Arsenal took a huge blow to their FA Cup chances when it was announced by Sami Mokbel and David Ornstein that Gabi Jesus is out with a knee injury. It’s thought to be minor, but that’s never stopped a cheeky three-month stint on the sidelines.
The news is bad because it gives us less options in a less options kind of 11. Zichenko will likely be out for the game as well. Two players that progress the ball forward and create general chaos. The deputies are adequate, but they struggle in big games. Eddie is a very good player, but he doesn’t have the spark of Jesus, and his form in front of goal hasn’t been good for a year. Kiwior has potential, but I worry about his lack of pace, and the reality that he looks very much like a centre-back out of water against teams like Fulham.
The bigger picture that we’re now seeing in full technicolor is this: Buying from big clubs is always a trap. Jesus and Zinchenko moved from City, they took us to top 4, but it’s clear why they were let go. Both struggle with fitness and both have form issues that mean our striker doesn’t deliver goals and our fullback gets exposed defensively on the regular.
When you’re buying from a big club at the fee levels we’re paying – it’s elite damaged goods. Like buying a second hand BMW. We get much better output when we buy players on the rise. More £105m players like Declan Rice, please.
Also, this incident just further cements my narrative this season that the biggest issue that affects Mikel Arteta is squad management and injuries. Every season we’ve missed our stretch goal, it’s been because we can’t keep our best players on the pitch. Part of that is who we try to buy: Zinchenko and Tomi came with injury patterns. Part of it is how Arteta manages the squad. He takes everyone, everywhere. He has his favored 11s. He’s also not very good with giving players time off.
Who had traits like this? Sir Arsene Wenger.
Back to the game today.
Kiwior at left-back will be a test against some of the pace and lightning-fast diagonal balls that’ll be targeting him. At least he’ll have been getting one on one coaching this week.
Eddie up front springs to mind, but his pressing leaves a lot to be desired, and I do wonder if we might spring a Kai Havertz false 9 kind of day? Only issue is you then lose his power in the middle of the park and we don’t really have a suitable deputy.
The main positive is Liverpool doesn’t have the magic of Mo Salah, the main worry is they are an attacking machine without him, they just lack composure in front of goal.
This feels like a backs-against-the-wall kind of afternoon and I’ve got to say – the vibes are far from immaculate.
We lack confidence, we lack leaders on the pitch, and we’ve lost the magic of last season in front of goal.
It feels like we’re hunting out a ‘magic of the cup’ miracle this afternoon – and that is what I’ll pray to the footballing gods for.
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Ok, that’s me done. Good luck today! x