Howdy Gooners, how we all doing today? It’s a pretty grey and grim looking one in London at the moment; almost as if the decision has been made that “that’s it. You’ve had your little taste of summer and now I’m going to remind you just where in the world you live” or something like that. There’s no rest for the wicked at London Colney today though, as Mikel Arteta will give his press conference ahead of the PSV game tomorrow at the Emirates. It’s going to be an interesting one because I suspect he’ll once again be asked about the goalkeeping situation and I don’t expect him to give away anything. He’ll most likely double down on his narrative of having two top ‘keepers, but I suspect that the truth will coming out in the coming weeks and we will see a clear contender emerge as the number one.
What would really mess with people’s marbles is if Raya plays tomorrow and then Ramsdale plays against the Scum. That will really put the cat amongst the pigeons from a media and football fan perspective, because it would suggest that Arteta really does intend on rotating his ‘keepers. Personally I doubt it though and I wonder if he’ll give Ramsdale the Champions League nod and play Raya at the weekend against The Scum. It feels like a natural and logical approach and I can imagine we’re going to see that pan out in the coming days. But it won’t be until 7pm tomorrow evening that the speculation will stop.
For me, I like the idea of chopping and changing the ‘keepers to keep them both fresh, but I wonder if it would be more of a case – if he were to do that – of doing it in a way in which you give the ‘keepers blocks of games, rather than alternating twice a week. That position is one that requires concentration, but fatigue doesn’t really play a part, so his assertion from the weekend that nobody wants to make any comments about Gabriel Jesus, or why Fabio Vieira played instead of others, is a bit of a deflection tactic, really. Martin Odegaard ran nearly 400km last season. Do we think Ramsdale covered that same ground, putting that toll on his body, during the same period? Of course not. There’s a reason that goalkeepers tend to not pick up as many injuries as outfield players in general, which is that they don’t put their bodies under the same strain and as a result, thigh, hamstring, calf, etc injuries just don’t happen quite as often. So whilst I get that having two great ‘keepers allows you some risk mitigation, until we’ve got a solid 20 games under our belts this season, I’m not sure those questions about Raya or Ramsdale and whether they can co-exist at Arsenal are going to go away.
As for the rest of the team news and out opponents tomorrow, I wonder if we’ll get any more hints of rotation from the manager? I suspect he’ll give nothing away as usual, but sometimes you hear little soundbites or snippets that lead you to believe that he’ll shuffle his pack a bit. That is almost inevitable with Martinelli out, but will it be a simple case of giving that position to Trossard? Or will he move Eddie wide left and play Gabriel Jesus through the middle like he did in pre season? Time will tell.
There was another item I wanted to touch on in the aftermath of the game against Everton on Sunday, which was Martin Odegaard talking up how impressive it has been how Ramsdale has reacted to not playing, as well as how great he’s been and how important it is that we have so much competition in the squad. The cynic in me says “easy to say when nobody is touching your spot, El Capitan” but the reality is that the environment thta Arteta has been building is one of continuous improvement. The players have to thrive from competition, they have to be willing to fight for everything and in order to do that you need a belief in the dressing room that everyone will get their chance. We’ve already seen this season so far that we used a lot more players – or at least it feels that way – than we did for the first five games of last season. We’ve already used 21 players in our squad so far and 17 of those 21 have had 90 minutes or more. Man City have had 14 players with more than 90 minutes, Liverpool have 16, the Scum have used 15, so we appear to be amongst those teams leading the way in rotation and if that means that we pick up less injuries later on in the season (providing we are hopefully still in the hunt for the big prizes) then maybe this early work in bedding in players and having that rotation can be of benefit for us.
And perhaps this is exactly what Mikel has had in mind given we now enter in to the intensity of the Champions League. I know that there are plenty of us Gooners who have said that this feels like a Europa League group, but this competition has a habit of getting teams to up their game, so I’m expecting this PSV side to be a better iteration of the side that we beat at home last season in the Europa League. I’d expect the same too of Sevilla and Lens as well, so there will need to be full on concentration for the visit of the Dutch side.
I think that’s pretty much it from me today. Got a long day of work ahead and until we get Mikel’s non-answers to the questions he gets asked, there’s not really much else to be chatting about. You have yourselves a good one and I’ll catch you all tomorrow for a match preview.