by .

The rotation merchants took a scalp in the Luton Town game. Mikel Arteta made 5 pretty substantial changes to his starting 11 and exited with two goals, a clean sheet, less than 0.3 xG, and a MoTM performance from Emile Smith Rowe.

It was a great evening considering we rested Kiwior, Rice, Jorginho, Jesus, Saka, and Martinelli. I’m not sure there’s too much to write about. It was drama-less. We started strongly, controlled the spaces we normally control, and we were clinical when we needed to be.



by .

Luton pose a big threat to Arsenal this evening, they are dangerous because they have nothing to lose. They’re a prison lifer targeting a guard. Chances are low, but if they’re lucky, they could land a killer shank on our season.

We cannot allow that to happen.

The challenge for Arteta is absolutely clear: How can he push rotation to the max without derailing the momentum of the first team this season.

There are some easy wins for him.

Tomiyasu and Zinchenko. They are first-teamers, not back-ups. You’re not dropping any more than 3-5% with those two. Both need minutes, neither will let the team down.

Thomas Partey is where things get tricky. A monster player who has been underplayed this season, but his form limitations could be propped by the legs of Declan Rice or the experience of Jorginho. I’d favor Declan in this game because I think Jorginho is higher risk because of his age. But it’s also worth noting Jorginho has played only 1400 minutes compared to the 3300 of Declan.

I’d love to see Martin Odegaard given a rest in this game, but my fear is the only option Arteta would roll with is Fabio Vieira. A player who has a lot of final ball production but one who seriously lacks intensity, focus and an overall fit into our system. It’s high risk to rest your captain when the drop is 40%. Wouldn’t it be nice if Emile was in favor? Perfect game for his talents.

The front three is a little easier. Saka has to sit on the bench. But the forward line could be Martinelli (for fitness), Jesus for form, and Reiss Nelson who really hasn’t had many chances to prove value for money this season.

I’d love to see Gabriel or Saliba rested, but who steps in there? Kiwior at centre back hasn’t been a dice Arteta has rolled, nor have we fancied shifting Ben White into the middle (he needs a rest).

This is a huge challenge for Mikel, but it doesn’t get much better than Luton at home. It’s now or never. After this, there’s no chance to bench players because we’re going up against mid- to upper-table clubs.

Arteta seemed relaxed and calm in his pre-match presser. His message was clear – you have to do you job when called upon and you have to keep quiet if you don’t like it… because that’s the game.

One bit of injury news was that Jurrien Timber is ready but needs game minutes. He said he’s confident he’ll play before the end of the season. When the internet nerds were telling you he’d be seeing minutes by the end of February, and I said early to mid-April, who was closer to the truth? Me. Stop putting your faith in 14-year-olds unless they’re really good academy kids you are hopeful of.

Ok, if you’re in America, and you have an MLS Season Pass, Arsenal will be playing St. Louis CITY sc (U15) today. Quite the conundrum for me.

Right, see you ON THE WHISTLE after the game if you’re signed up to our Patreon.



by .

It’s Tuesday, and I’m still feeling pretty good about that Manchester City result. However, the bland punditry surrounding Arsenal this season has put a slight dampener on proceedings. It’s all a little personal, right?


A manager on the sidelines deemed disrespectful.

Having a bit too much fun with the club photographer.

And now, we’re dissecting a clean sheet at the Etihad, the first one in 882 days, as if it’s an insult to the beautiful game? Claiming we lacked ambition? That it wasn’t a serious performance?

When it boils down to it, people are resistant to change, and the change they’re resisting is Arsenal’s return to the top table.

Once we scoop that first glorious Premier League title, this nonsense will cease, and Arteta’s junior standing in the managerial hierarchy amongst pundits will change overnight.



by .

Arsenal vs. Manchester City lived up to the billing we expected – two teams that play the same style of football, effectively canceling each other out in a game of chess, versus the blow-out festival of football the world was hoping for.

It’s quite odd to read so many people complaining about the way Arsenal approached the game at The Etihad – the same people laughing at us last season for blowing a gasket because we were too emotional are now falling over themselves to whine that we didn’t take it to them. Pundits that laughed at our naievite over the years now falling over themselves to pick holes in a cautious and professional approach.



by .

I’m writing this the night before the game.

Why am I not scared?

What is this tingling feeling… ah, it is confidence. A sensation I have not felt in an away game at City in many a moon.

But it is justified.

Arsenal is the best team in the Premier League this season, by any metric. We fight and control, we have big-game players, our defence is beastly, and our attack is on fire.

Professional footballers tend to peak between 27 and 31. Arsenal doesn’t have many players over the age of 26 years old. Why am I telling you that? Because a game like the one we’re about to face is a learning experience on the biggest stage in the world. If we win, we’ve managed nerves in a big game. If we lose, we’re going to have to learn to bounce back for two competitions. If we draw, we’ve learned to manage a big game away from home and escape unscathed.

Whatever happens, we’ll be developing our IP code stack. Don’t buy that? Look at how long it took the most expensively assembled squad in the league to win a Champions League final under the greatest manager of all time.



by .

I spent some time today watching the Pep and Arteta press conferences. My key takeaway?

How very boring.

