The last working Tuesday of my year and it’s the day after we’ve learned our Champions League Round of 16 fate. And I have to say I was hopeful of getting Porto in the next round. It’s a city I’ve always wanted to visit, at a time in the year where the weather will be starting to pick up (February) and I’m hoping that if I can grab myself a ticket or two, I might even be able to get myself out there. Fingers crossed.
But aside from the personal reasons, it’s a tie that as Arsenal fans we can be pretty pleased about at this moment in time. Going away to an Italian team will have presented it’s own problems and the likes of Inter and Napoli would have been those ‘one paper’ tougher draws, but along with PSG we’ve avoided them and given Porto’s form so far this season, it looks like a better tie for us than the likes of the French Champions, for sure.
One of the down sides is that given the Portuguese league and it’s relative ease compared to our own, they play at home against currently mid-table and newly promoted Estrela Amadora three days before us on 21st February, whereas we have a tricky away trip to Burnley and although Burnley aren’t the same physical opponent they used to be under Dyche, they will still represent more of a challenge to us than a club who were only just newly re-founded in 2020. They also play Algarve-based Portimonense before the home game, whilst we’ll have been at home to Brentford, so they’ll most likely be aiming to rest some of their more high profile players like Taremi, Pepe, Eustaquio, etc. But having said all of that, it is the kind of tie that Arsenal should be looking at winning if we realistically want to be thought of as a side that should be going deeper in the competition. You’d fancy us at home and if Porto come at us on their own turf then hopefully we get a repeat of some of the displays we see in Europe from The Arsenal; teams have come and have a go, left spaces open and we’ve cut some of them aside. I suspect that Porto will be better than the likes of Lens, Sevilla and PSV, but they are still a side that we should be looking at as an obstacle we should be overcoming.
Of course when it gets to the day of the game itself I’ll be absolutely bricking it, but for now with enough distance of time between the draw and the match itself, I’m overall happy with that outcome.
That was the main talking point from yesterday, although the video that dropped on the Arsenal website which showed the rehab process of Arsenal Women footballers Beth Mead and Viv Miedema was also released. It’s obviously a horrible situation for any footballer to go through, but the fact that they’ve charted this journey I think is a really great thing to have done. I’ve only just started watching it, but it’s very well put together, certainly tugs on the heart strings, but it occurred to me that it’s also a really good way of educating people as to the reality of a long term injury for somebody who suddenly can’t do what they do for a living for a prolonged period of time.
I am as guilty as the next fan when it comes to injuries, because for example when Jurrien Timber got injured I was sad for him, but that sadness quickly turned to concern about what happens if we suddenly lose another full back from the first team, because we’d already spent a big chunk of cash on Timber and we weren’t going to go back out and get another one.
Out of sight, out of mind.
But the reality is that these people are humans and I think these types of videos released by the club go a long way to helping people like myself realise the mental journey that these players go through. I think it’s also educational for those younger kids and players who watch this and I hope every parent – whether they are Arsenal fans or not – shows this video – or maybe other ones like it for their respective clubs they support (if they exist) to the kids, because it is important that young kids growing up recognise that these things happen, that it can be tough, but that if something like this happens to you then you need to draw inspiration from professionals like Mead and Miedema.
And then I go back to Timber and the situation he’s been in since the beginning of the season and I can’t help but think that his own personal frustration and mental state must have been even more impacted. He’s just joined a new club, it’s a big move to the Premier League, he wants to impress, he’s had a really good start and there’s a buzz about him amongst fans (I too was very excited to see what we were going to get from this player) and then just like that, in the first game of the season at home, it’s taken away from him. And it’s not just a little knock to keep him out for a few weeks, but instead it turns out to be an ACL and that means at best he’s probably missing two-thirds of the season. At worst it’s the season. On your first competitive game for the club. So very harsh.
The good news, to close off today’s blog, is that the noises are that Arsenal are monitoring him for a possible February return and if that turns out to be true, then it’ll be huge for the kid. I doubt we’ll see the best of him until towards the end of the season but for him to be part of the squad, to be back up and training and maybe even to get some sub appearances maybe in March, would be a huge boost. We just have to hope all of the rumours are true and to be fair to Arteta, he was saying glowing things about the Dutchman only last week. Let’s keep everything crossed.
And on that note of positivity, I’ll take my leave for another day and catch you all tomorrow.
Catch you all then.