First and foremost, before we get cracking on the team news following Arteta’s presser yesterday, a word for Declan Rice, who won the London footballer of the year award at a ceremony last night. A fully deserved award who helped bring a trophy to West Ham and who has joined Arsenal for a big fee and been worth every penny so far. The ceremony was only marred by the fact that Postecoglou won the manager of the month, having only been in the post for six of the 12 months of the year (it’s an annual awards so counts for 2023), had won 12 of his 20 games in the Premier League by the time 2024 came around, is currently out of all domestic cups. But I guess the media love him and he does say “mate” a lot, so that’s obviously what the award is based on.

I say let him have the award, let them keep doing what their doing and hopefully let them finish outside of the CL spots. If that’s the only award the Scum can cling to for the foreseeable future, then that’s a-ok for me.

As for us, we – and our manager – have bigger fish to fry and Arteta was giving updates about the status of the team yesterday in his pre match presser. The first good news is confirmation that Partey has been back in training for over a week and will be in the squad for Monday. That’s good to hear but I doubt we’ll be seeing him make a start any time soon. He’s been out for almost half the season and his injury record is such that if I was forced to put my house on it, I’d be guess at a max of 10 minutes against Sheffield United, then maybe 20 minutes against Brentford, tops. But that’s ok, because we’ve proven that we’ve been able to live without him and you’d hope that this Arsenal side should have enough to pick up points against those two sides without him. But it will be a big boost and especially so when you think that after Porto our next game is against City on 31st March. There’s also no African international break in March when a lot of our players will be travelling, which means that he’ll have more time on the training ground getting ready for that City game, although I’m not sure that will be the same as Tomiyasu who Arteta said they were waiting on the outcome of the Saturday and Sunday training sessions before making a call on him and Zinchenko. Tomiyasu is due back in Japan for World Cup qualifiers against North Korea home and away over five days between 21st and 26th March so it will probably be just out luck that the Japanese sent him back to us broken, then just as we get him back up to speed he has to travel halfway across the world again to play for them. Whether he’s risked much as a result by us remains to be seen, but with the current options we have and the fact that we might also have Zinchenko back, I suspect they will err on the side of caution with Tomi.

In any case we’ve had Kiwior who has done really well and I wonder if Arteta once again sticks with the same team for that game against the team bottom of the table. We’ve been in scintillating form of late and Kiwior has been a big part of that, so rewarding him with another game feels like the right thing to do and for Arteta you’d think he’d be wanting to do the same for a player who has only been here just over a year and this is the first time he’s had any sort of consistent run of games. He’s proved his worth and I suspect we’ll see the output of that on Monday night.

Arteta did talk about the threat that Sheffield United pose and I think he knows that in the Premier League it doesn’t matter how bad a teams form is, they are in this division for a reason. There was a question from one of the journos about the value of goal difference and I suspect that was aimed at Arteta to say something to suggest we want to rack up a cricket score, but whilst the metrics, our form, the respective league position of both teams and probably expectation of everyone is for Arsenal to win, I certainly am not going in to a game like this and expecting a steamrollering; I don’t think Arteta will either and that’s the right mentality to take. He was asked follow up goals about Sheffield United conceding a lot but he had no soundbites, only platitudes for Chris Wilder, along with a comment that he analysed them many years ago and would be doing the same under Wilder now. I guess the other benefit about having over a week before the next game has also been that Arteta has been able to take a proper look at Sheffield United. He’s had time with there not being a midweek game to prepare for and he will not have had to focus on that, travel to that game, then have just a few days to prepare for what Sheffield United will bring. So my hope is that every tactical eventuality has been analysed by Arteta and the hope is that we have a team ready for anything on Monday.

This is a game where the pressure is on though, because by the time we play everyone else around us will have already played and already collected their three points. Villa will have won away at Luton, City will have beaten Man United at home, Liverpool will have picked themselves up a grinding out victory over Forest and even the Scum will find it easy pickings at home to Palace. The Premier League table will once again look like a bit of a gap with Arsenal just three points ahead of Villa and four off City with Liverpool picking up that five point lead too, so we simply have to react and Arteta acknowledged that too. We may have a pretty good goal difference now but we all know the premier currency you need to deal in is points, so that’s what we will have to be zero’d in on when the new week begins.

And as this one finishes, I’ll wrap up for today. Not sure if I’ll have time to write anything tomorrow as I have the parents over from this evening for the weekend, but sure I’ll be back on Sunday with some thoughts.

Catch you all then.