The winter break is OVER and the football can begin.
The good news is the squad will all boast a light bronze tan coming out of the Dubai camp, good for confidence. They’ll also have had some time to mentally recalibrate and they’ll no doubt have a bit more juice in the legs (legal juice).
The injury story is finally starting to look a little less bleak. The Newcastle game this weekend will see the return of Reiss Nelson, Saed Kola, and Bukayo Saka. Three crucial players to the Arteta model. Power and pace. Something we miss too often in this squad.
Pablo Mari is being earmarked for the Europa League game against Olympiacos on Thursday. Cedric has some work to do to get over his problems. Cal and Kieran are still a way off.
Quite a lot of the pre-game chat was about squad rebuilding for this summer. Mikel had this to say on the planning process.
“Absolutely, we have to plan,”
“We need to know the direction we want to head and to do that we need bear in mind different scenarios.
“With that in mind I have to tell the club what we need, where we think we can improve and where we need to aim.
“If we all aim for the same things, we put a plan in place to execute it, and make the process as short as possible.”
I suspect the direction of this summer will be far more pointed than it has been. Mikel seems much more clear in what his plan for the squad is and hopefully that will be reflected in the types of player we bring in, but more importantly, the emergence of Edu should ensure that this summer, things move a lot quicker.
The Mirror reckon we’ll likely move on a lot of the players with one year left on their deals. They expect to see Auba, Lacazette and Leno receive big money offers… and I’d be fine with that, provided we don’t bring in a load of bums in to replace them. Youth, power, pace and elite levels of football intelligence.
There’s a story doing the rounds that Saka is nowhere near on his deal negotiations. I know he’s a top talent, so the interest from other clubs is likely real, but I think he’d be made to leave a club that’s giving him what he wants: trust, coaching, game time. He has a good thing here, the fans love him, and he’s living in London.
The Newcastle game is big. I think we need to see an uptick in output. Arteta has been working his process through the club, he’s spent some time with the players, had some good moments, some bad.. but the squad is united.
Now let’s see what it has to offer.
Mesut Ozil has been taking a pasting from everyone this week. His output has declined at a rapid rate, and he’s under pressure for more than his body language. He needs to turn up, convert the effort into assists, and he has to start influencing games like he used to.
Overall, the team needs to be more ambitious in the final third. We have a very exciting front three however you package them. Better finishing, more ambition, and faster movement.
The next 5 games are about finding the balance. We are harder to beat, no doubt, but we’re not protagonists at the moment. We’re a little bit Wenger of a few years ago. It’s almost a tactical ploy to give us the ball, because we’ve no idea how to use the advantage. I think Nuno said he doesn’t believe in ‘pointless possession’, that’s where we are, we need some edge… and for me, there is no doubt we have the players to move to the next level there at this moment.
We have a pretty fair run of fixtures over the next two months. We need to make it count, get some wins, improve the football, and build some belief going into the summer.
See you in the comments. x