With the Christmas weekend now upon us, we have been granted some lovely ol’ content presents from Arsenal, as Arteta faced the press yesterday ahead of the West Ham game on Monday night. First and foremost, the injury and player availability was the first thing he was quizzed on and the music to all Arsenal fans’ ears was that those that have played in the World Cup are all fit and raring to go, Gabby Jesus aside of course. There was a midweek friendly against Luton and both Saka and Martinelli played, with both coming out of it fine and Mikel even commented that the players have all come back ‘buzzing’.
That, to me, feels almost as important as the fact they have got aa clean bill of health. What we don’t want to see is players mentally impacted by the fact that they suffered disappointment by being knocked out of the competition, so Arteta even mentioning that he’s been pleased to see so many players come back motivated and raring to go filled me with some comfort in relation to that match at home to West Ham. I suppose when you’re coming back to a team in which you’ve been on a great winning streak, you’re top of the league, looking good and with an opportunity to pick up where you left off before the World Cup, it makes it easier that you’re coming back to such a positive environment.
The one player I was hoping we’d get something on was Emile Smith Rowe, mainly because he’s the one that has been out and I think a few of us were hoping to at least see him get a place on the bench after the resumption of the Premier League. That feels almost impossible now and whilst Arteta did say he is better and back in training, he also admitted that he had a little setback and as a result I suspect the earliest we might see him from the bench might be January. I wonder if they’ll earmark that Newcastle game as one in which he could be an impact sub?
The other heartening thing to hear was the noises about transfer market activity. I can’t be bothered to go back and check, but I feel like last January the narrative was very much “we are looking, but only if we find the right player”. We never found that right player because Vlahovic went to Juve, so we kept our powder dry on bringing in players ready for the first team, which worked out well in the end with Gabriel Jesus. But it feels to me like the language and tone used this time around is a little more assertive. We saw that with the Sky Sports interview and he’s been clear again – saying “This squad still doesn’t have the luxury of not maximizing every single window” – that they will be active in January. I think they know who they want, they’ve had the required conversations, the plan is clear and they’re going after those targets with a little more focus as a result of the Jesus injury. You probably wouldn’t get too much from the club in terms of altering plans, but I think they are going to push harder this January and the noises and whisperings we’ve heard and read so far only lend more credence to that line of thinking. Talking about maximising the window feels like a lot stronger narrative than it’s been at any time since Arteta arrived and when that window opens I suspect that we’ll see the noises and rumours massively ramp up around The Arsenal. Mudryk is the name that everyone is mentioning at the moment, but I wonder if they do one deal in another position before then. Perhaps a midfielder to come in? There’s talk about moving early for Tielemans but I don’t see that happening. Leicester won’t want to lose him for nothing, but they’ll also know they can’t command a massive fee for a player leaving for nothing in January, so I suspect that will only happen in the summer, if we are indeed interested in him.
As for West Ham themselves, of course Arteta said lovely and nice things about them and Moyes in particular, giving the West Ham manager his flowers about the impact he’s had. I’m sure there will be some truth in there, because Moyes has been a top flight manager for decades, but more than anything else he wouldn’t want to give any kind of incentive to use his words as motivating factors for the West Ham players, so I wouldn’t expect anything else. We’ve seen how Arteta used Toney’s Tweet last season to sprur his team on, so you can bet yourself a few shiny pennies that Moyes would do the same if he was given any ammo from Arteta. So better to play nice and make sure the football does the talking on Monday.
He was also asked about Martinelli’s contract and the reporter herself even sounded apologetic when asking, saying “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask about the Martinelli contract” but Arteta just batted it away with a smile and “you can keep asking”. I mean, what’s he going to do? Pull Martinelli out from under the table with a paper and pen and say “I’m glad you asked me that…because…..SURPRISE!!”. Not likely! But the fact he just kind of said “you can keep asking for a few more weeks” suggests that the hard yards have been done and they’re just finalising any of the final touches of paperwork before we get an announcement. Then – Time to get Saka and Saliba signed up gents!!
Other than that I think I’ll leave it there for the day. There were a few bits and bobs about Saliba returning today but I’d be surprised if he’s ready to start on Monday, but you never know. There was no mention on Zinchenko or Tomiyasu specifically as injury doubts so we have to assume that everyone is good, which is great as we go in to this busy Christmas period because Arteta will have plenty of thinking to do in terms of squad rotation. He needs to think hard about how he balances his team in the next 11 days and my hope is that he gets minutes in to all of the established first teamers legs. But we’ll see what he has in mind on Monday evening.
Right, off for a run, so I’ll catch you all tomorrow.