Now that we’re getting in to ‘Part one of the Prem definitely over’ territory, I’ve started to think about this period between now and Christmas as a bit of an off-season/pre season for The Arsenal; there are players heading off for some holidays, there are some players going to a World Cup, Arteta and his coaching staff will probably take some time off to recharge, before getting back on it in a week to 10 days time to start preparing for the Christmas festive period and that difficult January we have. And so with that second kick off in the season and it being viewed as a ‘Part II’, there’s a question that has been going through my mind again and again, that I thought i’d expand out a little more today:
“Who needs this ‘pre season 2.0 the most?”
Some contenders that I’d love your thoughts on are listed below. But who do you think needs it the most?
Arteta himself has been at pains to point out in the last week or two that Vieira hadn’t had a pre season the first time around and I think it is quite easy to overlook this. He joined us in June, was pretty much injured until the start of the season, then came back as it had all kicked off. So whilst all of his teammates had a head start in terms of their preparation to hit the ground running, he was already behind in the fitness race. So if I put myself in his shoes, I have come to a new country, with new colleagues, having to adapt to a new way of life, then I am prevented from doing my job whilst everyone around me has excelled. As a team we saw Arsenal get off to such a flyer, that many of us – me included – barely even thought about Fabio Vieira. I even saw people suggest “not one for this season” as if he’s some kind of cheap punt from the academy that was far too raw for the first team. But this is a £30million footballer who had started to excel at Porto. This is a guy who had been tearing things up for the national team in the Under-21s I believe and a guy who was massively thought of as a versatile and creative player.
If you think about how important our momentum was in building up that confidence in pre season ahead of the new season starting in August, just think how important it must be for a player on an individual basis, as they try to get up and running whilst everyone around them is killing it. Then, because everyone else is killing it, you find your chances limited and you are basically feeding off scraps. Perhaps ‘scraps’ is a litle harsh to describe the Europa League and League Cup, but he’s been put in to teams that have had a number of changes and those ‘automatisms’ aren’t quite as in place as they are for the first team. In fact, if you think about his best game so far in an Arsenal shirt, it was away to Brentford when Odegaard wasn’t fit and he came in to a team that had been functioning as a cohesive unit since the start of the season and before.
This Pre season 2.0 could therefore be an absolute blessing for Fabio Vieira, because this time he’s the one getting ready to get up to speed for the resumption of the Premier League. He’s going to spend time with his teammates, building up his fitness, learning the language even better (although his language is pretty good to be fair already), as well as becoming a little more acclimatised. Perhaps he, above all, could really prove to be a massive asset in the second half of the season, more so than anybody else.
Emile Smith Rowe
Or is it Emile Smith Rowe who will have the biggest impact and may benefit from this enforced break? He played barely enough minutes for a full game over his few substitute appearances earlier in the season and the sight of him trudging off after the warm down in the game away to United was really sad to see. What we know now is that he had persistent problems with that groin of his and like Vieira, he also had basically no pre season, as he battled to get fit and flitted in and out of fitness. I’m not sure if the problem that eventually required surgery a couple of months back had also blighted his pre season, but if the player and the club took the decision to make that surgery happen because of the timing of this World Cup and this Pre season 2.0, then perhaps he could be the biggest beneficiary of any Arsenal player with this period we are entering now.
The expectation was a return to training in December. We’ve seen a few pics of him at the training ground already, clearly looking like he’s bulked up a bit in his upper body, so it’ll be interesting to see just whether this surgery has had the desired impact. He’s still so young, but has had so many injury problems already, so maybe this is the perfect time to draw a line under those problems, get a proper period of readying himself for the second half of the season, then be the biggest boost to our squad at a time in which the games will come hard and fast and will require a lot of rotation.
I really think we missed him in some of those games this season where his drive, ability to run with the ball at his feet and also eye for goal have been missing. He’s definitely up there as one player that I think will be earmarking this ‘Part II’ of the Prem to be one in which he makes his mark. I bet Arteta is hoping that too.
And so to my final man who could use this period as his opportunity to kick it up a gear. We saw in the ‘All or Nothing’ documentary that Sambi wasn’t happy he wasn’t playing. Then we had the interview where he got grumpy with Roberto Martinez and also said he’d thought about leaving Arsenal in the summer. He also said in that interview that he is glad he didn’t but I am starting to get Lassana Diarra vibes about this lad. Only in the sense that we signed him from Chelsea and by January of that year we’d signed him he was getting grumpy because he wasn’t playing. Then by the end of the season he wanted out. Now, Sambi didn’t push as hard as Diarra, but his lack of patience is making me wonder if we’ll see a similar situation. Perhaps this little period of time with half of the first team missing is what he needs though. He’ll go on to those warm weather training sessions with a whole host of the first team missing and that means Arteta will be looking at him a little more closely, naturally by virtue of the fact that there are less people for Arteta to be looking at.
I think most of us agree that Sambi hasn’t really taken his opportunities this season, but I still believe there is a player in there, perhaps if he is given a little more time and minutes amongst some of the better players. That isn’t going to happen in the immediate future, but what is within his power is to try to impress Arteta in the next five weeks. There will be some friendlies played during this World Cup period and Sambi will be one of those guys getting many minutes in those games. It is up to him to show his boss what he can do and if he impresses enough, perhaps he gets used more as we start to play important games every three or four days from Boxing Day.
I could have also gone for Eddie Nketiah as an option, like the image I’ve selected for the blog today, but in the interests of time I have today I’ve just gone for three players to go in to detail on. But he could be a shout too.
It’s quite tough to pick a single player who ‘needs this’ more than any other. But I hate these article pieces that then don’t end up giving an opinion at the end, so I’m going to opt for Emile Smith Rowe as my person I think who is the one most likely to benefit from this Pre season 2.0. I think the team will benefit the most from him coming back too, because he’s a goal scorer – as showed last season – and he’s a guy who I think can certainly share minutes with the likes of Martinelli, perhaps even Saka on the right hand side. He’s shown he can play centrally and that means in Xhaka’s position if he’s missing, as well as maybe Odegaard, although I think he’s probably more suited to that left eight role. But I think he’ll be looking at the end of December as his moment to make a mark and given Arteta has said this last week that ESR basically saved his Arsenal career, I think he’ll be the one most likely given the opportunity to be that ‘Like A New Signing’ player when we kick off against West Ham on Boxing Day.
What do you reckon though?
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