Morning morning Gooners, hope you’re all feeling fan-dabby-dozy on this here Thursday morn? Todays blog is coming to you from inside a BA aircraft, as we take a wee short trip up to Northumberland for The Management’s family birthday dinner on Saturday night. Annoyingly, it means that I can’t make my way up to the Etihad on Friday, which would have been a right ol’ grand crack and I wouldn’t have minded doing an overnighter and having a few jars in Manchester after the game, but such is life and at least I’ll be able to watch the game round the in-laws tomorrow and the wife’s uncle is a big football fan so there’ll definitely be time out aside for a beer or two and some Arsenal to be watched.

But that’s all for tomorrow, because today it’s all about pouring over what Mikel said in his pre match presser yesterday ahead of the game, as well as the team news.

I guess the main update was the confirmation that Mo Elneny is out injured and that is something of a frustration for the club I’d expect. We all know his limitations, we all know he’s not exactly the best understudy for Thomas Partey, but with the games due to come thick and fast and the need to rotate Partey from time to time surely being something that Arteta will have in his mind, having him out injured again for a prolonged period of time is not ideal. The real issue, however, is if it’s a long term injury. All Arteta said is that “Mo never complains about anything” and so I guess the club need to get a proper detailed analysis on how bad his knee injury is, but the timing is rubbish. It’s rubbish because we’ve all heard about the rumours, about the possible pursuit of Rice in the summer and how the club are clearly earmarking the summer to try to get a deal done for a top class midfielder. Elneny’s contract is up in the summer and I suspect the club thought they might be able to get away with him as understudy for the remainder of the season. But if he’s out for a couple of months, that represents a big risk and we’ll be given an indication of his injury based on whether they move swiftly in the market by next Tuesday. I doubt they’ll be able to bring for a ‘big’ move like a deal for a player like Rice (assuming he IS in fact the target) to this January, plus we’ve seen how Sambi probably isn’t the player to play in that role Partey plays – not yet, anyway. So what do they do? Stick or twist? I guess it depends on Mo. But they need to make a decision fast and this weekend I reckon.

Cedric is the only other player there is a question on and it appears he’s joining Fulham on loan until the end of the season. If it’s true they’re covering his £100k-per-week deal then great, but the fact we’re paying him that money in the first place is an utter travesty. It’ll mean a good £1.8million saved off the wage bill so I guess that’s no small change and if he plays regularly then maybe we can get some money for him in the summer.

On to the game tomorrow and some of the other stuff he said in the presser, I thought it was an interesting comment he made about the Kiwior signing, because he made a point of saying we had three centre halves and this adds the fourth. Hmm…so that means he’s counting Tomi and White as right backs? I suspect he would have played White or Tomi if were needed, but perhaps it’s positive that in his mind he’s clearly thinking the ol’ “two for every position” and that doesn’t include having those versatile players counting double. Personally I thought we were pretty well covered before Kiwior’s arrival but this obviously just absolute guarantees that. Which I think is fair enough.

But will he play the new signings tomorrow night and rotate his team? That’s a difficult one to answer and reading his words on the official site and listening to what he said on the videos, it feels very difficult to predict. I have only a gut feel on this but to me it feels like he might sprinkle one or two in rotation. Players like Turner, Tierney and Tomiaysu probably deserve the game time and they’ve been on the verges of regular football. You can tell Arteta wants to keep them motivated because he brings them on as much as he can. But ultimately you can’t change a winning team and we’ve been winning. Like, a LOT.

So tomorrow will give an opportunity for a bit of rotation and I think he’ll do it. I don’t normally write off the Fa Cup but as I said yesterday, I’d rotate the heck out of the team based on the fact it’s an away game and we’re probably going to lose, but also when Arteta was asked about the impact a defeat might have he was semi dismissive about it. I think if he rotates most of the team tomorrow and loses, the squad as a whole will probably be able to quite easily brush this off. I worry that a completely full strength team getting beat might have a different effect, so there’s another reason to give it a bit of a rotation and potentially save yourselves some kind of psychological disadvantage for later on in the season.

Right, that’s about it from me today, so I’ll bid you all adieu for now and I’ll catch thee in the morrow.

You have a good one.