Yesterday Arsenal lost a pre season, behind-closed-doors, game at London Colney to Brentford. We went down 2-1 to goals from footballers I’ve never heard of, with Nketiah getting our goal in between the two Brentford goals.
Now, if we’re going to caveat all of our victories this summer as ‘it’s only pre season’, then this works both ways, so I’m not overly fussed about the result. I’m also mindful of the fact that it was an almost entirely rotated Arsenal team that played, which suggests to me that for our final game of pre season on Saturday at lunchtime, we’re going to get most of the first teamers rocking up to play against Sevilla. So in many respects this friendly was a great idea because it gets more minutes in to the legs of those rotation players that probably aren’t going to see much action when the season kicks off in earnest. So Turner, Cedric, Holding, Walters, Tavares, Elneny, Marquinhos, will probably all see little game time after yesterday’s game until we start playing in the League Cup and Europa League. And I’m absolutely fine with that. Get some last minute match practice in and then sit them down.
If you think about the players Mikel will be calling upon from the first proper game, you’re probably looking at Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney, Zinchenko, Sambi, Partey, Xhaka, Martinelli, Saka, Smith Rowe, Gabriel Jesus and Nketiah. That’s a core squad of 15 players and although Sambi and Nketiah played yesterday, they are probably the only ones you’d hope will be regulars from the bench or filling in for matches. Arteta will be able to use the five subs rule this season and so that group of players will probably be the ones getting most of the minutes. You could probably chuck in Holding for those “back five lads” moments at the end of games and maybe you take Partey out to preserve him for Elneny in the most briefest of cameos, which takes us up to 17 players who could feasibly be used most weeks. But the core is there and yesterday’s game just shows that the vast bulk of those players aren’t getting many minutes. Or at least we have to hope not because if that team does get time in proper competition then it is probably because we have one heck of an injury crisis on our hands.
It also sounds like we dominated anyway, so at least that is something to take away from the game and I’m sure Arteta is very mindful of that. We dominated, we looked the better team, take the positives, ignore the result.
What is of slight concern, however, is what happens if we do get a bit of an injury crisis. Imagine we’re missing five or six of that core of 17 I just mentioned. It means we have to dip in to the next level down and aside from the fact that the result didn’t really matter, what I’d want to know if I was Arteta, is how many of those players have stepped up? You’d hope one or two because it’s not as if we don’t have a few injury prone players in our team. Partey has missed chunks of every season since joining us, Tierney and Tomiyasu have shown fragility, Smith Rowe too, so we have players who don’t exactly have spotless histories when it comes to injuries. So my hope is that we have had a few players who Arteta is thinking about more seriously, who perhaps haven’t looked close to the first team for a while.
Could it be some of the kids like Patino and Azeez? Maybe. But I also don’t think we should completely write off some of those players seemingly at the exit door. The likes of Maitland-Niles, for example, or Bellerin – who is miles better than Cedric – could still do a job for us if we don’t find buyers for them. And let me just emphasise the buyers part of my argument too, because if we can’t find clubs to pay for our players, then we should use them. Like Torreira, for example. I’ve seen Arsenal fans justifying a potential free transfer exit for the likes of Bellerin or Torreira because they aren’t fully committed to the cause. I know Edu has come out in the last week and talked about paying players off and it being an ‘investment’, but I am seeing some people suggest that writing off these players and just offloading for nothing isn’t the worst idea in the world. When did we become so happy with accepting what other clubs tell us just because it suits their agenda? Betis want to sign Bellerin? Sure, no problem, go for it, but hand over some cash for the player because I’m not accepting that you have no money for a player who is still contracted to The Arsenal. And if you don’t want to pay, fine, then we reintergate him and give him Cedric’s spot. Valencia have ‘agreed terms’ with Torreira, but want Arsenal to lower their price to…erm…zero…and think that they’ll be able to do that. But you know what’ll happen the second we agree to that? They’ll find £25million from somewhere to purchase a forward player.
That’s because teams think that Arsenal are a rich side who are easily led. I say ‘no way Jose’. I say we stay the course. The transfer window is open for another month and we should keep hold of all of these players unless we get a suitable bid come in. Leno for £8million? Do me a favour. Fulham have already spent £32.85million this summer and they are pleading poverty? It’s a joke. I hope Arsenal stay strong in their valuation for the player, but I suspect that will go through. If it does I hope we have so many clauses because if Fulham get relegated this season and Leno has had a blinder of a season, you can bet your arse Fulham will end up wanting north of £20million for him. Arsenal should tell Fulham that they can have Leno, but for every penny they get for him in future over £8million (what they paid us), we get half. That’d be the sort of deal I could accept.
Anyway, what do I know about football or transfers, eh? I’m just a fan vehemently defending my team and the hope that my team aren’t mugged off by so many clubs pleading poverty when their other actions suggest anything but.
I should probably leave that rant for today!
Back tomorrow with some more thoughts ahead of the Sevilla friendly on Saturday.
You guys have a good one!