Happy Friday peeps!
Today is press conference day and so Mikel will be asked about the Champions League games, the game ahead against United, maybe even what he thinks about Brentford in the League Cup (although, maybe not 😉 ). There’s also the small matter of the transfer window closing and I wonder if Mikel will come out and bluntly say “no, we have no more incomings”, because that’s what it certainly feels like to me at this stage. There hasn’t been any noises on any specific players that usually start 24 hours beforehand, so I suspect what we’ll hear from Arteta is that it will be an ‘outgoings only’ day for the club today. And to be fair, I think I’m ok with that; I have made peace with it because as it stands right now I think we have cover in every position. Of course knowing our luck we’ll probably see Tomiyasu, Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus all pick up long-term knocks the second the transfer window shuts, but there’s nothing we can do about that now. Unlike Chelsea, you can’t just stockpile players ‘on the off chance’ that you pick up injuries.
But enough about the transfer window, because I suspect it’ll be quiet, so instead let’s look at more important things. I’m going to park the Man United chatter at the moment until tomorrow I think, because the Champions League draw was made yesterday and we got a very interesting group. Interesting in that it felt like we’d been given a bunch of the Europa League teams from last season, which is a little odd. But if you’re looking on the upside, we could have got the Group of Death that Newcastle got and that would mean a lot of very intense games during midweek, possibly more intense than the ones we have. Don’t get me wrong, Lens, Sevilla and PSV will not be easy games, but we have shown that we have the capabilities to beat this calibre of sides and if you’re looking to go deep in this competition, you should be getting better teams if you make it beyond the group stages anyway.
Sevilla won the Europa League last season but I don’t think they’ve started too well, Lens too have lost a few key players like Openda to RB Leipzig, whilst PSV have also changed their manager, lost a few key players like Xavi Simons, so are having to do their own rebuild. So you look at that group and hope that it is one we can start to rack up some points in during the early stages. That in itself is important; if you can pick up maximum points in the early games, it gives you a buffer for the latter stages when we get to November and December. We play our first match just before we play the Scum, then our second match just before we play Man City. So ideally given those matches, you want teams who are perhaps a little weaker so you can get points on the board, whilst still feeling like you can rotate. In an ideal world you’d want two home games maybe against Lens and PSV, but I suspect we’ll have one away to one of those sides, before having those two home fixtures against the Scum and City. We play Sheffield United at home after match day three, which could be one that Arteta looks to delve in to his squad a little deeper after midweek excursions, then we have Burnley at home after matchday four, Wolves at home on match day five before we then play matchday six after Brighton at home. So in terms of the home fixtures falling on days after we’ve played Champions League, that’s not too bad. You wouldn’t want to travel to Southern Spain on a Wednesday, get back on a Thursday, then have to travel up to Newcastle, for example, on a Friday/Saturday.
Of course I’m pre-empting and projecting positive scenarios without taking in to account form, the opponents’ form, etc, but as it stands you have to look at those games and think that we’ve done alright out of that group stages and the subsequent matches we play domestically. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how Arteta shuffles his pack. He’s already started to move things around a bit by chopping and changing his starting XI in the opening weeks of the season and I just wonder if that is with a view to saying to the squad “lads, we’re playing two games a week and I’ll be using you ALL every week, so be ready”. It has resulted in some slightly clunky performances so far, but if it means the squad as a whole starts to get a better rhythm when the games are coming thick and fast, then I am absolutely all in for it.
For me it’s just good to be back in it. For selfish reasons as well, I like a few more Saturday games, although I’m sure the TV companies will scupper that, but at least playing European football on a Tuesday or Wednesday will ensure that in theory at least, we should be getting a little more Saturday action than in recent years. It’ll also be nice to hear that Champions League music come rolling in and, hopefully, plenty of that Champions League coing too.
I think i’ll leave it there for the day. If you fancy listening in to a match preview from the two James’ that was recorded on the Same Old Arsenal pod yesterday, you can do so here.