CHAMPIONS LEAGUE EVE BABY!
They said we’d never be here again, Wenger was gone, so was our future… LOOK US BABY! Tuesdays and Wednesdays mean something again. We are back with the big boys.
PSV is a staple of European competition and a team I have bad memories of – remember THAT performance from Brazilian Alex back in the day? Remember Cody Gakpo in our Europa phase? Prior to those years, it’s interesting to note that some of the greatest strikers EVER have had stints with them in Holland.
Romario did 5 seasons there, scoring 165 goals in 167 appearances.
OG Ronaldo scored 54 games in 58 games.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy, a player Wenger was in for, scored 62 goals in 67 for PSV.
They have heritage.
But, they aren’t a beastly Champions League club the likes Newcastle (Milan) and United (Bayern) are facing. We have been blessed by Champions League standards. No long trips, not mega clubs, 2 of the teams are in the gutter domestically.
It is VERY arrogant of me to underestimate teams in the big comps, PSV has started strong with 4 wins in 4, but the reality is Premier League is monstr0usly strong compared to the Dutch league.
The question is whether Arteta reads things that way. Does he take the opportunity to rest some of his core names? Or does he go big in the first game at home to get some points on the board.
One name I fully expect to start is Aaron Ramsdale. I’m sure part of the soft exit from the starting 11 was geared around the consolation prize of playing the Champions League. It was interesting reading the debate surrounding his exit from the starting 11. Arteta said there were two games last year when he wanted to sub out his keeper on 65 and 85 minutes. People are pointing towards Arteta being the first manager to normalize subbing keepers during the game.
A few reasons that I find this line of innovation a bit weird are as followed:
- The soft landing people are trying to give Ramsdale is that this switch is tactical. Well, if Arteta is talking about subbing a keeper last season, he’s almost certainly talking about taking Ramsdale off for Matt Turner. What advantage could that possibly have given us bar Aaron having a poor game and a fresh pair of gloves giving us more security? However you cut it, this regret seems to aimed at squarely at Aaron not having a good game, because Arteta has labeled this as a DEEP regret, like a top 5 type thing. Matt Turner hasn’t played a game of consequence that would merit that kind of regret.
- David Raya is a better shot-stopper, he’s better with the ball at his feet, and he’s top-tier for claiming crosses. That’s by the numbers – not my opinion. So based on hard data – what game state would benefit from changing keepers? What type of opposition would Aaron be more suited towards?
- You’re 1-0 down against Brentford chasing the game in the 70th. You have a deep bench of lock-pickers and goal threats. This defensive shape needs breaking down. What keeper on the planet is giving you something you couldn’t get from anyone else? What is the unlock a keeper gives you?
- You’re 1-0 up late in a game, you’re getting battered, the keeper looks a bit shaky, but he hasn’t conceded yet, but you have a feeling. Are you going to pull the rip cord and bring on a keeper to see out a game – with cold hands? Someone experienced in football talked to me about the penalty shootout when Gareth Southgate let 3 of his subs take penalties – ‘how the hell do you expect a player to score a penalty when they have no feel for the game.’ I would say this is even more relevant for a keeper. I watched a keeper in MLS get sent off the other week – the home keeper who hadn’t been sent off ran the length of the pitch to tell his best ball striker to shoot on sight. Why? Because that keeper knows how hard it is to come into a game late with cold hands.
- Occam’s razor. The simplest answer is usually the right one. David Raya is not here because Ramsdale was knocking it out the park. He’s here because Arteta had doubts, those doubts were realised in the first 4 games, and the change has arrived far sooner than anyone realised. People are flapping over the decision because it’s shocking and painful to see a fave hit the bench. But be real – no elite manager is making things complicated for the team if they have a keeper the manager thinks is the best. We didn’t bring in a keeper Arteta thinks is equal to what he has – he brought in one he thinks is better.
I’ve also seen some people say ‘well, we just gave Ramsdale a new deal’… guys, this is exactly what Arsenal should always be doing. Arsenal tied down a club asset to a long-term deal to secure his value. We did the same with Balogun, a player we probably didn’t think would make it in our starting 11. What we’ve done is smart business. The point of having young players is that if they don’t work out, you can get a big fee. If we’d let Aaron run down his deal because we didn’t fancy him. we’d be out in the cold fee-wise. This is an evolution of our off-the-pitch thinking – not an endorsement for a forever spot in our starting 11.
Back to the game – it’s at home. Is this a chance to bring Kiwior into the mixer? Can we give Bill Saliba a rest? Will we give Jesus a run out on the right side of midfield? Does Jorginho come into the midfield to give us control?
I’m expecting rotation for this one with a killer bench if we need to lean into it.
We have Spurs at the weekend – that’s going to require an explosive 11. Spurs has momentum, a manager everyone loved, and they have no European football game this week. They have a week to prep – we don’t – that’s a big club problem we’ve not had to deal with.
Final point, for the fans going, and the fans watching – soak it up people. We’ve been to some dark places of the past decade, but now we’re back in the big time with a squad actually capable of doing damage in the competition.
We’ll be dropping a Before the Whistle Champions League addition tomorrow.
See you in the comments. x