Well people, today is the day when we find out our fate regarding Saka. Arsenal already know the deal with his injury and sadly, it won’t be club that tells us the state of the player. We’ll find out when Gareth Southgate announces his Euros squad.
The one hope we had is that his injury wasn’t a blowout at speed… he was jogging when it happened… that could indicate he has discomfort over a tear. It might be a fluid injury, similar to the one that allowed Tross to come back early.
But let’s game this out.
Pull up a shot glass, pour out a 30-year-old barrel-aged shot of copium, and knock it back.
Manchester City have been beaten twice this season. Newcastle and Wolves. Both teams limited City to less than 1 xG. Both played deep blocks and caught City in transition. That is their weak spot; it always has been.
The last time Arsenal beat City in open play was in the FA Cup semi at Wembley. Those were the pragmatic days under Arteta. Remember when we had a specific dance move to get goals? Bleak football, but we scalped a few big dogs.
The loss of Saka could push Arteta back towards his pragmatic ways… and I think it’d be smart.
Arsenal could go for a double pivot with Partey and Declan. We could opt for Kai Havertz as a #9. We could go for Jesus and Trossard as the wide players… or even Reiss Nelson for the explosive pace and directness.
Not having Saka might feel like a disaster, but it could be the excuse Arteta needs to play something that works for us.
Talking of Saka, I do find some of the conversation around his injury a bit painful. Whether it’s a strain or a full-blown three weeks out… the fact he has an injury at this point of the season points towards mismanagement. If it was a one-off, I’d be kinder, but this is the 4th soft tissue injury of the season and we’re only in October. You could blame the wider footballing world for it, but I think making broad-stroke excuses for soft tissue injuries lets Arteta off the hook for problems we know have historic grounding.
Here’s the basics:
- 87 consecutive Premier League games
- 2 injuries in the last two weeks
- Injured in the first half of an away game against RC Lens
Load management (minutes/intensity) isn’t something you can look at in isolation. Fatigue builds up over time and taking one game off doesn’t solve it. Arteta has played Saka in 87 Premier League games in a row. That is HUGE output for someone so young and it was always going to come at a cost. Hamstrings can happen for a variety of reasons, but Saka didn’t pull up from a sprint, so it looks likely that whatever he was suffering was from wear and tear (fatigue). Clubs can control fatigue by lowering minutes or being gentler to players in training (I’m being very basic here).
Mikel Arteta is brilliant at many things… empathy is not one of them. He can be presented all the data in the world about where a player is fitness-wise, but if they are a good player, he won’t give a shit, because his belief is the best players don’t feel pain, they don’t get fatigued, and they will find a way to power through things. Declan Rice going off with a back injury only for the club to find out there was no problem is not an acceptable outcome for Mikel Arteta. That’s why he said what he said in the media about his surprise at him coming off. It wasn’t sympathy, it was disdain.
Arteta ran Saliba into the ground last season to the point he landed a stress fracture in his back. The season before, he overplayed Tomiyasu, the player broke against Leeds, and Arteta finished him off against City. Thomas Partey was not managed well two seasons ago, he was a fragile player that was loaded off a plane after international duty into a cup game the same day, then later in the season, brought him back after an international break and he broke against Palace.
Arteta is a monster. He likes intense training sessions. He pushes everyone to the edge. It comes at a cost.
If you really don’t believe me, just read his own words from last season.
‘Rest Saka? All world’s best players CAN play 70 games’
Let’s get specific. Out of the top 50 players for minutes last season, only 7 outfield players are from the Premier League. Bruno Fernandes leads with 6000+ minutes, but he doesn’t really press. City have two freaks in there with Bernado and Rodri. Granit Xhaka the only one for Arsenal.
1. Fernandes 6017
4. Rodri 5304
6. Kane 5190
32. Salah 4734
34. Hojberg 4704
38. Granit 4668
42. VVD 4365
Not many players can manage 70 games. Messi and Ronaldo could when they played in Spain because La Liga has about 2 intense games a season to worry about. That’s why the league can support veteran players into their late 30s. The Premier League doesn’t allow it. Look at how bad Ronaldo was when he returned to the Premier League. He caved United and got two managers the sack.
The best players need plans tailored to their needs. You think Messi was training like a dog every week? The badge of world-class or INDISPENDIBLE doesn’t distort the realities of the human body. Arsenal got it wrong with Saka and it looks like whatever is going on at the club ain’t quite right. The biggest advantage of having a young squad is resilience… we can’t have players dropping like flies!
Arteta needs to improve. No one wants to waste a season because of injuries. Let’s see how the week pans out!