The beauty about such a fabulous result as we got at the weekend, is that when it comes just before we all have to endure an international break, we can live through that results and string out the joy for a little bit longer than we normally would. For me personally, for example, I’d usually get to a Wednesday and be thinking about the game ahead. But with no football to speak of (proper football I mean) for just under two weeks, I get to re-watch and re-analyse that victory over United for probably the remainder of this week at least.
We got to do a bit of re-living on the Same Old Arsenal pod last night and it was fun chatting through some of the highlights with the team. But there are two that we talked about that I wanted to touch on again this morning, if you’ll endulge me, which was the Thomas Partey discussion and then the way Man United set up against us.
For the Partey discussion, it is more about whether we can cope without him for the next couple of months. I haven’t seen an official timeframe released yet but I’ve heard a few rumours of the October internationals. That would be mid October and so we’re effectively looking at around six week’s out for him if that timeframe turns out to be accurate. During that time we have Everton, the Scum, Bournemouth and City in the league, as well as Brentford in the Carabao and PSV and Lens in the Champions League. That’s seven games and what we debated on last night is how much that might cost us. James was of the opinion that this could be a hammer blow and is going to potentially derail us, but me personally, I’m not so sure. I’m sure Rice is more than capable of falling victim to the dreaded Arsenal injury curse (Thomas Partey was never injured for Atletico before he joined us), but at this point in time and based on the fact he has played so much football for West Ham already and managed to stay fit, you’d hope he’s robust enough to play in most of those games. But I think in Jorginho we also have a guy who can come in and give some respite if needed. If we’re ahead in games liek Everton or Bournemouth away, for example, then you’d hope a player like Jorginho can come in and see out games for us. Those City and Scum games are two that you’d probably say we’ll need Ruce the whole time, but other than that I feel like minutes will be able to be shared until we have Partey back.
Of course the problem will come if two of our more injury prone players in Tomiyasu and Zinchenko, also fall down with injuries during this period. As a like-for-like move to bring Rice in at six for Partey I think we have to say I’m sure we are ok with it. But if Arteta loses one or both of those full backs…well…then we really ARE looking quite short. Partey was inverting as the right back when Zinchenko wasn’t playing and although many of us weren’t the biggest fans, you could see what Arteta was trying to do. And ultimately we picked up two wins and should have had a third were it not for us being so profligate with chances against Fulham. As a makeshift option in the absence of Zinchenko and Timber it looks as though it was at least an option but with Partey now out for the foreseeable future, we are quite heavily reliant on two unreliable (fitness wise) players. Which is a worry and especially so given we’re going to ask them to be playing midweek games too.
So whilst I am not too worried at this moment in time, I would be lying if I said that if we lose one more full back I won’t be feeling a fair bit of concern.
Hopefully that is not the case and hopefully we get a consistent XI going until Partey returns. Fingers crossed.
The other part of the game that I wanted to touch on was the way United set up on Sunday. At every opportunity they tried to slow the game down to walking pace and as I said on the pod last night, I think we weren’t being fooled in to trying to go too intense and press them too high. This Arsenal team has learned some lessons and I think when we needed to we had an intense press, but we were also ready to be probing when it was required. And ultimately it worked because we didn’t get caught too often in transition. But it does make you think about how we’re going to have to get used to this style of play; I would suggest that I think we’re going to see at least 10 – 12 games in the Premier League like that this season; a team comes to the Emirates, doesn’t really want to play football and wants to sucker punch us. Nottingham Forest tried it, Fulham tried it, then United tired it. I suspect we’re going to get a fair bit of it at home so we’re going to need to keep getting better at breaking down these stubborn defences. It was a bit weird for United to come to our gaff and be so insular, but perhaps it speaks to where they are at right now. For us, there were still some concerns – particularly how some teams seem to be able to score with pretty much their only attempt on goal in that first half – but it doesn’t feel like right now is the time to be picking holes after we are still riding high on the emotion from Sunday. So I’ll put a pin in it for now, but be mindful of the fact that we do need Arteta and the lads to be looking at why we’ve been giving up so many chances on such little xG.
Right, I think I’m gonna leave it there for today. Back tomorrow with probably more excitement and ramblings in the aftermath of the weekend’s fun and festivities.