I had a stinking hangover yesterday after a company all-day conference on Thursday and so wasn’t quite in the right frame of mind to do anything, let alone blog, but I’m back and feeling refershed this morning and what a good job too, because there is so much to talk about ahead of the North London Derby!
First and foremost, Martin Odegaard confirmed that he had signed a new five year deal at the club and if you are a regular listener, you’ll know exactly how I feel about that.
Delighted. Super delighted.
Odegaard is not just our captain, he is our talisman, our engine, often the guy that leads the press high up the pitch and a man who sets a perfect example at Arsenal football club. He’s got a gravitas about him that belies his years at 24-years-old and where in the past we have had some captains who are unusual and probably not quite the right man for the job (Gallas, Aubameyang, van Persie spring to mind), in this instance it just feels like a match made in heaven. The pressure wasn’t really on him to sign the new deal straight away I don’t think; I think he still had two year’s left on his deal, but as his interview with Clive explained on the official site showed, this was an easy decision for him as well as the club. It’s always been said that he looks and feels good at The Arsenal and he really has found his place here with us. Arteta believed in him, we waited on him all summer before signing him back in August 2021 and I think the love he feels from all corners of the Arsenal fanbase have shown him that this is is his home, and I love it.
Arteta was asked about the deal in his pre match presser and of course he was glowing, because Odegaard and Saka are his keystone players and to have them both tied down to long term contracts just further outlines the importance of the project and its longevity too. That’s practically all of our ‘big’ players signed up to long term deal; now they just have to keep on improving and hopefully bring us major honours.
He was also asked about Martinelli and his availability and although you never truly get a proper response from the manager when it comes to team selection, I suspect he’s probably right in talking about Martinelli being touch or go. He limped off just a week ago against Everton and given the squad we have whilst it might not be as much of a blow because of the form of the likes of Trossard, or the availability of Nelson and maybe even Vieira and Smith Rowe, you just think the club will give him until the absolutely last minute before decided whether he can play. They have to go through test after test though because the last thing we want is to see it exacerbated leading to him missing out for an even longer period of time. We need him ready asap and if it means he misses Sunday but can be fit for Bournemouth away next Saturday, then I don’t think anyone at the club will want to risk it.
I also wonder if Arteta will want to reward Trossard anyway, after scoring two in his last two, so even if fit I wonder if he’ll be on the bench?
He was also – inevitably – asked about who would start in goal on Sunday and he said he hadn’t made his mind up. I suspect that was just for the cameras though; it would surprise me to see Raya not playing. He hasn’t had much to do, but he’s certainly been more composed and calm on the ball and with it being such an emotional game as it is on Sunday I think Raya will almost certainly get the nod. There is the game against Brentford in midweek and I suspect Ramsdale will play in that, because although Raya is an ex-Brentford player (practically – I know he is on loan but he’s basically an Arsenal player now), I think the club will want to give Ramsdale some minutes.
The thing that will be interested is how Raya performs if he plays on Sunday because he’s not going to have as quiet an afternoon against the Scum as he did for Everton and PSV. As opening games in your Arsenal careers go, he couldn’t have asked for much more of an easy ride than those games, but the Scum will test us a lot more and we know he will be busier. So he’ll need to show more than just good ball distribution if he starts.
He was also asked about how we are going to play against them and he recognised the style and approach they’ll have will be different to last season. Postecoglou has made them a much more attacking and attractive side so far this season, but they have been open as well and I think there was some hint in Arteta’s comments about how we have been playing and how we set up. Well, maybe not in his comments, but more in how we’ve already played this season. We’ve all been talking about how – up until that PSV game – we hadn’t really ‘clicked’ but what the metrics have been telling us all is that we have had a lot more control and dominance of the ball. I think Arteta wants to utterly ‘own’ the ball and perhaps we have sacrificed a little bit in an attacking sense to get to what he wants, which is less emotion and more like the City way of just relentless winning. If that means that we try to control more of the game and snuff the Scum out by monopolising possession, then I’d be more than happy with that. Tomorrow, it is only the result which matters.
He was also asked about the absence of Kane and how that’s helped the Scum and I think that was always going to happen. We had the same thing when Henry left us; other players just step up. And it was the same when van Persie slunk off to United; we couldn’t get one player who would replace all of his goals, so we got in Walcott, Cazorla, Giroud and Podolksi who all contributed 48 goals between them that season. That is what the Scum will be aiming to do but hopefully they can’t add to that this weekend. They probably will, because this fixture always has goals in it, but fingers crossed we can pepper their goals a little bit more tomorrow than they do to us.
I think that’s probably me done for today; got an afternoon at a boozy brunch in the City so off I go to put more toxins in my body.
Catch you all tomorrow.