Woken up to a lovely ol’ dusting of snow today, which would be amazing to go and play in and make a snowman, if I didn’t have work and also a stinking cold/cough. It’ll probably only last for today but the South East of England has gone uber-Christmassy today and I’m really feeling like the countdown has begun…..


There’s no games today because the semi finals are tomorrow and Wednesday, but this is the most ‘meh’ part of the competition for me. What I mean by that is that it is ‘meh because there are so few games. The group stages, for that reason, are the absolute best, because you get three to four games a day and it is all the football all the time. That’s what gets you sucked in, whereas now I’m basically back to “when are Arsenal on?” mode.

The good news is that the answer to that is tomorrow, with a game against Milan, followed by Saturday’s match at The Emirates against Juventus. That means we can fill our time looking at who looks fit, who looks ready, who will probably start on that West Ham game. Arteta will, of course, give nothing away, but I suspect those players who get more minutes for the Juve game, will be those in the greatest contention. He’ll want to find a balance between playing his intended first team for 60 minutes, as well as not giving away any secrets to West Ham, but I’m expecting us to line up in a certain way for that match more so than the one tomorrow. It wouldn’t surprise me if we get a close to full strength side of first teamers tomorrow, then in the second half he makes a load of changes and brings in the kids.

Of course one of the decisions he’ll have to work out is how many minutes to give Xhaka, Partey and White, who all arrived in Dubai over the last day or two and who the club released training pictures of the players training alone away from the main group. That’s obviously to assess fitness but at some stage they’ll no doubt be in with the team. I’d expect that to happen tomorrow actually; I don’t think they’ll start the game tomorrow, but I wonder if Arteta brings on Xhaka, Partey and White for maybe the last 20 to 30 minutes. That would be a good way of getting minutes in to the legs, but also ensuring they are not over-exerted.

With their return, as I said yesterday, things appear to be shaping up quite well, which is good to hear. The game against Lyon showed that the team are still fired up and hungry and although we gave them a battering and most people were just dismissive of Lyon as a poor side, they did beat Liverpool 3-1 yesterday. I’ve just had a look at the Liverpool team and it featured Robertson, Milner, Matip, Gomez, Thiago, Salah, Firmino in their ranks, so it wasn’t as if it was a complete outfit of kids that started that game. Of course they did make a raft of halftime changes like we did in our game, but they still brought on players like Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tsimikas, so it’s not as if it was a complete kids XI that played the second half. You can never really read too much in to friendlies, but ours looking so impressive and Liverpool’s looking less so, does at least give me a smidge of pleasure and hope that the team can pick up from where it left off in the Premier League back in November.

So, what else is going on in the Arsenal world? Not a lot really. There are more rumours flying about with players like Ferran Torres, from Barcelona supposedly a player that we’re interested in, but that smells like BS to me. He’s played 18 times for Barcelona this season already and therefore is clearly a player that they are intending on playing, so I don’t see that as anything other than paper talk to sell some of their rags. He is the sort of profile that we should be looking at though; has played wide left, wide right, as well as through the middle and that level of versatility is surely something Arteta is looking at. It is why we went in for Raphinha, because of his versatility, so by the very fact of this rumour surfacing, one would hope that it is a little clearer on the type of profile player we are looking at for January. We need a guy who can step in to cover Saka at times, somebody who will also be able to fill in if Eddie gets a knock or falls out of form, and if this person doth exist, a player who can also cover for Martinelli if needed.

That sounds like a big ask though and so I wonder if we’ll see nobody come in rather than a loan stop gap signing. I’ve seen a few people suggest we could have a look at Marco Asensio from Real Madrid. He’s 26, has made 15 appearances in all competitions for Real Madrid, plus he’s played wide left or right. But I’m not sure he’d take a loan move to go from the fringes of Madrid’s team, to be cover for ours. It just doesn’t sound like it’d be an attractive offer for him.

There must be a few decent players out there who would see this as an attractive proposition, but doing a deal that isn’t overly expensive and doesn’t mean Arsenal pay over the odds in January, feels like a big ask. We’ll have to wait and see what happens when that transfer window bursts open on 1st January. My guess is that ‘not a lot’ for the first week or two, but lets just see.

That’s enough from me for today. You have yourself a good one and I’ll catch you tomorrow.