It’s interesting that this idea now translates into pressers when we talk about the shift this season towards a less emotional setup.

Arteta doesn’t want in on any drama.

Pep is the same.

I feel like the whole Arsenal operation is more mature this season, and hopefully, that’ll benefit us on Sunday.

The big news from the day was that John S and Kyle W are both out of the game on Sunday. You can point to their monstrous squad as a salve, but I’m not sure that’ll offer much solace to City fans. Stones is an incredibly unique player that can’t be replaced and Walker is pure winnertivity.

That’s a loss.

Arsenal doesn’t have major injury concerns. The only problem is going to be Martinelli. He has a cut on his foot, and he’s had to sit on the couch since the Sheff U game on March 4th. Even if his foot was perfect, he’d be undercooked for a game like City.

My guess? Gabi Jesus will get the nod outside and we’ll get a glimpse into what he could be for us next season if he’s not sold this summer.

I’m not really sure where the surprises this Sunday are coming from. I have a feeling we’re the least likely of the two sides to spring a tactical madness and I have my doubts we’ll see a wild pick in the starting 11. The only outstanding question for me is Kiwior or Zinchenko? If City has to play 4 centre backs, maybe Arteta will be more inclined to offer minutes to Zinchenko. But who knows?

The key thought to take from Sunday is the most important thing is to not lose. A draw would be fantastic. A loss, despite some of the chatter, will not be fatal. We still have a quarter of the season to manage and all three teams in the title race have to contend with Europe.

Win and we’re 4 clear of City.

Lose and we’re 2 points behind.

Those margins don’t determine a title winner in early April.

In non-City news, Ethan Nwaneri signed his first pro contract with Arsenal. This was a huge win for Edu, Arteta, and Garlick. The best prospect in his age category is going to give it a go in a squad that really does pose a challenge to him. Arsenal have pulled out all the stops, we’ve given him a record-breaking debut, he’s seen Premier League minutes, and Martin Odegaard is his mentor.

Becoming the best club in the world for young players is something I wrote about for years… well, now we are. The question is can we maintain that rep when we’re winning titles? If we can, why wouldn’t the spectacular kids from around the world give it a go in London?

This signing is also a big win for Per Mertesacker. What a job he’s doing.

Ok, that’s me done for the day. If you like Podcasts, we have about 100 new ones on Patreon right now. Check it out RIGHT NOW. Also, Janan Ganesh dropped in to chat Arsenal for the big game preview. That lands in the UK at 6am.

Back with a final preview tomorrow. x


by .

This international break has gone from feeling like a breath of minty fresh air, to smelling like sitting next to a hangover on the London Underground.

We thought that Saka, Big Gabi, and Martinelli were all engaged in some dark arts preservation for this weekend. It turns out that might not be the case, and there seems to be a concern—it’s touch and go.

Now, what you have to remember here is this: Mikel uses uncertainty as a weapon. He doesn’t want Pep to know who is available and who is not. Pep will be doing the same. Is Kyle Walker fit? Did John Stones walk off the pitch inside 20 minutes because he got the call from his manager?

No one knows. This is what mind games look like at the very highest level. It’s actually terrifying and a little bit annoying. I don’t want to go into the game feeling like we’re once again below full strength; I need certainty in my life, even if this is an Art of War stategem. But that is my cross to bear… yours too. We are basically martyrs for the game.

My guess is Martinelli is genuinely touch-and-go. His foot injury looked like a stab wound apparently. The healing could be 10 days, but that’s in a perfect world we don’t live in. You can’t run if your foot is split open. Aggravating a wound like a second time is never good.

Saka has apparently been carrying an injury for a while (Twitter, not anything verified), so who knows there.

What I can tell you for free… if there’s a game to roll the dice on, I think Arteta will do it for this one. It’s do or die. If City scalps us, our best hope is Liverpool falter. If we win, the fumes of glory could carry us all the way.

The problem for Arteta is that if you do roll the dice, and someone breaks down inside 20, you’ve screwed the game plan, you’ve dented morale, and City will smell the chum in the water.

Still, at least the league sorted us out nicely with an impartial crew of referees. They served us up Jarred Gillet, who is a Liverpool fan, and has presided over some absolutely shocking Arsenal decisions, the latest was disallowing the Kai goal at Villa and denying us a stonewall penalty. He was also shocking in the Chelsea game.

But more to the point here – if you give a shit about impartiality, why would you put a Liverpool fan in the VAR room for the City vs Arsenal game? It’s absurd.

Not as absurd as giving the game to a referee from Manchester in Anthony Taylor. If you grew up in that area and don’t have an opinion on either side, you probably don’t like football at all. I’m not calling him a bad ref (we win a lot with him), I’m just saying that it is crazy to me that PGMOL doesn’t consider the optics in games this huge.

Is it too much to ask to have a non-Liverpool supporting ref in the VAR room – and a ref on the pitch with no affiliation with the city of one of the teams?

It shouldn’t be.

This is the first post of the daily run in for the BIG game. I’ll be back tomorrow with more words. I also have a bunch of good pods for you.

We’re going podcast crazy this week – Johnny is back with Matt and they’re having a lovely old reunion. Check that podcast out when it drops at 6am UK time.

big love xxx