Morning all.

Two big matches for Arsenal this week and both against tricky opponents. Crystal Palace, who thrashed the Toots not long ago on Monday night before Dean Smith brings his Aston Villa team to the red and white side of north London on Friday. I suppose it’s no different to the fixture schedule we’d have encountered had the club been involved in European football. Five fixtures to get through in 21 days before yet another international break takes place.

Granit Xhaka won’t be involved in any of them of course as he’s out until Christmas at least it seems but when Thomas Partey leaves in January, it’s possible that the club might dip into the transfer window. Talking about the ACON, Mikel Arteta has said:

Let’s see where we are at that point, which players we have available, which players definitely have to be there and for how long, because there are some question marks there as well. We will find a solution. If they have to leave, they have to leave. We’ll have to find the right replacements for them.

Auba, Pepe, Partey and Elneny. I wonder which players have question marks over their involvement? I’d love for it to be Partey.

His Arsenal team-mate Benjamin ‘Ben’ White has been talking to Sky Sports ahead of our Monday night fixture. He prefers to be called Benjamin because that’s his name he said. Ask him about Patrick Vieira, Palace’s relatively new manager and by the sounds of it, he’s never seen any reruns of the Arsenal legend in action:

I didn’t ever watch football when I was younger. I still don’t now. I just loved the game, I was always playing it, never watching. So I don’t know too much about the older generations, but I know Vieira was a very good player. But I don’t know the details.

 

A footballer who doesn’t watch much football?

I didn’t think they even existed. White watches himself for analytical reasons he said but that’s about it. How can he not know much about Patrick Vieira though, I thought every player who played for Arsenal post 1996 would know about one of the best captains and midfielder the club has had. And the rest of the Arsenal players during his era.

Ben White even wears the iconic shirt number and I’m surprised he hasn’t watched some of the reruns of the early Arsene Wenger days, especially after finding out he was heading to Arsenal. I’d certainly expect him to know a bit about the players who have worn the number 4 shirt before him. White wasn’t even born when Vieira arrived at Arsenal and was just seven years old when he left so even if he was a keen watcher of football, he would have missed those great battles between Vieira and Keane,  Arsenal and Utd. He was just 6 years old when the Invincibles did their thing.

It is unusual though for a young man, or woman for that matter, not to go and watch their local team in his/her teens. Standing at Elm Park on a Saturday afternoon was the highlight of my weekend many years ago. I think it’s unusual for a footballer not to watch football full stop. As the old saying goes, watch and learn. Still, what he does in his spare time is his business, not mine as it’s what he does on the pitch which is important.

I’m sure the trip to north London will be an emotional one for Vieira on Monday night but not because of the Emirates as he’d left the club before Arsenal moved away from Highbury. Saying that, he did play in the opening match of the new stadium which was Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial in July 2006 against Ajax. A match which brought the best out of Gilles Grimandi.

I’m sure The Arsenal fans will welcome him back with much applause and cheers and it’d be the least he deserves after what he helped Arsenal achieve during those early years of Arsene Wenger. As the ex player said himself, he arrived at Arsenal as a boy but left as a man. Born in Senegal, made in the red and white side of north London!

Of course I hope it’s the worst possible return to Arsenal an ex player has experienced in the dugout but that’s because I want this current Arsenal squad to do well. We need that European spot finish come May.

See you in the comments.