Morning Gooners, welcome to Tuesday, a grizzly one in London which you’d expect that to be the mood after losing up in Manchester yet again. But it kind of isn’t. I’ve woken up this morning thinking about that game and thinking “that kind of result doesn’t happen that way nine out of ten times”. I think on more occasions if the match plays out with as much dominance as we had, we come away with the points and whilst in isolation it is frustrating to lose that game, we are now piecing together enough data points this season to know that so far what we have seen has been overwhelmingly good compared to poor.
Yesterday and Sunday evening I was also cheesed off against the tired media narratives of ‘Arsenal fell at their first major hurdle’ but to give that tired cliche a trotting out feels rather ignorant to me. Perhaps it’s because I was there for the Unai Emery 22 game unbeaten run and we all saw how that unfolded for us. It didn’t work because Emery didn’t stick to his principles, he flip-flopped a little too much and when the wheels started to come off it went south very quickly. What we have in this Arsenal team feels very different and my hope is that the players re-watch that game from Sunday a couple of times, because if they do it might bring them more heart and belief. We were the better team.
If we play like that every week between now and the end of the season we will win a lot more than we lose and I’m a-okay with that. What is important now is a response. We need to turn this in to an isolated incident rather than an extended ‘blip’ like last season. Last season ironically enough after the first three games of the season the first of those was against United and Everton and whilst we played well against United, we were poor against Everton. So I want to see a response that is very different this coming weekend. As Gabriel Jesus commented after the game, we need to be able to ‘kill’ our opponents in the key moments.
I think that will be the key learnings from this week from Arteta and his coaching staff. Leaarn the lessons at both ends of the pitch; be more ruthless in attack and be alive to the counter at the back. We’ve looked so assured this season at the back that it did come as a bit of a surprise to me to be done so swiftly, but every unit has off days and that was hopefully just one of ours that is rarely repeated again. In attack, having that final extra touch in the box maybe cost us on Sunday, but if we can get back to our free-flowing best that we’ve seen for essentially all of the season so far, I think it’ll come.
The good news is that because of the frequency of games we don’t have to wait to long until our next one and although it is in a different competition in the shape of the Europa League against FC Zurich, a match is a match and any game that can potentially extinguish the bad taste of a defeat is a welcome one.
I wonder who is in line to start though? It’s probably a thought for Thursday itself and Arteta will no doubt face the media at some stage today or tomorrow, but the big news will be about who will play and I think we’ll see a few shuffled around. I think most of us hope so, anyway, but the worry is the news about ESR who Ornstein reported looked pretty upset in the warm down on Sunday after the game. If he’s picked up a knock that will be a big blow to us, but it’ll also be a massive blow to him. He missed a big chunk of pre season and that’s effectively scuppered any immediate chances of getting more game time so far this season. When you couple that with the form of Martinelli, you have to look at where he is at and start to worry if he is out for any prolonged period of time. My hope – and I have everything crossed as I say this – is that it is just a minor impact knock that he could recover quickly from, but footballers know when there is something wrong with the mechanics of their body and if he came off that warm down looking upset then you fear for a prolonged period on the sidelines.
It’s not the news that anyone wants to hear and having failed to secure a wide forward or midfielder during the transfer window, it’s almost as if the gamble to once again go in to the season with a slightly thinner squad, feels like it could come back to bite us. It’s almost as if the footballing gods are conspiring against us because of these gambles. At the end of last season when we just needed to limp over the line, it felt like every player was dropping like flies, so we don’t want a repeat of that and to be honest with you, even when the window closed, I looked at our squad and thought “yep, we should just about have enough, I think”. I didn’t bank on the curse of our injury luck and if we are missing ESR for a longer period of time, suddenly those wide options feel even more stretched.
I suspect we might see more and more of Marquinhos and maybe Nelson than we thought. But do you know what? If they play in the Europa and in the League Cup and we can keep Saka and Martinelli playing once a week in the league, maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to get ourselves to January without any major problems.
Time will tell. We’ve already lost Zinchenko, Partey, Elneny this season, it sounds like we’re about to lose Emile, so it’s not like we seem to be having loads of luck with injuries. Let’s hope that none are as serious as we fear.
Catch you all tomorrow.