Here we are at Match day again, as this busy period hots up, just as we’re getting updates from Arteta on how many players are not available for the next game!
He was in front of the press yesterday and at first it didn’t sound too great a prognosis on the players who would travel down to the south coast; as of yesterday’s press conference it sounded like there was no Timber, Partey, Trossard, Martinelli, with doubts over Saka and Saliba from the weekend too. However some videos emerged of the players arriving last night in what looked like a hotel I stayed in when I had my stag weekend in Bournemouth, which was dubbed “The World’s friendliest Stag and Hen hotel” was what they built it up as….I can assure you it didn’t feel that friendly and certainly was sticky enough on the floors. But I’m sure the club have bumped up the per person room rate in comparison to what my brother and mates had to stump up when they were picking our location…
The good news was not that they’ll all have memory foam pillows, but that Rice, Saliba and Saka all got off the bus in their Arsenal trackies which I’m taking to mean that they should be available for selection, which should be massive providing they are all fit. Were we not to see any of those players step off the coach, then you’re looking at a severely depleted Arsenal team travelling down to a place that will be no means be a forgone conclusion this afternoon come 3pm kick off.
Bournemouth are a decent side and I think their results have belied that a little so far. They’ve had a home draw against Chelsea, a 2-2 away to Brentford which is always a tough place to go, as well as a 1-1 at home on the opening game of the season against a West Ham team who are playing well. Their defeats have come to Liverpool (who are looking more like the Liverpool of old), the Scum (who are annoyingly in form), as well as Brighton away; a place in which many teams will drop points and who were magnificent last season. So whilst it looks like they’re towards the bottom of the league and not in form, there is definite mitigation when you look at the opponents and what they have done so far. Bournemouth’s problems when you look at last season was that they didn’t get enough goals compared to what they conceded, with the second worst goal difference ratio and the fourth worst goals scored tally. This season they have managed five in six and with the suspected news that Solanke could potentially be out having suffered a knock in midweek against Stoke, that could be a bit of a boost for us. He’s bagged three of their goals this season and he is the strong target man that they will look to in order to unsettle our back line, but if he’s out then they’ll rely on Ouuttara, Semenyo and then Kiefer Moore as the target man. He’s a big lump and will cause problems, but he’s not as mobile as Solanke so I’d hope that Gabriel and – fingers crossed if fit – Saliba can marshal him. I seem to recall at the Emirates that Semenyo had a bit of pace about him so we’ll have to watch for that on the flanks.
For us we need to be better at clicking. There was a bit of introspection amongst us Arsenal fans after the disappointing 2-2 against the Scum but as the week has gone on and you realise that at halftime we were missing a chunk of important players against their pretty much best XI, I think I’ve just accepted that sometimes it isn’t your day. We are all saying amongst ourselves that we haven’t quite hit the high notes yet, but the team has been severely disrupted by injury and player unavailability so far. I’ve got the programme from last weekend in front of me now and as I look at it I can see that of all of the games we’ve played so far, we haven’t once been able to play our strongest XI. My assumption of the strongest XI would have been Raya (ish – Ramsdale could equally take that), White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Partey, Rice, Odegaard, Saka, Jesus Martinelli. That side hasn’t once got close to starting together and in fact the only time it has was for the Community Shield, in which even then we had Timber at left back and Havertz up top. So whilst we can be frustrated with the start, we need to acknowledge that Arteta isn’t working with his favourite chess pieces in that position and therefore perhaps an acknowledgement of the fact it might not be as successful as last season’s start as a result is worthwhile. Certainly I keep telling myself that.
Today, assuming those players who stepped off the bus are all available from the start, my starting XI would be:
White – Saliba – Gabriel – Zinchenko
Odegaard – Havertz
Saka – Jesus – Nelson
Let me show my workings on some of the more contentious choices here:
- Ramsdale – I would pick him because he played really well against Brentford. He made some good saves, he looked up for it, his distribution was pretty good and I liked what I saw. I didn’t think Raya’s distribution was that great against the Scum and if Arteta is truly going to have a competition and fight amongst his ‘keepers because he sees both of them as the number one, then I think he deserves to keep his place. This is going to sound like it is a bit of a referendum on our ‘keepers, but if Raya starts today then I think it is clear that Ramsdale is the number two ‘keeper because on form you’d say Ramsdale keeps his place based on the last game. So this will be interesting to see. Ramsdale is also up against a former club somaybe there is some extra spark in there too for him.
- Havertz – he wasn’t exactly sparkling against Brentford, but I do think it was his best game in an Arsenal shirt so far. He was knitting together passes, was involved a fair bit and I thought he did alright. Arteta needs to give him more opportunities and this is the sort of game in which I think he’ll get more space to work the ball around in midfield and so I’d give him another shot today. If you ask all proper Arsenal fans whether they want Havertz to succeed or not, we all do, so let’s hope he starts and plays well today.
- Nelson – similar to Ramsdale, I think his performance was decent enough on Wednesday night and the fact he scored what turned out to be the winning goal will give him confidence. If we’re talking about players needing to feel like they are part of something, that they all have a chance to stake a claim in the team, then you have to give Nelson the shot today I think.
I don’t think that is the team Arteta will pick, because I think he’ll go for Raya and Nketiah with Gabriel Jesus out wide, but it’s definitely something I hope he’s thinking about (my team above).
We’ll find out soon enough.
We’re back tomorrow for the latest Same Old Arsenal pod at 7.30pm tomorrow evening so have yourselves a good Saturday (entirely Arsenal dependent, I know!) and I’ll catch you all tomorrow.