It’s funny how when you’re team is really good, you start looking at the league table, permutations and therefore as a result start taking interest in other teams’ games. Last season of course I did that as we chased down top four, but I don’t think I started looking so forensically at the table as much as I’m doing at the moment. I certainly didn’t do so at game week 18/19 in the Premier League and the halfway stage. Yet yesterday I found myself watching the first half of the Palace v United game, then after dinner I found myself keeping track of the game on my phone as I tried to watch something else on TV (I decided not to watch the second half because United were one up and I just assumed they would go on to win.
Step forward Olise with an absolute peach of a free kick in stoppage time to break United hearts and claim a draw. What a hit and what a player that guy is. I remember my ol’ mate Giles talking about him when he was at Reading as a player Arsenal should be looking at. He’s certainly a guy that’s adapted to the Premier League, that’s for sure. But he’s on a five year deal and he’s two in to it, so Palace would be under no pressure to sell and if they wanted £40million for a 26-year-old Zaha four years ago, they’d probably not even pick up the phone unless you got closer to £80million. Which just isn’t worth it for a player with just 44 Premier League games under his belt. If he’s shown he can deliver in the league and has closer to 100 appearances in the league, then you start to look at him as a serious prospect I think, but for now I’d be surprised if he came across Arteta and Edu’s radar.
What won’t have escaped them, however, is that Casemiro picked up a booking yesterday which, with an accumulation of five yellow cards in the first half of this season, means that he’s out for the game against us at the weekend. That, boys and girls, is good news for us. It may sound a little childish to say because Arsenal have been superb all season and so perhaps the mentality should be one of “bring your strongest team because we’ll still beat ya”, but I am not too precious enough not to want United to be as weakened as possible. When I heard we had a week off and they had to play Palace I was happy. The Premier League is an intense league that you have to battle for 90 minutes in, as evidenced by their game last night, so hopefully that little bit of fatigue might just prove to be advantageous to us. I’ve also been spying on what United fans think of him being missing too – so I could gauge just how important a player he is for them – and that also gives me a little more hope too. That’s because so many of them have said that they don’t have a player like him, that the options in rotation just don’t exist, for which I hope to be true on Sunday. It has made me chuckle to see – admittedly just a few – United fans talking up about how it is unfair that they have lost him and that they face us without one of their best players. Well guess what United fans, we had to play Elneny at Old Trafford because we were missing Partey, so suck it up. It does mean though that it feels, maybe, that the chips are starting to fall in Arsenal’s favour perhaps? I certainly hope so.
Which brings me to Thomas Partey, because much like Casemiro, he is so vital to our team and that perhaps showed at Old Trafford. And I really hope that shows to be true on Sunday because if it does it means we’ve beaten them. Of course the other worry is that Scott McTominay gets to clobber his way through Arsenal players with impunity and therefore putting some of our players at risk, but hopefully the referee we have for Sunday is a strong one (ha-ha, as if).
Oh great, it’s Antony Taylor. I would say one of the worst in the league but they’re all pretty much terrible. I just hope he actually sees it when McTominay tries to drop-kick Zinchenko, or when Fernandez pirouettes in the box with nobody around him for five yards, actually booking a player for a change for diving. But I suspect I’ll be living in hope for that one.
There’s not a lot going on from a transfer perspective, although I do wonder why Arsenal didn’t try to have a go at getting Memphis Depay from Barca, given that Atletico got him for around €4million. I’m sure if we’d have offered €5million then he’d have been keen to come to us. But perhaps there are some tensions between Arsenal and barca. It wouldn’t surprise me; they did get Auba for nothing and then sold him for £10million just six months later to Chelsea, so I bet the folks at Arsenal would probably not deal with Barca if they don’t have to. But he’s a decent player and would have added that much needed depth that we don’t currently have. Doesn’t quite fit our age profile of who we’ve been going after, but if you could get him on a three-and-a-half year deal and it not cost a bazillion quid in wages and signing on fees, it could be worth a cheeky punt perhaps?
And finally, away from the transfer stuff, isn’t it just great to have a club who is so in touch with fan sentiment, but not only that, a strong moral sense of what is right and what is wrong. I’d seen the stories of a poor women who was abused by Arsenal fans – herself being an Arsenal fan I think and understandably taking offence to the chanting of the Y-word in relation to Tottenham – online but the club have now acted in a statement to say that they will give banning orders if they find evidence of fans behaving inappropriately. Good on the club. We can’t be living in a society today in which hatred and persecution for any religious, racist, or any other kind of discriminatory rhetoric is deemed acceptable and the more that clubs like Arsenal can stand up and say they will take action against such abuses, the better.
Sorry to end that on a slightly sour note, but I’m choosing to see the positive side which is that action can – and hopefully will – be taken to make watching and supporting Arsenal all about the football and nothing else. Exactly as it should be.
Catch you wonderful people in the morrow. Have a good one.
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