Howdy friends, how are we all doing? Looking forward to the game tomorrow? Not me, I have to say, because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the bliss of five consecutive victories and the thought that it might come crashing down against United – like it always seems to when we go up there – makes me a bit ‘meh’, if I’m honest with you. I know we have to be optimistic going in to the game, I know we’ve been playing really well, but I’ve seen too many instances on that ground in which they have been terrible and still skanked us, to know that we’re probably in for a defeat and Paul Tierney disaster-class refereeing performance tomorrow.
That negativity from me aside, we still have plenty of reasons for optimism, even if we didn’t get the deals we wanted on deadline day and right now we feel a little vulnerable with the injuries. Arteta confirmed yesterday that Elneny would be out for months, Partey for potentially weeks, plus the fact that Zinchenko is still not training and so would probably miss the game tomorrow, all feel like blows. We need to have a conversation about Partey at some stage because it’s starting to get a bit like KT and that needs a resolution one way or another (i.e. a replacement at some stage perhaps? As mad as it feels to say that…), but that’s not for today. We are also sweating on the fitness of Ramsdale and Odegaard and if both of those are deemed not fit to play, we are still in December and already missing a potential of five first team players in a squad of 24. But not just that, it would be four of those five that are our first team that could be missing. That’s half the team and we’ve seen what happens to top teams when they are missing two or three, let alone four or five, so it’s potentially a massive blow for us this weekend.
I think despite Arteta saying he was happy, deep down and maybe behind closed doors within the walls of London Colney, he’ll be disappointed that we don’t have a deep enough squad. He said it was the best squad and the best players that he has available in his press conference yesterday, but then said “there is nothing else we can do”, following it up by saying they have an academy we can use as well. I think to me that’s a slight showing of the hand and I think he’ll be disappointed that even at this early stage in the season we’re looking a little thin. He also said in the press conference – when asked whether his squad is capable of handling more absent players – “I hope so and I hope we can still play really well”. That’s hardly an unequivocal “yes” response, is it?
Asked about United and the game itself tomorrow and he referenced the spending of United and the players they have meaning that form would always come back to them and you have to probably agree there. Even the chaos in terms of approach by United in recent times can be masked somewhat if you’re willing to spend just under a quarter of a billion Euros to get yourself players in. United have spent a small fortune this window and recruited decent players that will improve them, but the hope we have to have as Arsenal fans is that they play like individuals. I didn’t watch the game against Leicester away and I saw only a couple of patchy minutes between them and Southampton and they weren’t great, but got the job done and were functional, but when you have the array of talent they have in their squad that is what will happen. I just hope our structure, approach and set up is more valuable than their “through enough money and see if something sticks” approach. Fingers crossed.
There was talk in the presser about there being a psychological barrier of Old Trafford and I have to say there probably is. Arteta of course dismissed that, but how can you not look at our record there and see that? We’ve failed to beat them in 14 of 15 football matches stretching back to 2006, and the only game we won there was without any fans in the stadium during the COVID era. So with fans in the stadium you have to go back to an Adebayor slightly dodgy handball goal in 2006 to see our last victory in the league on their soil. Now, in that time there have been some shocking refereeing performances, I’ll admit (Arshavin being drop kicked by Fletcher in the box, anyone?), but there have been too many games in which we’ve wilted and tomorrow Arteta needs to get his players in the frame of mind that they can get a result against United. If you’re going to look at positives it’s that this team should carry none of the mental scars that we all have from trips to Old Trafford and last season I thought we were the better team and it was decided on a clumsy challenge by Odegaard in the penalty box. There’s also the fact that we are actually playing good football right now and when you add to that the fact that we look more balanced as a team – all these injuries aside – then perhaps there can be a little more hope than usual.
He was also asked about Aubameyang and he was pretty straight faced in wishing him all the best. My feelings are that it’s unfortunate that he’s signed for them, he will inevitably score against us, but ultimately it is not the same as when Cesc signed for them, nor is it a case that they are getting a player in his peak. We had that Auba, he is now 33 and maybe he can recapture his form and score 25 goals for them this season, but I’d be surprised if that happens. The age curve for strikers dips a lot quicker than in most positions and the hope is that they get themselves an expensive ageing striker who doesn’t really do the business for them. He won us an FA Cup, for that I am grateful, but we have far superior options than him now and so we have to be happy about that.
And on that note I think I’ll leave it for today. I’m off in to London for some pizza and a show later so will enjoy my time off and hope that Fulham can do something against what I have seen so far as a lucky Scum team at their Toilet Bowl of a stadium.
Catch you all tomorrow for a match preview.