HAPPY NEW YEAR! HOW ARE YOU FEELING? Ok, ok, I’ll stop the shouting, but I will maintain a quiet energy with the prose because I need you up for the BIG game today.
It’s a huge one, Arsenal takes on Manchester United at home for Arteta’s 3rd game.
I think it’s a stretch to think we’re going to take points from them today. A draw would be excellent work, 3 points would have us all buzzing, but when you look at how their squad is fitness-wise and look at ours, it makes for grim reading.
We are missing a lot of defenders, which is difficult to deal with because even when we’re fully fit, we’re not exactly 90s Milan at the back. There might be some good news with regards to Bellerin who is close to returning, but knowing how fragile he’s been, you’d be hard-pressed to imagine he’ll start.
The manager was keen to impress that the defensive failures at Chelsea; with a very weak backline, were not structural.
“It wasn’t a transition where we had a bad structure or a bad organisation, when we are defending big spaces on equal numbers or are outnumbered – it wasn’t the case at all,”
“We made one half-bad decision [to back off] and these teams, when in space, they punish you, for sure. But the other option is to defend all the time and be there [in defensive areas] and we don’t want that.”
So at the very least, we’ll be prepared to deal with United. They have extremely fast forwards, they’ll probe for counter-attacks and they’ll look to stretch us using width. Arteta only recently tasted a loss against them when he was at City, it was quite a lucky United performance, but OGS had his team of workhorses make last years Champions look very old.
Going forward is where we’ll have to provide something more interesting. Containing their threat won’t be enough, we need to create chances. The good news here is Gabriel might be back in contention, his aggression in the press and all-round threat could be highly valuable to us. I’d also imagine we’ll be seeing a start from Pepe, there has to be some rotation today and that seems like the most obvious place to start. It’s hard to work out what the issue is with the Ivorian because no one will say explicitly, but it reads a blend of work rate and general fitness levels. 3 managers in a row can’t be wrong.
Ceballos is also back in contention, people forget he’s a young player, under a coach that helps him, he might be U21 Championship Dani, so it’s a new start for him.
Xhaka is also fit. Again, not my favourite player, but he’d start in our midfield at the moment. If he doesn’t play, we’ll know he’s off to Berlin. Worry with him is he mails it in as a final fuck you to the fans that booed him.
I mused before the manager started that he’d look for a turnaround project, and it seems he has one, he’s going all out to make Mesut Ozil the star of the show again. Makes sense, he’s used to having lots of #10 like talents to work with at City and on his day, no one can touch Ozil. Additionally, we have no one that gets close to him on the creativity front. We are a more intelligent team with him at his best. The German looks happy on the pitch, he’s put in two dirty shifts, he’ll have another chance to find his level again today and hopefully offer something more decisive.
“Mesut is putting in everything he has and his numbers, physically, have improved so much,”
“On his own he can’t do it. He needs the collective structure, organisation and his teammates. He needs the team to play in a certain way to facilitate his strengths more and more in the game. That’s what we’re trying to do.
“I put him in the team if I see every day that his attitude, desire and understanding of what we’re trying to do is there. The moment that this changes, then he won’t play.”
At the end of the day, he loves living in London, he loves his contract, and he’s a human… he’ll want to be impressing the fans, no one wants to be hated. He might also have the afterlife on his mind, if he tanks another manager, no one will risk giving him the big bucks in 18 months. Wenger didn’t have a machine that worked for him towards the end, Emery couldn’t see past running him into the ground in a shit system… it seems like Arteta has a more thoughtful approach to extracting creativity from him, whilst pushing him to support the system. It’ll be very interesting to see what the physical output looks like today, because he has done a lot of work in a short space of time. Some will say we’ve seen this film before, but maybe with a more elevated thinker in the dugout, it could be a different ending this time.
The main worry I have about today is how another loss will affect morale. Bournemouth was just an unlucky day at the shooting range, the Chelsea game was bad luck with fitness and Mustafi… we really need a result to prove out the hard work and progress. The fans will be buzzing for the game this evening, a classic win would be a great way to start the year, let’s see where we land.
Right, that’s me done, see you in the comments x