Losing isn’t fun and I’m still smarting a bit from that needless defeat to Lens last night. However, I wonder how PSG fans are feeling this morning, having seen their side battered (scoreline-wise) against Newcastle at St James’ last night. I was thinking about that result and how much of a big thing for Newcastle fans that was, but when I heard that it was their first Champions League night in over 20 years, it made me realise that Lens essentially had the same evening as they did on Tuesday. For the French runners-up it was 21 years and at full time you saw all of their fans going mad, some crying, overwhelmed by the emotion of beating a big club in the shape of The Arsenal. It was the same for Newcastle and when I started to realise that, I was thankful that I’m an Arsenal fan and not a PSG one, because a 4-1 defeat to Lens on Tuesday would have had a lot of pitchforks out if that’d happened to us.
The game last night in Newcastle, from a stats perspective, looked like Newcastle were ruthless in taking their chances and when I think about what happened to us, it feels the same. PSG dominated ball, we dominated ball, PSG had some decent chances but couldn’t capitalise in the box, we had some decent chances but couldn’t capitalise in the box. Then Newcastle got maximum output, much like Lens got maximum output.
The two games taken in isolation as similar is pretty much where the correlation between us and PSG is where it stops though. We aren’t a financially doped club dominating a second tier league; we’re in the toughest league in the world and we’re up against financially doped clubs. Like Newcastle. I saw a tweet from somebody that was spot on last night. I can’t find it now but essentially it said “this isn’t a fairytale story here. This is what happens when you are run by a state-funded and owned club with £1billion pumped in to it. So whilst the media can romanticise all they like about the evening, the reality is that this is a team with hundreds and hundreds of millions pumped in to it.
But enough about that, because what we want to focus on now is another state-funded, financially-doped, impervious-to-sanctions, football team visiting us at the weekend in the shape of Man City. They beat Leipzig 3-1 last night to reaffirm that any thoughts of their demise after two straight defeats is greatly exaggerated. They’ll come to the Emirates on Sunday buoyed by that win away and although they have a day less to prepare, they’ll still be able to get home today, have a rest, then get a couple of training sessions in tomorrow and Saturday before travelling down to London before playing us.
For us we’re all on tenterhooks with regards to Bukayo Saka. The noises coming from some ITK corners of social media yesterday was that Saka had suffered a muscle strain and that initial fears are that he isn’t bad as some were concerned with. If that is the case and he can recover then great, but it does feel like we’re walking a tightrope with him right now. I suspect he won’t train at all this week and maybe they’ll run last minute tests on Saturday to see how available he is, but if it is a muscle strain I’d be surprised to see him in the starting line up on Sunday.
Of course we’ve all heard and seen this before, even last weekend when he hobbled off, only for him to start in France on Tuesday. We have to trust that the club have a superior set of qualified professionals who will test every part of him to see how much movement and ability to play he has and that they will take his knocks very seriously. As much as we’re all desperate for us to – for once – have a fully fit team to line up against City this weekend, I’d rather he missed that game and is available for everything else in the coming months, than us risk something twanging and we lose him until Christmas, for example.
He seems like a robust enough lad though. He is battered and knocked about all of the time. He is clattered in to by full backs wherever he goes, yet he gets up and carries on. But the frequency with which he seems to be wincing is increasing and that is why so many of us have the concerns we have.
If he misses the game on Sunday it will be tough though. One of the problems we had from Tuesday was that the explosive power and pace of our wide forwards just wasn’t there in the second half. Trossard didn’t have a great game but that might be down to fitness, although even if he was fully fit he doesn’t offer the raw power and pace of somebody like Martinelli. There’s no talk of him returning to training so we have to assume that he’s out until after the latest pointless international break. Then on the other side Fabio Vieira didn’t really look comfortable at all I thought. Again he is more of an inverted player who is going to want to work more in field than out wide and even then, he’s not somebody who you see beating a man, is he? So what we had was two guys who weren’t going to run in behind the Lens back line and as a result they were happy to just set themselves up well defensively and ask us to pose the question as to whether we could break them down. We all know that we couldn’t and the result is the questions that fans like me are asking.
City will provide a much bigger and different threat, but without that explosive pace in behind to stretch their full backs, I do worry about how we are going to overcome a side with whom it’s been so long since we beat them in the league, I can’t even remember.
No doubt that is what Arteta is pondering right now and hopefully he and his coaching staff can come up with a solution to that if both of our first choice wide forwards are out come Sunday.
Catch you all tomorrow with more of the usual ramblings. Have a good’un.