Whilst Arsenal have been busy in the transfer window this summer, so have Crystal Palace. Five signings have joined Patrick Vieira’s squad: winger Malcom Ebiowei from Derby County, keeper Sam Johnstone from West Brom, defensive midfielders Cheick Doucoure from Lens and Cormac Austin from Linfield and lastly, central defender Chris Richards from Bayern Munich.
Whilst Arsenal had a near perfect pre-season, not that a second string losing to Brentford really counts, Crystal Palace have had an up and down time. Beaten by Man Utd and Liverpool, a draw with Leeds but victories the other fixtures although they were against lower League clubs and Montpellier. What can be read into their results? Same as ours, nothing.
Today is what matters for both clubs. Today and the next ten months.
This is one of the fixtures which went horribly wrong for Mikel Arteta and his players. The first of three which pretty much ended any hope we had of finishing in the top four. I can’t remember one single player having a good game that night. Either that or I’ve erased everything about that match from my mind.
Mikel Arteta faced the media yesterday and was the usual type of stuff. I’ve picked two.
1) On whether there will be new players coming in…
We are really active as you can see with incomings and outgoings. Everything is still open, it’s a long window, a lot has happened, it’s incredible how much business the clubs have done across the Premier League and it shows how competitive it is and this season is not going to stop that. Players are going to have the need to leave, some others to move and everything is open still.
I think Arsenal could have signed 8/9 players this summer and the media would still want to know if more are expected to arrive before the 31st August. I’m sure that’s no different for Arsenal fans, I know I’m desperate to see the club add a midfielder. For now though, we have who we have and unlike last season, the squad hasn’t been hit by Covid on the opening day. But we have a few walking wounded although three out of Takehiro Tomiyasu, Emile Smith Rowe, Kieran Tierney and Fabio Vieira were going to train yesterday afternoon and if all went well, they should be available for tonight’s match.
2) On the excitement for the new season and new signings…
I think we are all enthusiastic. We had the pre-season that we wanted, it was well organised, we had good results, good performances, good preparation, but now the ball starts to roll to tomorrow evening in a completely different context against a Premier League team and we know what to expect there. But it’s true, we are with a level of energy and ambition to have a successful season and we have to show that on the pitch tomorrow night.
I’m excited, apprehensive too as said yesterday but things do seem different. As a squad, I think it’s the most balanced it’s been for a long time. Eddie Nketiah will be involved from the start of the season, William Saliba has finally hooked up with players who I hope are his teammates for a long time, we’ve signed a top notch striker who is hungry for success and has shown that during pre-season. We have a new captain, a player who isn’t looking for a way out, we have Oleksandr Zinchenko who is as good, perhaps even better than Kieran Tierney and more than capable of playing in midfield and lastly, we have Fabio Vieira who despite not enjoying much of the pre-season through injury, is meant to be a super player. One more I hear you say and you’re right, an exciting young winger who Granit Xhaka says reminds him of Gabriel Martinelli when he first arrived. Put them all together with a group of players who at times last season, showed how good they could be, and there’s a good reason to be optimistic about tonight and the months ahead.
The fixtures which cost us crucial points last season were the likes of tonight’s. 5 points dropped against Palace, 5 against Brighton, 3 against Southampton, 3 against Everton and 2 against Burnley, Dropping points against Man City, Utd, Liverpool and Chelsea didn’t cost us a top four finish, not really but dropping 18 points, 21 if we’re to include the collapse at St James Park, against clubs whom we should have beaten, did. I’m sure we all have our own theories as to why we couldn’t win those matches which will probably vary from lack of squad depth, injuries, attitude etc etc, perhaps a combination of all of them but I reckon Mikel Arteta will have learned a lot from those matches. The players too.
Mikel Arteta on Zinchenko and Jesus:
Those players have been inspired by top players, top professionals, ruthless winners for many years. They were looking at them, and now it’s their turn to do the same and inspire those younger players that we have in our squad to do the same and to show them what it takes to win, and the level of detail, hunger and dedication that you need to keep winning.
One of our biggest problems throughout the season in my opinion, was not converting possession into chances and chances into goals. Against Southampton away, 75% possession, 26 shots but just 6 on target. Against Brighton at The Emirates, 65% possession, 20 shots but just 4 on target and even at Selhurst Park we had nearly 70% possession, 12 shots but just 3 on target. 75% possession at Goodison Park…..you get my drift.
We had zero movement in the box from Aubameyang and Lacazette last season but with Jesus and/or Nketiah that will change. As will the defending from the front, ‘the press’. Both of our front men, Martinelli too, will be on the oppositions defence quicker than a wasp lands on a fallen rotten apple.
Injuries should be fewer this season because there is depth. Mikel Arteta is a year wiser than this time last season and last summers arrivals have had twelve months together with the rest of the squad. Our new signings this transfer window have had a full pre-season with their new teammates which is a bonus and judging by the way the team has been playing, they’ve slotted in rather well already. As a team, we need to be strong, not dirty, just physically and mentally strong, certainly against teams like tonight’s opponents who will no doubt try to use power and strength to beat us. We have to match them, individually and as a team. The talent this Arsenal team/squad now possesses should do the rest.
See you in the comments.