It’s not even 48 hours since the NLD and, strangely, I think I’m getting over it a lot quicker than I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong, it stung, badly. But I suspect the fact we still have it ‘in our hands’ for now, as well as the fact there is a game so soon to play on Monday night, is having an impact to potentially help the focus shift towards what lies ahead rather than what has already come to pass.
Of course the problem is I still have a lot of nerves and butterflies in my stomach, only they have transferred from thinking about the Scum to thinking about the Geordies. It is their last home game of the season, it’ll be an evening fixture, they’ll be massively up for it and they have returning players like Wilson who will be fired up. Conversely, we are battered and bruised, with even more players missing now, which means Arteta has a lot of thinking to do this weekend. My hope, and the hope of a couple of lads on my football banter chat, is that Arteta doesn’t go all Galaxy Brain and decide to be too clever in his thinking. We’ve all seen it. Like playing Xhaka as a centre half and dropping in Odegaard as a midfielder, to get his best players on the pitch, rather than the best players in specific positions. I know he wants to have players that are interchangeable in different positions across the pitch, but the squad just isn’t there yet in his composition and so he needs to keep as many players in their natural positions as possible as he can on Monday, I believe.
But I’ll dwell a little more on tactical set up in the coming days, because there will be plenty of time for hand-wringing on what the Arsenal manager might do in what is now the biggest game of the season by a country mile. Win and it takes our control in our own hands up to the final day. Draw or defeat and…well…I think we all know what that means (I have doubts that Burnley or Norwich will provide the Scum with any kind of challenge over this weekend and next).
What we’re all waiting on with baited breath is the injury news at the back. I suspect we’ll get some kind of update today because there won’t be a normal press conference because of the game played on Thursday night. So we might get an Arteta interview with the official site, or just one of the text updates on the official site in which we get little information other than ‘is being assessed’. The problem I have with those is that we’ve seen it all season with our players and ‘is being assessed’ seems to be translating in to ‘probably is out for a few weeks but we don’t want to tell you for some weird reason’. I’d honestly rather just know. Just say a player is out and then if suddenly he makes a miraculous recovery, we can all be happy about that. the ‘is being assessed’ updates are just so frustrating because it hasn’t given us anything all season, other than to find out a player still isn’t fit. Tomiyasu’s situation has been the worst in that regard. I swear he was ‘is being assessed’ for about a month. Just don’t say anything. Say he’s still out. Stop trying to get us excited for an early return. That NEVER happens to Arsenal players. We’re just not allowed to have that kind of enjoyment as fans and a club.
So I look forward to seeing that Gabriel ‘is being assessed’ when in fact we all probably know deep down that he’s banjaxed and his season is over.
Anyway, let’s move away from the negativity, because I don’t need it, you don’t need it, so let’s focus on something nice. That is of course that both Ramsdale and Saka are up for young player of the season, with Saka also being up for player of the season. I suspect neither will get either of the results because there are players like Alexander-Arnold and Foden in there who will most likely get the gongs, with Salah and De Bruyne being in the mix for the main award, but it is recognition of a good season for both players and nice that we have some players up for the running after a couple of years of some pretty average performances from the vast majority of the players in the squad.
It also gives hope for what can be achieved next season and that – regardless of what happens over the next eight days, is important not to lose sight of. Our young squad with good players who are growing together are getting better. I am hoping and expecting for better from all of those players next season and if we get improvements as we are hoping and expecting, then it will put us in an even stronger position to reach out goals. The building blocks are there and we can all see it. Right now that is being fogged because we’re in a very tense situation that could very well go against us, but when the dust settles on the season I think I’ll certainly be more complimentary about this team than I was at the end of last season. That’s progress. That’s positivity. That’s where we all want to be as Arsenal fans.
I think I’ll leave it there for today. I was going to talk about the supposed signing of that lad from Sao Paolo – Marquinhos – but it doesn’t feel right getting embroiled in transfer deals when the season is in it’s crescendo moment. So I’ll save it for other days I think. Have a good one whatever you’re doing this weekend.
Catch you all tomorrow.