Morning all.

It’s a big day here in the England as the first stage of lockdown restrictions being lifting begins. For the older generation, especially those who’ve spent the last year on their own, they can see family and friends. Limitations are still in place but it’s a start. The weather here in England is forecast to be warm so perfect timing. Hopefully this is the last time we go through a lockdown for many years but I wouldn’t bank on it as flouting the rules seems to be the norm for a number of people.

Onto football and there’s just one international fixture left to play for most of our players and that’s it for the season. Now it’s domestic and European football until the end of May. For Arsenal, chasing a Europa League spot is the aim along with winning the competition this year. Both are tough challenges but not beyond our reach.

Kev posted a YouTube clip yesterday in which Mikel Arteta was being interviewed. I found it interesting, especially as the questions put to him were sensible and probably the kind of questions many Arsenal fans would like to have asked.

 

 

The crux of the interview was that he and Edu had one hell of a mess to sort out and they’re doing their best to sort it but it’ll take time. Also, the younger players coming through the academy are very important to the club. I thought Mikel came across very well and made a lot of sense and the interview is certainly worth listening to. He’s very optimistic about the future. It’s hard not to share his optimism although I’m sure there are still a vast numbers of fans who don’t.

But look at what Arsenal have done since Mikel Arteta started working with Edu and the rest of the board/staff.

He gave experienced players their chance, a long run in the team but not many returned the favour by playing well. Ozil, Kolasinac, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette and Willian – flunked. Ozil, Sokratis and Mustafi are gone. Ozil, gone, Kolasinac, Torreira and Guendouzi all out on loan, probably never to return. The decks are being cleared and I think that’ll continue this summer.

Pepe and Willian aren’t starters, not when Saka and ESR are fully fit. Even Lacazette was dumped in favour of Nketiah for a while but when he came back into the team he seemed different. More willing.

Partey arrived during the summer and not only does he add another string to our defensive bow but also gives us something different in transition. He’s a ‘pick it up and play it forwards’ kind of player. Meanwhile, Xhaka, albeit still prone to the odd mistake, has found his passing game. Xhaka hasn’t really improved in my opinion, he’s just got a much better player alongside him. 

Ahead of both Xhaka and Partey we now have energy, enthusiasm and a big chunk of skill in ESR, Saka and since January, Odegaard. Three players who I could watch all day yet never get bored. Plus Lacazette who like Xhaka, hasn’t improved as a player as such, it’s just his attitude which seems to have changed and he certainly seems to enjoy playing alongside the younger guys. 

But of course, there’s still an issue with playing out from the back, not being focused from the first whistle and not always taking easy chances to score. Plus there’s the odd occasion when we’re simply dreadful, like the Olympiacos match at The Emirates. The kind of things which will keep us grumbling away but in time, perhaps those errors will fade as certain players leave and others either join the club or come through the academy.

Yes, I suppose I’m quite optimistic about the future.

See you in the comments.