest. There’s no way that they won’t have thought about how to nullify him, but it’s just a case of working out how to do it. I don’t have a clue to be honest. I think I have one thought in my mind and that may involve Odegaard and his intensity of the press, but again, I’ll elaborate more tomorrow as I am nearly at the end of today’s blog and I don’t want this turning in to war and peace!
For now then, I’ll stop for today. The talking has been done, the articles have been written (thankfully there are very few of those stupid ‘combined XI’ formations going around), so now we play the waiting game as we approach tomorrow’s kick off. I feel fine right now, but come this time tomorrow I’ll have flutters in my stomach, my hands will be cold as ice, and I’ll be desperate for that first beer to calm the nerves, before heading towards the ground.
Whatever you’re doing today and however you’re planning for the North London Derby, hope you have a good Saturday, and I’ll catch you for a massively nervous pre match blog in the morrow.