Morning all.

Yet again, the officials are making the headlines instead of the game itself.  This time it was Anthony Taylor who, after just seconds of the match being played, bottled making a big decision by booking Sadio Mane instead of sending him off. Six seconds, six minutes or sixty minutes, it matters not, if a player’s elbows an opponent in the face in the way Mane did, and has done on many occasions previously and certainly against Arsenal, he should be sent off. Taylor, and VAR for that matter, decision making made a mockery of the two bookings Gabriel received on Saturday. And the other bookings so easily dished out by Stuart Attwell.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbank tore into Jamie Carragher for suggesting Mane’s actions didn’t warrant a red card:

Are you serious? Have you got your Red head on, or your football head on? A footballer knows where an opponent is. It’s a red card – forget about six seconds. He goes with his elbow and he’s endangering the player. The Premier League and PGMOL are going to come out and provide words to try to justify their decision with an explanation. It’s a red card.

Hasselbank has his blue hat on of course but even ex Liverpool thug, Graeme Souness said “red card, end of” as the debate rolled on. And on. This topic of conversation isn’t going away but I’m glad because it’s long overdue. Football needs Sky Sports, BT Sports, the newspapers – anyone and everyone who has a voice, to carry this debate on. Mike Riley and his incompetent group of officials need to be held accountable for the shocking and inconsistent decisions they’re making.

Arsenal face Liverpool on Thursday night but there’ll be no Mane, Salah or Keita because they’ve gone off to the ACON. There’s also a good chance that Klopp, Alisson, Firmino and Matip will miss our League Cup semi-final first leg because of positive Covid tests. Good!

Not so good is Arsenal being without Partey, who was superb against Man City, Pepe, Elneny and Aubameyang. AMN can replace Elneny, that’s if he doesn’t head off out on loan before Thursday, but Partey is going to be difficult to replace. Certainly the Partey whose performance was so good at the weekend. Sambi Lokonga is Mikel Arteta’s only real option. At a push, Ben White can play in midfield as I believe he has before and then there’s Calum Chambers. An ok solution for a game or two but not for 6-8 weeks.

Over the next 3-4 weeks Arsenal will be linked to many midfield players I’m sure, strikers too bearing in mind that Aubameyang’s future at the club is uncertain. Brazilian players because of Edu will probably be top of the list but frankly, I don’t care what a player’s name is, where he comes from or how much he costs, as long as he’s very good at his job. Be honest, had you heard of Takehiro Tomiyasu before Arsenal signed him? I hadn’t but the impact he’s had on the team already has been huge.

I don’t expect Arsenal to spend vast amounts of money during this transfer window but then again, I didn’t expect so much activity last summer so what do I know. Nothing is the answer because that’s the reality, none of us truly know what plans Arsenal have up their sleeve. However, surely with the way this season is going, now is the right time to add to the squad so that we can push on from where we are rather than give away what I think is a great opportunity to return to Champions League football.

Reports in the newspapers this morning suggest a deal for Alexander Isak is close. The Sun are running a story from El Nacional which claims the Swedish striker, 22, will replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this month following an impressive spell in Spain. Mattias Svanberg and Bruno Guimarães are also being linked to Arsenal.  Just three of many we’ll read about over the next days and weeks.

I like Granit Xhaka, yes I know that’ll surprise you but the problem with him is that one minute he can be brilliant, the next, he can do something stupid which will cost us points. Points which we cannot afford to drop. Not with Toots, Utd and West Ham breathing down our necks for that 4th spot. Toots and Utd have two games in hand too, making our fixture against both, crucial. The Toots fixture is on the 16th January.

Before then though, we have three domestic cup fixtures to play.

See you in the comments.