Happy Saturday and welcome to the weekend folks. Hope life is treating you all well.

We had Arteta’s presser yesterday and he seemed pretty fine and his usual self when talking about the team and player availability for Sunday, which is good. Gabriel apparent missed training since the Bayern game but Arteta didn’t seem to worried about it because he just said his usual “we’ve got one more day to prepare so let’s see” approach. We’re all used to it by now, but by now you can usually pick up on the nuances of player availability from the manager; if he’s sounding quite relaxed about it then usually it means we’re all good so hopefully there are no surprises from his matchday squad tomorrow when it’s announced around 3.30pm.

What will be a surprise is if we see Jurrien Timber. Arteta was also asked about the Dutch international and although he’s in training and is looking stronger every day, as Arteta said when quizzed, he’s still got to go through a few more milestones before he makes the match day squad. Like playing in actual games and apparently there’s a behind-closed-doors friendly that is being arranged as well as an under-21s game he’s most likely have to play before the boss drops him in to his match day squad.

I’d imagine the behind-closed-doors game will be for those players who haven’t featured as much recently and Arteta spoke about how he has to manage the player situation, rather than the personality. That question was directed at him in response to Gabriel Jesus apparently looking ‘angry’ and like he ‘had a point to prove’ but Arteta just batted away any potential issue with the kind of consummate ease that we’re now very familiar with. He talked about how it is never personal, it is always for the benefit of the team and I would imagine the fact he’s been able to get such good responses from his players really hits home just how in sync they all are. It’s so difficult to manage a large set of 25 professional footballers who are all quality, could also be playing their football and playing regularly at so many other places, yet he only gets to put 11 of them on the pitch. In a way, although the behind-closed-doors friendly feels like it would be created for Timber to prove his fitness, there’s probably a side that Arteta could put out from the players who haven’t played very much, that could be valuable for them to get actual ‘on pitch’ minutes that they haven’t been getting this season. For example, we could probably see a behind-closed-doors side that looked like this:


Cedric  –   Walters   –   Foran   –   Timber

Fabio Vieira   –   Elneny   –   Nwaneri

Nelson   –   Nketiah   –   Cozier-Duberry

Of course there is the odd name in there that I don’t really know – the centre half Foran I added to make a full XI – but in terms of giving players games who haven’t really played some minutes from the first team squad, this could certainly be of value.

I know it won’t have the intensity or the exact impact of a high-octane Premier League or Champions League match, but that’s a side who Timber could definitely slot in to that would have a decent level of game against an opponent.

Arteta was asked in his presser about Villa, about whether playing last out of the three title contenders has a psychological impact and also about his reflections from the Bayern game and I thought he absolutely nailed the responses:

  1. Impact and respect of Unai Emery and the consistency of Villa, even touching on the fact they played last night too. It was a clever quip which nodded to the fact that he knows it’ll be a tough game, but it will be tough for Villa as well as they have less than 72 hours later got to come to The Emirates to line up against us. So there’s nothing to be stuck up on the dressing room wall for Villa, but there’s also a little nod to the fact that fatigue might have more of an impact on them than us – I certainly hope so.
  2. Playing last of the three – He just talked up the focus on doing our own job and I bet he’s been at pains to get his players focused in that regard. I often wonder what I would do in Arteta’s position; tell the players not to look at it or forbid them from knowing the results? That’s basically impossible and it’s impossible not to put players under absolutely zero psychological impact when you know what your rivals have done given all of the media coverage these days, so then the focus has to be on getting those players in such a strong mental state, that it doesn’t impact them whatsoever. In my head City are already two points better than us. we’re no longer top (they play Luton at home today). And we are already back to third because Liverpool have already smashed Palace at home (they play tomorrow at 2pm). So I wonder if Arteta is instilling that in his players i.e. “you’re already behind – now respond against Villa this weekend lads – take that mindset in and go for the jugular”.
  3. Reflections on Bayern being complete done, they’ve moved on, it’s time to be laser-visioned on Aston Villa, which is spot on.

From a mentality point of view Arteta is a monster and his team feels like it embodies that too this season. But the only way to have that truly confirmed is to go out there tomorrow and absolutely go for it against Villa at home and pick up the points. It won’t be easy, but it is something that we need to do and I am hopeful that this Arsenal team can do the business tomorrow afternoon.

We’ll be talking about it on Monday at 7pm regardless of what happens, so if you fancy joining us you can do so here.

Other than that, I’ll be offski for today and back tomorrow with a little look at our opponents and how they’ll probably line up against us. Have yourselves a lovely Saturday, peeps.