Happy Sunday folks, how we all doing?
I’m nursing a bit of a sore head this morning – The Management and I decided to do a little stay-at-home Christmas yesterday, as we do fair bit of travelling over the festive season to see family. Of course it was a great day of fun and over-indulgence of food and booze, but this morning is hitting me pretty hard, I have to say.
Of course it also means that I didn’t get around to watching either the third/fourth placed play-off game in the World Cup, nor the Arsenal friendly at home to Juve. But I’ve just re-watched on the official site and although we lost 2-0, I think Arteta will be taking all the positives from the result rather than any negatives. We lined up with pretty much our strongest side minus Saliba, Saka, Martinelli and Jesus and you could tell from within the first minute that the team were able to click back in to gear. I thought the movement of the players was good, we controlled possession and in that first ten minutes Nelson had a shot dragged wide, followed by a really good more that saw a Fabio Vieira volley well saved by the ‘keeper.
Perhaps you can argue that was a reserve Juve team, packed full of youngsters and missing a ton of first teamers that would have made the dominance a little less likely, but I’m choosing to believe that we just have a side who is well coached, organised, looking sharp and after the first exchanges of the match yesterday, it feels like we are ready for West Ham in just over a week.
The one downside from yesterday was the loss of Reiss Nelson to injury. He lasted just 20 minutes until he had to come off and I thought he’d looked pretty bright up until that moment in the game. He was being found on that side a few times by his teammates and seemed to be working well with KT. It was a shame because he played well when he came on for Saka in the Forest game in November and based on what I’ve seen from him in a few of these friendlies so far in this second pre season, he’s looked pretty good. Of course the step down in quality between him and Martinelli or Saka is clear, but he has acted as an able deputy and having him now potentially missing from the team with Martinelli and Saka still not back, as well as ESR not in the squad yesterday and not ready to play yet it seems, means that we’re once again looking really short on numbers in those attacking positions. Arteta clearly looked worried enough on it as he was asked afterwards and said the fact Nelson had to come off straight away was not good news for the team. Let’s hope for some good news once they complete all the cans, etc.
I like Reiss Nelson. It’s clear he doesn’t have a long term future at the club, but he’s proved that there’s a decent player in there and after that Forest game and his goals, you could tell that he is the sort of guy who – when confidence can be injected in to his game, he can perform to a decent Premier League standard. With there being at least two more games before the window opens, you’d have thought that he would be getting some chances in the next couple of games to demonstrate that he can deliver and have an impact on the team, but if this injury keeps him out for a prolonged period of time, he might find his path is blocked by the time he gets back fit. That’s because you would expect us to make a signing in those attacking positions and Arteta himself said to the press that it doesn’t change our transfer plans. If Nelson is out for anything longer than a week – which I think will probably be the case – then when he returns we may have another signing in from the January window.
Back to the game itself, I think if Arteta is going to be challenging his players ahead of the restart, it’ll be to be a little more clinical in the final third. We controlled the ball, we did well right up until the point of the penalty box, then that final pass just let us down once or twice, I thought. Then in the second half it was a little more even in terms of them coming at our defence, but other than the second goal – a big slice of fortune in that one too – they never really troubled our back line.
So all in all it was an alright performance; we created chances, we looked good at times, we just didn’t have that bit of end product. The return of the likes of Saka and Martinelli should help that, but we are going to need Eddie to step up and provide that clinical edge. His disallowed goal for offside in the first half was well taken I thought, but in classic Eddie style, we then had probably an easier opportunity for him a few moments later that he hit the post on when he’d probably be backing himself to put that away normally.
But these are the times to iron out those kinks from the game, because it counts for real on Boxing Day and he’s going to need to take those chances.
Right, that’s me done for today I think. Time to go for a walk in the fresh air and then get back on it later – off in to London to watch a drunk panto!
Catch you all tomorrow.