With Arsenal not playing until tomorrow afternoon, it is expected to be a quiet one from an Arsenal news perspective, I expect. Although because the team played on Thursday night in Lisbon, there will inevitably be some questions over some of the absentees for that game, because apparently there’s been an illness bug going around the camp. My hope is that it is nothing serious, but if you’ve got players who have been feeling unwell/sick on Wednesday/Thursday, then it starts to make you a little nervous for how many of them will be 100% by Sunday.
For me personally I am a relatively fit adult and if I have a cold or flu-like symptoms (not actual flu though) I can usually get over it within three to four days. But I’m about 15 years older than most of these guys, who are elite athletes and therefore will have much better immune systems. So I’d expect any kind of illness to stick around in their bodies for a maximum of three days. I’m talking to you like I’m some sort of medical practitioner when I’m clearly not, but just trying to ‘show my workings’ on availability of some players, so to speak.
It’s important though, because there were a number of players not fit or ill on Thursday and if we have those players still not ready to return against Fulham tomorrow, then an already tough task will become even more difficult. Apparently KT and Odegaard weren’t well and we’ve already heard that last week Jorginho wasn’t 100%. He should be fully recovered but the fitness and availability of Partey shouldn’t mean that he’s needed at Craven Cottage. But if a bug has been going around and hitting players at different stages, we may find that some players who seem to have been fine up until this point, suddenly get it from other players. They spend so much time with each other that things passing through the camp is almost an inevitability.
When you add that to the fact that we already have a shortage of attacking options, it does get an Arsenal fan like me concerned ahead of a really tricky away trip to a team who – like us this season – have surprised a number of people. Fulham have shown they are no mugs and whilst they may have had a dip in form of late, they are still going to cause us plenty of issues, because they have goals in their team. More on them and the game itself tomorrow.
Back to the Arsenal, however, and our challenge certainly seems to be in that centre forward slot. It seems as though Gabriel Jesus is very close to being available for the match day squad and that will be huge. There wouldn’t have been much training taking place yesterday as it was the day after Sporting, but I suspect the players will undertake some light training today and that means we’ll hopefully see more pics of Gabby J in those training session. Another one of those under his belt will be super positive and even though he’ll be nowhere near fit enough to start for us tomorrow, even having him on the bench as a option for 10 – 15 minutes at the end could be huge. Arteta has spoken about easing him back in and if he can give him 10 minutes tomorrow then I think it would make sense to do so. If you think about the games we’ve got before the next international break, it’s Fulham tomorrow, Sporting at home on Thursday, then Crystal Palace at home on Sunday. If you are looking to stagger his minutes to get back to fitness you’d probably think 10 – 15 tomorrow (if he is fit and able), maybe 20 minutes against Sporting, then maybe 30 minutes against Palace. Then you can work with him on his fitness over the international break (as he’s not been selected for Brazil – understandably), with the view to him potentially starting in our first game back after the internationals, which is against Leeds.
The conundrum over who plays up front in terms of the immediate future still remains however. Well, I say ‘conundrum’, but it isn’t really, is it? After all, Arteta doesn’t exactly have that many options. It doesn’t sound as though Eddie is back, Trossard appears to be out, as well as Jesus not being fully fit, so it only really leaves Martinelli. What I will say, however, is that I’ve been impressed with his form in the one-and-a-half games in which he’s played as a centre forward. Against Bournemouth he gave them some worries, then against Sporting I thought he played really well and deserved a goal on the night. There was that very good save from the ‘keeper when he was slid in by Xhaka in the second half, then there was the amazing run where he rounded the ‘keeper and was only denied by the outstretched leg of the full back. So he’s creating chances and he’s proving to be a threat. There’s been plenty of talk about the fact he hasn’t played as a striker, people have questioned why this has and the usual response to that is “well he hasn’t played there up until this point, so why would Arteta?” or “his preferred position is on the left”. That may be, be there’s no doubt he has the raw materials to play as a centre forward. He is powerful, he has pace, he runs in behind defenders and he’s got a decent finish on him. He’s alright in the air and has shown that ever since he broke on to the scene as an 18-year-old when he was playing in those Europa League matches a few years back. So for me, whilst he isn’t really Arteta’s first pick of who he can deploy centrally, it’s a pretty awesome option to have as your fourth choice striking choice.
Just before I clock off for the day, a wee word on Gary Linekar, because that’s hitting the major news headlines at the moment. I mean, honestly, how NOT to manage a political and PR situation, 101 there, by the BBC. Their argument over ‘impartiality amongst staff’ when it comes to political opinions just doesn’t stack up when you’ve got Alan Sugar publicly stating his allegiance to Boris Johnson a few years back. What is the difference in terms of impartiality there? It’s a level of hypocrisy from the BBC that you just don’t expect from the broadcaster and as a result they have seriously tarnished their reputation by hooking him for tonight’s Match of the Day. Which is going to be really weird to watch without the presenters. They need to come out, hold their hands up and say they got it wrong, get Gary and Wrighty back on the air next weekend and hope this all blows over.
That’s me done for the day. Catch you tomorrow with a match preview. Have a good one!