With the international break now upon us, it feels like as Arsenal fans we really need to string out as much of the good vibes from the City win on Sunday as possible. That’s certainly what I did and I’ve been watching videos, reading blogs and opinions from journalists and fans, plus listening to podcasts about how it all unfolded. And I keep thinking back to the last international break when we picked up a big win against United and dined out on it for a solid seven-to-eight days before the feeling started to subside somewhat.
I love reading some of the fallout though. Like how Kyle Walker and the Man City players were annoyed at Nicolas Jover and got irate at the refusal to shake hands after their defeat. This is the same Kyle Walker who decided pulling Zinchenko’s ears and laughing at him in his face was a fun thing to do after they beat us in the FA Cup last season:
Forgive me if I have zero respect or sympathy for Walker, who it ironically appeared to come out yesterday that he was annoyed at the hypocrisy of Jover after he didn’t shake City players’ hands after our 4-1 defeat at the Emptihad last season. Hypocrisy? You might want to look up the meaning of that, Kyle.
Anyway, it’s done now and he can take his salty tears back to Manchester. They will probably beat us later in the season at their soulless bowl of a stadium and then he’ll be all smiles again, of course without a hint of irony.
Hey, now is not the time for negativity though, because we can all continue to bask in the glory that was the long-awaited victory, which has been followed up with what we hope will inevitably be good news. And that comes in the shape of the England National Team confirming that Bukayo Saka has been withdrawn from the England squad to play against Australia and Italy on Friday and Tuesday next week respectively. It is a sensible move, it is the right move and given that Saka didn’t even make the squad on Sunday, seeing a half fit Bukayo on the bench against Australia would have left a sour taste in every Arsenal fans mouth. But I do wonder if there was a bit of a gamble going on by Mikel Arteta because all the noises from him last week were that Bukayo was ‘in contention’ to make the squad. If that is the case, then surely he would have been fit a week-and-a-bit later to face off against Italy, if not Australia in the friendly on Friday? If he was borderline for last Sunday then nine days later he surely would be fit. But he reported for England and they sent him home, so they must have been satisfied that he wasn’t ready to play.
Should that make us worried for the game in 11 days time? Perhaps. But I suspect that this was a conversation between Arteta and Southgate that probably went along the lines of “I am not going to play him against City, which is arguably our biggest game of the season. I am doing that so he can fully recover. It will be frustrating if he then goes away with England without any recovery time to get over these knocks, Gareth”. And perhaps for a change an international manager did in fact take in to account the needs of the player first and that is why Saka now has a period of recovery time in which he can hopefully come back fighting fit for a tricky away game against a Chelsea team who appear to be finding their form.
The other question mark from the weekend appears to be William Saliba, who also has withdrawn from his national team with a foot injury. This is one which I think is probably a little more up in the air, along with Trossard, who was withdrawn from halftime. We’re still early days in terms of player availability, but there are some initial updates here which include the official comments from the respective national teams on each injury.
The Saliba one in particular feels like one we’ll be more nervy about. With all due respects to Trossard, the return of Martinelli means we have our first choice left wide-forward back and so his absence – if longer than the international break – may not be as keenly felt. But Saliba showed once again on Sunday why he is arguably the best defender in the league by marshalling Haaland well and if he’s missing for Chelsea that will be a big blow for us.
We have cover in the shape of Tomiyasu or White and so it wouldn’t be the biggest drop in the world, but Saliba is proving himself to be a monster at the back and that partnership with Gabriel is really blossoming this season I think. Even more than last season when they established themselves. The link I’ve posted above on the updates suggests that there is an understanding that the toe injury isn’t too bad and my hope is that for Trossard, Saliba and Saka they get some time to rest up for a week before reporting back for training maybe next Tuesday and then get a few days training in ahead of that away day to Stamford Bridge. Seeing us line up with a fully fit best XI for the first time this season would be quite tasty, providing the likes of Thomas Partey doesn’t get himself banjaxed whilst away with Ghana. It would be just our luck that we finally get him back and then Chris HUghton plays him for two sets of 90 minutes in a couple of meaningless friendlies and then he comes back to us in broken pieces. We saw in his cameo at the end of the game on Sunday just how much impact he can have’; it was his diagonal to Tomiyasu that started the move that got us the winning goal, so I think we all want to see him back from the start against us. Fingers crossed we get it.
There’s not really a lot else going on – as you’d expect – other than the basking in victory, so I’ll leave it for now and catch you all tomorrow. Have a good one folks.