Oh Didier….if you’re gonna come for Big Bill Saliba, you better swing hard and true, because we Arsenal fans will have his back for sure!

Of course I’m sure Deschamps couldn’t give a monkeys about us and what we feel, but regardless of that, it does feel a little crass of him to make comments about how Saliba hasn’t been that great for France, that he’s lower down in the pecking order, etc. I’ve read a couple of comments on the translation not seeming as harsh as it does in English.

For reference, here’s what he said:

“He is having a good season, but he also does things that I don’t like so much…For France, he has limited game time, but when he plays, that hasn’t necessarily gone well. The hierarchy doesn’t favour him at the moment, but he is here. Dayot Upamecano has had game time and perhaps William has had less….With certain players, I make sure to persevere, because it can be confidence or little blockages that can shift…Some don’t have any concerns, some need game time. William has had less game time, so that doesn’t allow him to be very calm.”

Maybe it doesn’t seem as bad and only a French fluent speaker could probably tell me otherwise, but from my untrained eye it doesn’t exactly look like a coach whose happy to put his arms around a young player. And do you know what the first thing that went through my mind when I read this?

“I hope that this doesn’t mean that he is planting the seed that he needs to play somewhere else in order to get in to the French team!”

Ahh the irrational hand-wringing of a neurotic Arsenal fan, eh? The reality is that as we see in England some coaches just have their favourites and sometimes you just need to wait until the current incumbent leaves before you get your chances. We talk colloquially as fans about when a manager ‘doesn’t fancy him’ as a player, but you never really think much about it until you see instances like this. Saliba is certainly within the top three or four best Premier League defenders this season, he got in to the team of the season last year out, he’s backed up a good season last time with a good season so far and I am looking forward to seeing Upemencano versus Saliba when we see Arsenal v Bayern in a few short weeks time. Hopefully Saliba excels and gives Deschamps food for thought; there’s no doubt in my mind that the Premier League is a more difficult league than the Bundesliga and if Deschamps can’t see the value of giving Big Bill priority, then so be it.

Maybe it’s beneficial for us? Maybe his reduction in game time means that he can stay fitter for us for longer? After all the reason why we suffered towards the end of last season was because we dropped our firstXI quality by losing Saliba and replacing him with Rob Holding. It was only when that got so bad that Arteta was forced to roll the dice on Kiwior, who eventually started impressing (like the away game at Newcastle last season) that we started to recover a bit, but by then it was too late and City were away winning the title. So if Saliba can play minimal minutes tonight then that is a-ok with me. Let him come back to the Arsenal fold where he knows he will get a big welcome from the coaching staff, his teammates and fans alike.

The other news is that Declan Rice will captain England tonight and whilst I have no interest in watching the game in any way, shape, or form, it is clearly a big honour for him and you could see the way he reacted when he was asked about it. It’ll be his 50th cap for his country, it’ll be a proud day for him and his family, but I think when that’s all done and dusted and the initial match kicks off, I want him off that pitch in one piece as soon as possible. For me that means a maximum of 60 minutes on the field. Get him wandering around a bit, get his standing ovation from the England fans, then let’s get out of dodge and hope he’s good to go for Sunday’s mammoth match at the top of the table.

I’m looking at a few players already as those that could make Sunday’s game very different from last year. No Holding and instead let’s have Saliba alongside Gabriel. No half-fit Partey but instead get a pumped Declan Rice having just captained his country. Let’s make a better account of ourselves this time and unlike last season where it was always a long shot, this time around I am hoping that we go toe-to-toe with them and cause them some problems. I’ll start ramping up my thoughts on the game probably from Thursday, but my initial thoughts so far is that I want us to be competitive as long as possible in this match, because I think it’ll be a very tall ask to get anything from it.

But that’s thinking for another day. For now I’ll put a pause on proceedings and catch you all tomorrow. Have a good one.