Morning folks and welcome to Friday. Been a long ol’ slog this week, I have to say, so has it been the same for you? Have you just jumped straight back in to the swing of work or have you counted down until the weekend like me?
What hasn’t helped was the lack of football when we thought we’d be playing the Victims FC yesterday, but I guess the week after next when we play at home will mean a midweek fixture for the likes of me to get all nervous about. The only challenge is that the game straight after last night’s game that was supposed to happen was Nottingham Forest. Mikel Arteta would have surely rotated at the weekend and therefore been able to spread minutes around. But now he is probably having a decent think about what to do. The players will not have played for eight days when they take to the field in the Midlands, so do you go a little stronger in the hope of keeping the momentum going with the first XI, or do you keep to your original plan of rotation and give some of those players an even bigger rest ahead of a stern test at Anfield and then the Toilet Bowl in the other half of North London?
Personally I’m up for a fair bit of rotation and I think we could probably do it. The likes of Leno, Tavares, Holding, Mari could all come in defence. Maybe we even have Cedric in at right back? We could give Smith Rowe some minutes from the start and certainly putting Eddie Nketiah in the shop window in the hope that somebody tries to give us some cash now seems prudent. Flo Balogun might be worthy of a start at the weekend if we are on the verge of sending him out on loan and we have Charlie Patino who made a nice little ten minute cameo in the previous round of the cup. That’s nine players alone I’ve suggested and if Arteta does make that many changes then you can look at the game at Anfield and the Scum as ones in which those first team players could certainly be playing in. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to play on a Thursday and then a Sunday when you’ve just had 12 days away from football with just training keeping you ticking over.
So whilst the postponement is not what anyone wants and I still believe it is unacceptable that Victims FC get so much leeway when others haven’t, in the immediate future I think there is an opportunity for us to manage this game time a little more effectively.
In other news, we have a host of players up for individual awards in the Premier League from their performances in December and with the wins and performances that we started to see bringing us in to the top four on Christmas Day, it’s understandable as to why we have so many nominees. Personally I think these individual awards are meaningless in a game which success is defined as a team, but I guess it is a recognition that things went right for us in December and the team started to gel, which culminated in a superb performance against Man City that was taken away from us by unfortunate circumstances and sub-standard officiating. Odegaard and Martinelli for player of the month and Arteta for Manager of the month, as well as Lacazette’s goal against Southampton. It’s weird that Lacazette could pick up a trophy for putting the ball away when most of the work was done by all of his other teammates, but I guess that’s just the nature of it, but it was a fabulous team goal and more like that for the remainder of the season would be welcome.
I wonder how Lacazette is feeling right now though? I mean he’s got a contract that is up in the summer, he’s now the main man as Aubameyang is firmly in the cold (and now on his own having to self isolate in Gabon) and he’s in a team that is doing well. It would be amazing if we won some silverware this season and if we somehow manage to sneak in a top four slot he’ll be looking around at all of his contribution to this thinking “why can’t I benefit from this?”. He signed for us in summer 2017 and that was the last time we were in the Champions League. He hasn’t played a minute of Champions League football in an Arsenal shirt and if we manage to get it this season (I still think it is tight and going to be a tough ask) then he’ll be potentially exiting the club having played his part and not got to play in those Champions League nights. It makes me wonder whether an extension by the club – if they were to offer it – would be a bit more appealing to him.
I guess the challenge is that from the clubs perspective there’s no way we should offer more than a year, two at a push, and we still need to go out and get another big name striker to be first name on the teamsheet. Lacazette would therefore have to play second fiddle again and although he’d secure more time and the option of playing in the Champions League, he probably wouldn’t get much action time in the competition, or certainly shouldn’t if we’ve done our job properly. I know Lacazette has been playing well of late, but let’s not forget we’ve had him since 2017, so we know what he is about. He isn’t ‘the guy’ to kick us on to the next level in the same way that Granit Xhaka isn’t ‘the guy’ in midfield and we all know we need an upgrade there. So it is a really tough one with Laca. In a way it would be better if Auba was the one whose contract was running down this summer and Lacazette had one more after this season. That would mean we could get in a first team regular up top, whilst still having them rotate with Lacazette. But it is what it is and we have to deal with the fallouot of where we are at.
And that is that we will lose Eddie, Laca and if Auba has burned his bridges, then him too in the summer. That leaves us with Flo Balogun as our only recognised striker in the summer and so you can see why we are linked with somebody now. Get them in, get them settled and with five months of little pressure and an opportunity to acclimatise in the league, then you can look for a second striker in the summer to replace Lacazette, having probably let Auba disappear off somewhere. I won’t bother going in to any names right now because there’s already too much of that going around. Instead, I’ll call it a day and hope you have a good Friday.