What a way to start off a day – with bloody COVID. Well, at least Arsenal are away this weekend and so there is at least that up side that I’m not going to miss going to a game this weekend. It’s scuppers a few socialising plans I have but such is life. I move on and Arsenal move on from Sunday’s disappointing draw at home to The Scum, although just to touch on that briefly, I do find it interesting just how many different corners of the internet are now talking up the arrival of a striker in January. Lots of people are putting two and two together and making Ivan Toney and whilst there’s no doubt he’s a good player and probably available given that he is down to one year next summer, I’m not sure this will be as cut and dry as people think. There will also be plenty of clubs in for him and whilst we have a good relationship with Brentford after the Raya deal I suspect this one is a little less likely.
But putting that to one side, it feels rather convenient that all the clamour has suddenly shifted towards the fact we are ‘desperate’ for a striker after the weekend. I get it; it was a disappointing result, we should have beaten them, we’re better than them, but circumstances dictated that a few things fell against us and as I said yesterday in the blog, at halftime we essentially were without six players who could all realistically claim a spot in the first XI on any given match day. So personally whilst I agree that we do need to make sure we are strengthened and whilst I do agree we probably need one more striker coming in, I’m not chucking the baby out with the bathwater just yet. We have barely seen Gabriel Jesus feature centrally and Eddie had a poor game at the weekend. I suspect if Martinelli is back for Bournemouth (fingers crossed), as well as Rice back from his problems (rumours on Sky Sports yesterday that he could be back in time to feature – so fingers crossed there too), then I think we’re still in a good position.
If some of the injuries are a little longer than we’d hoped of course – Partey, Rice, Martinelli and Trossard, for example – then I will probably have a few concerns over the next few matches that we have leading up to the City game. Let’s wait and see.
What we will know at some stage today is Mikel’s thoughts ahead of the game against Brentford tomorrow evening. He won’t give anything specific away, but I suspect we’ll see a fair bit of rotation tomorrow. Perhaps he will hint at that by saying things like “I have so many quality players we have to use” or something similar, but given our injury challenges right now this feels like a good time to be doing a lot of mass rotation to avoid any more setbacks. I think most of us would prefer not to see the likes of White, Saliba, Odegaard, Saka or Jesus start, but Arteta will probably fancy getting them on the bench in case he needs them. City have mastered this competition with their rotation and we have a pretty decent squad these days, but it still doesn’t feel like we can do the same level of rotation that they can do. I’ve just had a look at their third round tie against Chelsea last November and their team had Ortega, Lewis, Dias, Laporte, Gomez, Rodri, Gundogan, Mahrez, Palmer, Grealish and Alvarez, so that was a smattering of rotation and first teamers, with only a few left on the sidelines. They then played Brentford at home the game straight after that and Ederson, Stones, Akanji, Cancelo, De Bruyne, Silva, Haaland and Foden all came in. So that was eight changes made from the midweek and I suspect Arteta will opt for a similar model of a smattering of first teamers and rotation options.
The good news is that we do have plenty of decent players to rotate in. Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, Kiwior, Jorginho, Smith Rowe, Havertz, Nelson could all come in for game time and that would represent seven changes and still make us look pretty strong. Whether it is enough for the side to ‘click’ is probably something to debate and discuss. But when we’ve seen Arteta’s press conference and thoughts ahead of this game, it’ll be interesting to start thinking about what he says and how those words will manifest themselves on the pitch tomorrow night.
I’m also interested to see what Thomas Frank says in his press conference ahead of the game. He’ll know we are sure to rotate, but will he do the same? Or will the defeat at home to Everton at the weekend change his view on how he should line up against us? This is a competition where if you get some of the bigger teams earlier on in the competition you are likely to face a heavily rotated side, so it increases your chances compared to if we played them in the semi final, for example. But at the same time he will be thinking about the priority for Brentford and how it is to first and foremost stay in the division. There will probably be a few Brentford fans who would disagree and say that they are an established side now and a cup run might be a good thing, which I get, but cementing themselves as Premier League regulars has to surely be the focus?
Whatever happens, at least we get a bit more football tomorrow and hopefully we can maintain the unbeaten run for the season. I’ll pen some more thoughts in a match preview tomorrow, but until then I’m going to crack on with the day and not let this dreaded lurgy bring me down.
Have a good one peeps.