As we begin the countdown to a tough away trip to Chelsea (yes, it will be tough, as they’ve not been as bad as their league form suggests), I’ve started to see the noises coming out from both fanbases ahead of the game. Whether it’s the Arsenal fans who are batting away any chance of a Chelsea win (slightly naive to me, but there you go), or it is Chelsea fans choosing combined XI’s with six or seven Chelsea players in their teams, the partisan nature of proper football is feeding its way in to my timeline. And that’s a good thing. Far better to have that than people enduring the international nonsense and with that now behind us for at least one more month I believe, we can all get back to stressing about who Arsenal have in the upcoming days.
At this stage of the process, if you’re like me, you are basically scrawling through pages and pages on the internet for any signs of any knocks and niggles. And not just for our players, too, because I’ve even taken a look at the Chelsea website (bleugh) to see what player availability they have. And there’s a big picture of the Chelsea captain Reece James back in training over the international break, which would suggest to me that he’s fit and available and most likely to play on Saturday. It is a big boost to them and a blow to us; I remember being at the Emirates for Unai’s first home game and he played brilliantly. He was a constant menace down our left hand side and bagged a goal along with Lukaku to sink us in August in what was a pretty depressing match if truth be told. When I’ve seen him play he looks like a decent player and having him back will give them a boost. But it appears as though they do have a number of players who will now be available for our game against them in two days time and it is when you start to look at their injury list that they’ve had at the start of this season, that you realise that they’re not as terrible a side as you might think. They’re a horrible fanbase, a horrible club, with very few redeeming features, but it is fair to say that they have been pretty decimated for the start of the season. So unfortunately for us I think we’ll get a more accurate picture of a Pochettino side this weekend than perhaps their defeats to Villa and Forest showed.
The good news – we hope – is that we don’t appear to have suffered any major injuries over the international break:
**touches any piece of wood in the local vicinity**
The hope is that after Partey got minutes in his belt, Saka didn’t play, Rice seems ok and Havertz was an unused sub this midweek, that when Arteta delivers his update on player availability (which could be today or tomorrow – I haven’t checked yet) he is a little more open than usual and just says that we have no new injury concerns. The big one we’ll all be waiting on is Bukayo Saka, but whilst Arteta may not give anything specific away, if he truly was ‘in contention’ when we played City, then surely two weeks later he should be fine, right? I mean it has been 18 days since he limped off and so he’s had nearly three weeks to recover, so surely he is in with a shout of making the squad?
The worry will be if he’s still out. Because if he is still out then it might suggest a slightly more worrying prognosis from the Arsenal medical team about the injury he sustained. I hope not. You hope not. We ALL hope not. We have all already seen just this season alone how important he is to our end product and in the final third of the pitch; he’s had the most goal contributions of any player this season and whilst Gabriel Jesus did a fine job filling in wide right against City, I think what we all want to see if our first choice front three finally lining up for the first time this season. We’ve had a variety of players who have all come in and done a decent enough job – Trossard, Eddie, Nelson a couple of times from the bench – but it ain’t the main trio and that’s what we are all itching to see. Gabriel Martinelli got 45 minutes and has had some time over the last fortnight to do more training and be ready to the trip to Stamford Bridge, Gabriel Jesus has been in the team and playing regularly for a while now, so now we all look to Bukayo to complete the trio and give us the best possible chance of getting another win at the weekend. I’d love to see if Martinelli can have a proper run at a returning-from-injury Reece James. It would be awesome to see Colwill against Saka, or Jesus against Thiago Silva. Then perhaps even we can have a bit of late arriving Martin Odegaard also testing himself against those Chelsea defenders too.
But we need to hear from Arteta’s lips that Bukayo is ready. When we get that,I think a lot of us will feel that wee bit better and also it will give us a boost ahead of – as I’ve already said – a game that I don’t think will be as easy as some Gooners are suggesting.
That’s it from me today. More thoughts and the usual ramblings tomorrow as always. You have yourselves a fan-dabby-dozy Thursday.