I do love waking up to a Saturday morning in which the sun is shining and the birds are chirping away. It’s a shame there isn’t any Arsenal to look forward to, but such is life, so we’ll just have to accept that we have to wait until tomorrow afternoon before we get ourselves some football to sink our teeth in to.
On the upside, there was at least a press conference yesterday and Mikel Arteta gave us a few updates and a few thoughts ahead of what feels like a really tough away game at West Ham tomorrow. It’s funny because I started the week thinking “we need to win this, they’ll be tired, their eyes will be on the Europa League” but the more we approach this game, the more nervous I am getting. The worry is all about complacency and whether we’re going to drop points. The Scum won’t to Leicester tomorrow. It just won’t happen. So anything other than three points for us will mean we drop points again. Arteta’s words yesterday gave me some comfort, as he batted away that West Ham have managed to play in the Europa League and Premier League and juggle the fixture list all season and are still in a decent position in the league, so he has a point. He also rightly acknowledged that we’ve played on Wednesday and Saturday and still managed to win football matches, so that tells me he is acutely aware that West Ham will be up for it on their own turf and we’ll have quite a tough game on our hands tomorrow. Even if Moyes rotates, they have a decent sized squad and there will be household names in that West Ham side, so our players cannot take anything for granted.
In terms of availability, the good news is that Saka is fit and should be available to play, which is a relief after him limping off last week. He is our star man this season and losing him at this stage of the season would be massive, especially with all the injuries we’ve had to contend with. He also hinted that Tomiyasu may not be ready to start but said they’d make a call based on the training the team do today. I suspect that we’ll see Tomi, but it’ll depend on whether he starts but doesn’t finish, or comes on in the second half for more minutes. I would guess the question with Arteta and his coaching staff is how much can Tomiyasu complete? Is it 60 minutes so he can start with Cedric getting 30, or is it 30 minutes in which Cedric starts and comes off. We’ll know more tomorrow.
The slightly sadder news is that Thomas Partey is still expected to not play again this season. The pictures that emerged with him on a treadmill brought joy to mine eyes, because in my simple head I thought that if he’s able to run on a treadmill, surely he’ll be able to play soon. But I suspect the club won’t rush him back and I suppose he’ll start ball work after he can show seven days of running with no discomfort. That might take him to next week. Then it’ll be training alone lightly for a week, then it’s training with the team. By then you’re looking at the weekend of the Newcastle game and I suspect at best he might be a sub for the final game of the season against Everton the week later. So the timescale probably checks out from what Arteta is saying. It’s a shame because I did harbour some hopes of a triumphant return in the North London derby, but I guess it wasn’t to be.
There was also some nonsense about Klopp’s contract which annoyed me because he has nothing to do with West Ham or Arsenal, but that’s the English media for you; obsessed with Liverpool for the last 40 years. The rest of us just have to get on with it. So we shall and Arteta was also asked about pressure, which he said those players have been dealing with for two months, so if we’re looking for crumbs of hope that the players won’t wilt, the recent two games and the words of Arteta come in handy today. We’ll see whether it rings true tomorrow though because as I’ve said in previous blogs recently, our away form is distinctly average this season. That’s something we need to change for these final games as we have West Ham, Newcastle and Tottenham away – by far the hardest run in of all of the teams fighting for top four, when you look at how Newcastle are playing and how West Ham and Tottenham are up there with us fighting for something as the season draws to a close.
Finally, just to touch on what Arteta said about the unity of the group, it does feel different. We still may fall short and I still think the odds are probably stacked a little against us given Tottenham’s easy run in and our difficult one, but you can’t argue with Arteta when he talks about the different feel to the team compared to this time last year. Last year it felt a cobbled together squad, but the summer and the acquisitions made it feel like we have a plan and an approach to how we set up. This summer will be an evolution of that. I know I’ve already said this a few times on the blog, but I need to keep reminding myself, because if we fall short this season then it will be gut-wrenching because it will most likely mean the Scum have finished in the Top Four. But regardless of that, we can’t deny that progress has been made and as opposed to recent seasons, you’d have to look at the next season as one in which there will be some proper optimism going around Arsenal fans. And that optimism has been in short supply in recent years.
Right, off to do some shopping. Catch you all tomorrow.