Well now, I just wasn’t expecting to tune in for the end of the United v Liverpool game to see that Man United can actually play with aggression and pride. I thought those values had been stuffed away in an old locker somewhere in the ground, never to return. Yet I tuned in with about 20 to go and they were a couple of goals up. “Interesting…” I thought. Klopp blamed injuries, as we knew he would being the moany manager he has become, but the last time I checked Alisson, TAA, van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Salah, Diaz and Firmino were all first teamers and that makes up eight of your starting XI. You could probably even argue about the likes of Gomez and Milner and Elliott looks like a player they are building in to a first teamer. Their bench also had Fabinho, so whilst they may have been a little light with other options, that first team should have had enough to overcome what most football fans have seen as a car crash in the name of Man United.
One whole paragraph and not a word on Arsenal yet and for that I’m sorry, but like I said, that result was ‘interesting’ because it showed a vulnerability to Liverpool that we haven’t seen from either them or Man City in the last three to four years. At a time in which we are currently flying high and playing well, it’s ‘interesting’ because we’ve basically been written off getting anywhere near Liverpool or City this season, but if they play like that for a few more games I suspect we may at least be able to narrow the points gap somewhat.
It will probably be Liverpool and City battling it out for that top spot, but results like yesterday give us hope. There is a slight nervousness that this might be a blueprint for United to kick on, but I’m hoping these games are one-offs because of the rivalries between the two clubs. I’ve got everything crossed for the weekend and some hope that when Southampton play United at St Mary’s, that they give the Mancs a bump down to earth. That’s what we all have to hope for.
But when you look at the squad we have at the moment, it feels like it’s in good shape and in good form right now. I’ve been loving reading some of the player responses like the captain Martin Odegaard after the game on Saturday; talking about how the players have to keep their feet on the ground, stay calm, be focused and concentrate on the next fixture. After we beat United last season at home there was a comment from Arteta, who said “well done guys, you played excellent, now we go again against West Ham” and that is the relentlessness of elite football that we need to see from this Arsenal team if they are to achieve anything that is an improvement on last season. Odegaard is showing that in what he’s saying, but other players have talked about the mentality shift like Aaron Ramsdale. Missing out on the Top Four last season hit this team hard I think, but given what we have seen already – not just in the league but also in pre season – are early signs that, I hope, they are using that pain as a fuel to drive loftier ambitions.
That, but also having added quality players to the squad, has all played a big part. And by the sounds of it we’re not done yet, as the Ornacle David Ornstein tweeted yesterday that the winger we are after is Pedro Neto from Wolves. Apparently we’ve been on the case for him for over a month with his agent Mendes and with Neto having previously admitted he liked to watch Arsenal when he was a kid, there’s clearly an opportunity there for the club. However having recently signed a new deal there is no way this guy comes cheap and I suspect that whilst Ornstein always one of the most – if not the most – reliable journo when it comes to releasing stories about The Arsenal, this one is one I’d be surprised if we pulled it off. I’m just not just we’ll look to pay as much as £50million for a guy who will not be first choice. He’s played predominantly as a left winger, although he’s had a chunk of games at right wing and he’s played 12 times for Wolves up top, most recently in January last year. If Arteta is looking for a guy who can play as a third choice centre forward option, as well as cover across that front three, then you can understand why Arsenal want this deal to happen. However, he’s going to want to come in and play left wing I suspect and right now he wouldn’t be touching Gabriel Martinelli on that flank. Sitting behind him is Emile Smith Rowe and whilst I recognise his injury problems have made it difficult for him to get back in to the team, but what does this happen to him if we sign Neto? Where does ESR fit in along with Vieira?
Hey, I know, I know, you can never have enough good players and all that jazz, but I just wonder about this desire for a wide forward in the team right now. Personally I’m still looking at the central midfield first and worrying about what happens if Partey breaks down, or what happens if Granit Xhaka’s form doesn’t last all season, what then? Maybe somebody like Pedro Neto comes in and is transformative for the club and I will admit to not watching enough of Wolves to see just what he could do at The Arsenal, but for the reported £50million I certainly have concerns. Those concerns aren’t alleviated by the fact that there are also rumours that we’re supposedly on a UEFA FFP watchlist right now. Of course FFP doesn’t seem to matter to other clubs like Barca, Real, Juve, Man City, Chelsea, etc, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the book would be thrown at Arsenal if we’re found to have breached FFP and with a lack of ‘creative accounting’ in naming our stadium something to get around the big spending we’ve been doing, as well as the fact we haven’t been great at bringing in money for players. As always the excellent Swiss Ramble does a forensic look at this and that provides some comfort, but I still have my worries. Hopefully they can be alleviated but also, hopefully, it doesn’t mean we’ve got a big player who we’re prepping for a sale at some time in the next year or two.
Let’s see how this one all shakes out and with nine days left of the window we won’t have to wait long, but for now, we all have an interesting watching brief as to whether this will remain our squad for the season come 1st September.
Catch you all tomorrow.