Happy Friday folks, hope you guys are all good?
It’ll be press conference day today ahead of the Palace game and with less than two week’s until the transfer window closes I think it’s inevitable that Arteta is once again asked the question on whether there are any incomings happening this January and, inevitably, he will respond with a variation of the party line that he has used for the last 19 days. It’ll be a variation of “no, nothing is close. We have to find solutions within the players that we have right now”.
And to be fair I think most of us have accepted that. Would we all like another attacker? Of course. Would we like to see a left back come in? Of course. Would we want maybe one more midfielder? Of course. But we all know the confines with which the club are operating in and I think the average Arsenal fan is accepting of the situation. It doesn’t mean you have to like it, but we all know where we are, so we just have to hope that this team can have some of the longer term absentees return and make a difference for the rest of the season.
One of the absentees from earlier in the season who could play more of a part if Emile Smith Rowe who, if you read a few of the speculative accounts on Twitter, has apparently been impressing in Dubai. That is music to my ears, I have to say. I think we’ve all thought his time is drawing to a close, that Arteta “doesn’t fancy him” any more, that he’s too injury prone and that the very fact he’s only been given dead minutes recently since returning from injury is a sure fire sign that the end is nigh for his Arsenal career. But apparently not. I’ve seen a couple of people who claim to have at least some sort of connections inside the club who have said that he’s been impressing in training in Dubai, he’s really stepped up recently and has been looking good. Of course this could just be wild speculation, but if this is true then it’ll go a long way to helping his cause for more minutes in Arteta’s eyes and rather than ask the manager pointless questions about incomings this month, I really hope somebody asks him about Smith Rowe today. I feel as though he was asked about him a few week’s back and said he’d been really impressive in training, or something like that, so I want to know if that is still the case if Arteta is asked that again. He’s always been a little different when speaking about Smith Rowe; we’ve seen him say nice things, but they’ve always been laced with a little “yeah but he needs to do a little more” in his tone of voice. That might just be me mis-remembering, but I feel like Arteta has always been a little more guarded about our number 10 and so if Arteta is asked about him and if he does sound effusive in his praise, I just wonder if there’s potentially more game time in there for ESR.
We certainly need to have more creative and attacking options. I think most of us agreed that the players looked tired, that there was a spark missing in a few of our forwards pre the warm-weather training camp that has just gone on, but whilst that week spent in Dubai might help in the short term, in the longer term those fatigue problems will quickly come back if we don’t find a better way to rotate in players more often. IN six week’s time when we hit March and the are back in the Champions League discussions, do you think that if we’ve used the same 12 or 13 players, that we’re going to end up avoiding the ‘fatigue’ question? I don’t. So players like Smith Rowe need to be used more and they need to also be able to contribute more. I suspect it is unlikely that Odegaard, Martinelli, Gabriel Jesus and Saka are all going to now get 10 goals to bring them up to last season’s tallies, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t just spread the goals around even more. If we see five goals from Saka, Jesus, Odegaard, Martinelli and Havertz for the second half of the season then that’s 25 goals right there. And I think that is the lower end of what they should be expecting. Now if you add in another five goals from ESR and Fabio Vieira (I’ve singled out those two because they haven’t played very much this season) from the bench and you’re up to 30. Let’s think of another 10 goals shared between Trossard, Nelson, Nketiah, Rice and all of the defenders/midfielders combined. Now you’re up to 40 goals. I don’t think those targets can be too unrealistic for the remaining 18 games in the Premier League. If we get 40 goals in our next 18 games then that’s an average of 2.22 goals per games and last season for the whole season we averaged 2.31 goals. So we wouldn’t be far off last season’s form for the second half of the season. Now, if we remain as defensively resolute as we have done this season (recent games notwithstanding), then we’d be talking about 38 goals conceded in the season which would be five fewer than last season.
I know, I know, a lot of “ifs” and “buts” in that little bit of wish casting there by yours truly, but I don’t think those assumptions are unrealistic. To expect Saka to get just five goals for the reaming games when he already has six, or for Gabriel Jesus playing centrally to score less then one in three, doesn’t feel that fanciful to me. But what we do need to see is a change happening. I think if we even want a fools hope of competing for the title, then we probably even need to be better than the numbers I suggest above, even if it’s just three or four of the hypotheses I have mapped out. It feels like we need to see everyone chipping in with goals even more than last season and if we don’t, if we get the same as the first 20 games, then we’ll be a long way from the good team that we thought could have another go at challenging for the title deep in to the season. That means that we need the likes of ESR to be as good as some of the rumours suggest.
We’ll find out whether that’s true soon enough.
Catch you wonderful people tomorrow for a Palace preview.