Right, plenty to get on with today, so let’s get straight to it. First, the part of our fate for fixtures this season we do now know, which is that we will be playing Brentford away in the League Cup. That is probably one of the worst ties you could hope for in this competition. In an ideal world you play home or away to a lower league division team, with a rotated squad that kind of evens out the balance as your side won’t have played much football against a side who plays regularly. There are 18 teams out of 32 who are from lower leagues so that made it a 56% chance of that happening. Then, for me personally, I’d want us to play against a really good side in the Premier League. One of the sides in Europe this season like City, Liverpool, United, Newcastle, Brighton, etc. They are in plenty of competitions, they would almost certainly rotate their team in that competition given all the other comps they are in, so you can play a rotated side and still feel like it’s pretty 50/50 for you to go through. So in that you’re looking at six teams (out of the 32) that would be better to play – 19%. So before this tie is drawn you’re looking at 75% of teams you’re facing that you’d be happy with.
So It’s just our luck that we play one of the 25% sides. Brentford are not in Europe, they are a pretty decent side, they will probably field a good side as this is an opportunity to go deep in a competition and on their own patch they will be difficult to beat. That’s a real kicker. I guess the counter argument to that is that if your rotated players cannot step up and get the victory then you have to ask questions about whether they are suitable enough to challenge the current first team, but playing football is also so much about momentum and getting game time and when you change an entire team as I suspect Arteta might do, then you lose some fluidity and I think there are some players who will struggle.
So once again I’d be surprised if we go deep in this competition, one we have only won a couple of times and one in which we don’t exactly have a great record with.
Still it’s better than our record in Europe. Which brings us on to the next topic of the day…
Champions League draw!
I don’t really mind who we get to be honest with you. It is going to be extremely tough to go deep in this competition, I think we are going to find this season challenging by trying to go for both this and the Premier League, so I don’t think who we get in the group stages doesn’t matter too much. I suspect we should get out of the group stages, but if we don’t get it in the group stages, I’m sure the familiarity of a Barca or Bayern in knockouts if we get that far will be not too far along the line in this season. Hopefully not though.
If I was to pick a ‘preferred’ three teams to face in the competition from the different pots, however, I’d opt for:
Benfica – I’d fancy taking the missus to Lisbon for a cheeky couple of days.
Young Boys – Looks like one of the easier of the draws.
Real Sociedad – San Sebastian has lovely food, plus we can all check in on how KT is doing.
The ‘group of death’ would involve Bayern Munich, AC Milan and Galatasaray I would imagine, as it’s tough games, a fair bit of travel and that won’t help us in our domestic endeavours either, but as always it’s more than likely to be a middle ground of the two I suspect. Whatever we get, you have to look at this Arsenal team and expect that they will give a good account of themselves; yes we buggered it up at the weekend and shot ourselves in the foot and yes, we’re looking fragile at home right now, but we have been dominating games and when not down to ten men we’ve essentially controlled all the matches we’ve been in so far. Means that this weekend’s game against United will be interesting because the opponents are far better than what we’ve played up until this point. More on that though tomorrow and Saturday as we prep for the big game on Sunday.
The other talking point about today is the fact it is Transfer Deadline Day. There will be lots happening today for sure and I’ll be keeping my eye on the rolling tickers across a number of sites, but I’m not expecting this to be a busy one today. Not for incomings, anyway, because we need to shift players more than accumulate and I think that’s what the backroom team of Edu’s will be focused on. I hope we can find homes (and money) for a few players. We’ll probably have Nuno Tavares confirmed first with his loan move all pretty much sorted yesterday. Then it’ll probably be Holding, as apparently there are a few clubs looking at him so I suspect somebody will pick him up. Knowing our luck it’ll be yet another loan move exiting the club, as we continue to lose out on transfer fees (acknowledging that Flo Balogun was confirmed yesterday for £34million – which I think will look like a pretty low fee if he bangs and in two years time is worth more than double that – at least we have a 17.5% sell on I guess) because we can’t shift our deadwood. There will, you’d expect, be a last minute loan deal for Sambi Lokonga and I suspect a loan for Cedric to probably happen, even though he only has a year left on his deal, as another club would rather just pay a small fee and his wages rather than sign him on a three year deal, for example. Then Pepe will probably have his contract terminated, he’ll get his money from us, then head off to Saudi Arabia or somewhere like that because the clubs interested would now be happy to pay up given there is no transfer fee associated.
If all of those deals go through, are we left a little short? Not really in my opinion. None of those players were anywhere near the first team and if all of this happens come this time tomorrow I think our squad – positionally – will have these options:
- Goalkeeper: Ramsdale / Raya
- Right back: White / Tomiyasu / Partey
- Left back: Zinchenko / Kiwior / Tomiyasu
- Centre back: Saliba / White / Tomiyasu / Gabriel / Kiwior / Rice
- Midfield six: Rice / Partey / Jorginho / Elneny
- Right eight: Odegaard / Vieira / Trossard
- Left eight: Havertz / Rice / ESR / Trossard
- Left wing: Martinelli / Trossard / ESR / Nelson / Gabriel Jesus
- Right wing: Saka / Nelson / Gabriel Jesus / Vieira
- Centre forward: Gabriel Jesus / Nketiah / Trossard / Havertz
There’s 23 names on there, with players able to play a multitude of positions, which is what Arteta obviously wants, but the problem with that is that a few key injuries and it does feel like we’d be in a bit of trouble. We’ve lost Timber for the season, so imagine if we lost Trossard, for example. That’s a player who could feasibly play four positions that you’re a man down on. If you lost him for the whole season then in some positions it starts to look bare. It also means you need to give more minutes to more players. So there is some thinking to be done here for sure. In the 23 I’m also including Elneny and as much as he’s a lovely guy, you don’t really want him getting anywhere near this first team for any period of time, do you?
So there’s some calculations that need to be made by Arteta and Edu today. Will they pull the trigger on one more player? Perhaps a versatile defender on loan? I’m looking at that left back position and both Zinchenko and Tomiyasu are injury prone, for example, so perhaps that’s somewhere we might have a punt at?
I think that’s enough for today. As I said at the top of the blog plenty of stuff happening so it’ll be interesting to see how this day shakes out. Tonight James and JJ will be on the Same Old Arsenal podcast discussing all of the above I’m sure, as well as the game on Sunday, so tune in here if you fancy a listen.
Catch you all tomorrow.