Morning all. Probably a shorter one today, on account of the fact I’m doing this blog on the tube in and the wifi signal tethering to my laptop has been a little bitch this morning. So I’ll see how much I can get through before I hit Wembley Park station and then sign off for today.
It’s not like there is ‘loads’ to talk about though. The players will have been in training all week and at some stage either today or, most likely tomorrow, Arteta will give a press conference ahead of West Ham on Sunday. Moyes will also unlikely be giving any information about West Ham’s team news until Saturday I would expect, given that they play Gent this evening at around 6pm.
Having had years of Arsenal playing in midweek, then getting to the weekend playing teams that have been well rested and had a week off, I would have thought I’d be thinking that it is about time we played a team with the excuse of fatigue over us, but given West Ham only have to travel to Belgium to play their game, it feels like the whole ‘travel’ thing won’t be as much of an impact as we might have hoped. Why couldn’t they be travelling to Portugal, or Rome, eh? A couple of extra hours on an easyJet flight might have been better for us! Instead they are travelling to a place that only takes two-and-a-half hours on the train to London to get to. It takes me longer to see the Management’s family in Newcastle!
I suppose what we’re hoping for is a tough game for them that means they will play their full strength team, knowing that progression gets them in to their second European semi final in two years. Given the trials and tribulations West Ham have had in the league this season, that is still good going for them, with whom I have a soft spot for due to family connections via my Dad’s side and my brother.
Looking at some of the predictions of line ups online it looks like they’ll be going quite strong, although apparently Scamacca and Paqueta are doubts for the game. Whether that means they are also doubts for the weekend it remains to be seen, but I’m hoping they go hell for leather tonight, get the win, but it is tight enough that they still need to play their best XI next week, which leaves Moyes with some questions over who plays on Sunday. Hopefully all the kids, although I doubt it.
As for Arsenal-related news, the only real thing worth talking about from me this morning is the little interview Bukayo Saka did on the official site in the aftermath of the Liverpool game. Have a read here if you haven’t already done so.
As always he comes across really well, but what I paid most attention to was his reaction to the Liverpool game, which was disappointment but an understanding that the players have to mentally move on and all eyes and focus must now be on the trip to the London Stadium on Sunday lunchtime. Games like the Liverpool one can sap a lot out of you I’d imagine, so the fact that the team have a whole week to put some distance between the intensity of that fixture whilst preparing for West Ham, has to be a good thing I think. Some might argue that getting back out there as soon as possible to play a game might be the best option, but now that we are out of the Europa (I’m still smarting about that, by the way) I am hoping that what we see on Sunday is a fully recharged, fully firing, Arsenal side that is focused on getting the result. We will need to because there is no way a terrible Leicester side are getting anything at the Etihad on Saturday evening.
I’m loving the consistent ‘next game is all we are focused on’ mentality of the players. It is easy to say that as a soundbite, to make comments like “every game is a cup final now”, but the reality of delivering consistency in this – the hardest league in the world – is very different to just saying the right things off the pitch. There has been times over the years when I’ve heard players say it and not really believed what I’m hearing. There has sometimes felt like a lack of conviction in what some players of the past have said. But with this group of players I really do think they have had that mentality installed in to Arteta. Saka was asked about the City game and if that really is ‘the final’ and he responded with something sensible enough in saying it was more like a semi final. That’s what I want to hear; don’t talk about a game two matches away, because defeats to West Ham and Southampton before we play City may render that match largely redundant in terms of everything being in our hands. Take care of the business directly in front of you and worry about the City game when it actually happens.
There was some other nice stuff about how Arteta has evolved him as a player too, but nothing too in depth, so I’ll let you have a read. It is interesting, however, how there were many people saying two years ago “who has Arteta improved in this team?”. Well, that argument has had cold water poured over it and now what people would be arguing is:
Who hasn’t he improved?
That’s it from me. Just hit Wembley Park so I’ll get this out there and catch you all tomorrow.