Mikel had his press conference yesterday and of course the natural course of events is to first find out about the team news. The good is that Emile Smith Rowe is back having trained a couple of times after contracting COVID last week. The bad is there is still no sign of Tomiyasu. My biggest hope upon hope is that he is being properly built up physically so he is 100% fit and raring to go against Liverpool on Wednesday. We face Leicester this week and if there is a chance that Tomiyasu could make it, but it might impact a start against the Scousers in midweek, then I think it is completely sensible that the club is taking this route of action.
My only worry is that this has become one of those injuries that seems to be rumbling on and as Arsenal fans we know all too well about injuries that rumble on and take longer to heal than we’d have hoped. Tomiyasu last played against Liverpool and looked patched up, we don’t want the same, but equally I feel like we’ve been riding the Cedric wave long enough. He’s been good for us and he has filled in admirably, but we know he is a limited footballer and eventually that Cedric wave will start to subside and we’ll be left with a little ripple. When you are going up against some of the teams we are going up against over the next week, you can’t afford a ripple.
I just hope this isn’t like Vermaelen, Rosicky, Eduardo, etc, where the players seem to be out for a period of time that nobody can properly explain.
He was also asked the Top Four question, with the chap from Sky Sports talking about how the bookies have us favourites. As ever you’d expect a straight bat from the manager in terms of what he says, but I’m always looking for little glimpses of something when managers are asked these types of questions. Any kind of facial movement, or look, that might at least give the slightest hint as to what is going on in their heads. I got nothing from watching the answer to that question from Arteta. He was pretty deadpan and I am trying to take the positive from that; his “just focus on the next match” mantra is a path well-trodden, but you still have to walk it and providing he is truly doing that and his team are too, then all the better. Right now we need ultimate focus because it feels like the slightest hiccup at the moment could derail our season. Imagine, for example, that we go in to the game on Sunday with the same complacency we had at home to Palace, where we went ahead and then just retreated in to our shells. Leicester are the sort of team that would capitalise on that and the fact they are in such good form means they are more likely to do so. If we fudge it against Leicester, then lose at home to Liverpool, we’ll most likely find ourselves out of the top four and everything won’t be looking as rosy as it’s feeling for us all right now.
That’s how tight it all feels at the moment and that’s why that deadpan look can hopefully inspire a bit of confidence in the manager and what he’s trying to do.
One question I didn’t realise was fact was that a win on Sunday means five wins on the bounce for the first time for Arteta as manager. I couldn’t believe that at first, but when you think about how inconsistent we’ve been in the last three years or so, it kind of makes sense. This current four game winning streak has helped to propel us in to fourth and if we somehow continue that run on Sunday then it will be another marker of progression. We’ve all been seeing little signs of it throughout the season and it’d be nice to see that again tomorrow, although admittedly it will be the hardest of all of the games we’ve had in the last month or so.
He was asked about transfers and about Lacazette but nothing really exciting so I don’t really want to go over that, as the focus for us – as Mikel had said – should only be on Leicester City on Sunday afternoon and trying to take some of the good stuff from Watford – like the attacking play – in to this game this weekend. I did like his nod to the importance of the crowd driving the team on this Sunday; we need to continue the symbiotic relationship between both fans and players and right now it feels like it. If the team goes behind, the home crowd must respond and cheer them even louder. They need to know the love from the stands and that is being given to the players right now. My hope is that after a week of no football in midweek the players are fresh and on it from the first whistle and I hope that we can catch Leicester on a bad day.
He did talk about Tierney and his overlapping and how he needs to be unpredictable. I don’t think it was a comment or dig on Tierney being too unpredictable, but we’ve all seen how his approach to using a burst to get past a player on the left and then put a ball in hasn’t always delivered us the right outcomes on enough occasions, so perhaps it was an acknowledgement that we need to see different things from KT. I don’t see it as a massive problem personally and of course I’ve already written about him earlier in the week so won’t go over it too much, but I do think that variety in his game might be beneficial now he’s being asked to do a different job in the absence of Tomiyasu. Maybe Tierney does need to attack a little more on the interior of the pitch; if you imagine a vertical line from the edge of the left hand 18-yard box covering the length of the pitch, having KT perhaps attack inside that line sometimes instead of just pushing and running along the channel for a cut back. It would add that little bit of doubt in to a defenders mind and could give him a little bit more space as a result. The fact Arteta has mentioned that unpredictability means I’m sure they are talking about it inside the club too.
And that should just about do it for me for today. It’s United versus the Scum this evening and I’m going to be out in London for some food and wine with The Management, so thankfully I’ll miss it. I have to be honest I do think the Scum are going to win it. Man United are a mess until they play us and manage to skank victories, but whilst Tottenham have struggled against low block sides, when they come up against a side who wants to go at them, they’ve shown they can take advantage. I think Tottenham are in a better position to challenge us and given how easy their games get after this match, a win tonight – I think – puts them in the driving seat for fourth. So A United victory is probably what we need. Which means the Scum will undoubtedly win.
But we’ll see. Catch you all tomorrow.