Morning Gooners, how we all doing?

Been away from the blog for the last two days on account of a case of food poisoning that I got from a restaurant in London Waterloo on Saturday night. Wiped me out for two days but ready and rocking after what it feels like some mammoth sleeps and recovery that has just taken place. The problem I have from an Arsenal perspective, of course, is that talking about the friendly on Saturday night which I would have done on Sunday morning, is a little old hat now. There’s been plenty of discussions online, in video and on podcasts, that you’ve probably heard it all already. So apologies if I bore you with this first little bit, as I finally got around to watching the game in full yesterday when I was able to get up.

I was worried before I watched the game that this was going to be an Arsenal team who had been ‘found out’ when I saw the score and nothing else. That’s the trouble with placing too much stock in friendlies though. Although last summer was great because we looked so good, I think it meant more because we suddenly saw us play a different style with the likes of Zinchenko and Gabby J, that because that was busted out and we just won all of our games, it felt so different that it felt significant. We are a year later, we played a fellow rival, we adopted a different style by inverting our right back in Timber, plus we conceded two shoddy goals. That’s pretty much it. Had we not have conceded silly goals like that, it wouldn’t have surprised me to see that we played out a draw.

We played within ourselves, popped the ball around well enough, tried to get the ball out wide to Bukayo and Martinelli, then got booted about by United. Lisandro Martinez even picked up a card and it was clear that Ten Haag United tried the ol’ “get stuck in to em lads” mantra. Well that may well happen at the Emirates in September, but they won’t have as lenient a referee and they will have the home support roaring rage if it does, so let’s not expect the exact same outcome.

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Barca this Thursday will – hopefully – be a little more about players on the pitch putting in a display for the assembled fan. I would expect it to be more about technical football, ball movement, rather than “let’s see if we can go through Bukayo Saka on rotation today” football. Which is a-ok for me. Again, it is about getting minutes in those legs, of trying different combinations, to see what works and what doesn’t. We do probably need to see Zinczenko though because he hasn’t featured all tour and we’re getting close to the point in which you’d have to say that he isn’t going to be ready for the season opener against Forest. We have the match on Thursday, then Monaco next Wednesday, then it is the Community Shield, although whether he’ll be there or not I’m not sure, because there is the ‘Game 4 Ukraine’ match at Stamford Bridge taking place the day before. It’s one of those ‘former pro’s and celebrities’ matches, but I don’t actually know if he will take part in any way. Perhaps he is still involved in the Community Shield but I wonder if Arteta has said to just focus on that in case there are any distractions? It is kind of a big deal for Zinchenko to be putting on an event with Schevchenko that is going to help so many people in his homeland and we’ve all seen how much the war in Ukraine has impacted players like him. I just had a look at the teams and it looks like the only player currently playing is Mudryk, but I wonder if Zinchenko and Svechenko will also get on the pitch? If so then that would completely rule him out the next day I would have thought and it is probably better that Arsenal allow Zinny to focus on that charity game, but just make sure he doesn’t cause himself any injury concerns.

If that is the case then we’re looking at the Barcelona and Monaco games for him to get any game time in ahead of the kick off against Forest in mid August and when you think about how Tomiyasu, KT and Fabio Vieira’s summer was impacted by not playing all of the games, you have to wonder if that will impact the start to the season for Zinchenko too.

That will also leave a question for Arteta on who plays left back and given that he’s been trying lots of different things this pre season so far, you’d have to say that it all feels very up in the air so far. He started Kiwior at left back in Nurnberg, then it was Tomiyasu against United, so if he plays Tierney there from the start against Barca then it’ll really make me wonder what his plans are in that position for the season. If Timber plays again though, you’d have to say that it must be with a view to playing the inverted full back on the right hand side at the start of the season. That’s what I would do, anyway, because i’d want to get Timber as quickly acquainted with that style of play as possible. It’s great that we can opt for right or left as the inverted full back approach, but there’s no doubt that what Zinchenko gives us at this moment in time is more superior, so perhaps the plan is to give some minutes for that approach, but equally play with both White and another centre half at left back, so we have four big, physical centre halves who can win the aerial duels, have the pace and can be better on one-on-one duels with their marker. It’s an idea that we’ve seen Pep adopt and maybe Arteta fancies at least giving it a go.

It’s worth trying different things if Arteta wants different answers to questions that teams pose our defence, so I’m up for seeing some changes in the next couple of matches. Heck, even if we’re still tinkering for the Community Shield in 13 days time I’d be ok with it. So long as we are very clear in what we need to do by the following week after that and we have everyone knowing exactly what is needed to get those first precious three points.

Catch you all tomorrow.