I’m not making excuses for the disappointing performance from Arsenal last night but there must have been a few nerves in the players. This group is still young and other than Gabriel Jesus, I don’t think any of our starting eleven have much experience in winning the fixtures which really matter. The game in Holland mattered, the game last night mattered even more and despite a few nervy moments, certainly late in the second half, the players did what they needed to do. Win. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how, especially when the officials think that ripping Kieran Tierney’s shirt off his back and grabbing handfuls of Eddie Nketiah’s shirt in the box is acceptable.
Will anyone remember our last two Europa League Cup performances if on May 31st 2023, Mikel Arteta, his players and thousands of Arsenal fans are inside the Puskás Aréna, Budapest, waiting for a referee to blow his whistle for the first time?
I expected it to be a tough match. I’ve watched them in the last few games – how they’ve changed since their new manager arrived, how they played against Bodo. You’ve seen it and it was really difficult to get any real momentum with the way that the game developed. We have to adapt to that. We had some big chances that we didn’t put away and that made the game more difficult in the last 15 or 20 minutes. We didn’t control certain situations and we had to dig in, which we did. We found a way to win and we’re top of the group.
1-0 it was in the end and that was enough to finish top of the group. What a goal it was too from the boot of Kieran Tierney.
No more Thursday/Sunday football for Arsenal until early in March 2023. All that’s left now is a trip to Chelsea on Sunday, a home League Cup fixture against Brighton and then Wolves away – then it’s the World Cup.
It looks like Takehiro Tomiyasu will miss the above fixtures after picking up an injury last night which is awful news for him first and foremost, and the team. He’s been playing so well this season and will be a huge miss. Hopefully his time on the injury list is short. Kieran Tierney should be able to cope with two Premier League fixtures and thankfully, Oleksandr Zinchenko is very close to returning too.
I was a bit disappointed with Sambi Lokonga again last night, Fabio Vieira too as neither have really taken the opportunity the competition offers to give Mikel Arteta a selection headache. With Vieira it’s kind of understandable that he’s in and out of games because it’s his first season. We only have to look back in time to see how a few players struggled in their first season before taking the league by storm in the next. Robert Pires is the player who sticks in my mind. He had a really tough first year in England but look how he turned out. Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry didn’t find things easy to begin with but hey, they turned out ok. There’s been enough magical moments in Vieira’s short Arsenal career to suggest that once he finds his feet, he’ll be ok too. Not sure about Lokonga though. He talks the talk but on nights like last, he really should be walking the walk too. Would I be surprised to see him go out on loan in January? No, not at all.
Just recently, Mikel Arteta has reported to have said the following:
We know the January window, how special it is, the opportunities that you have, the short window that you have. And obviously with the position that we are in right now as well, it demands as well another level of player — and that player has to be available. We will look at everything and let’s see what we can do.
Didn’t he say that this time last year? Seriously though, what he’s saying makes sense. There’s little point in signing players in January unless they’re ready to walk into the first team and make a difference. Any signing surely has to be as good as our best rather than similar to the rest. Harsh as it sounds but there’s little point in signing a midfielder if he’s no better than Lokonga, he has to be as good as Thomas Partey, if not better. There would be little point in signing a striker in the same mould of Gabriel Jesus or Eddie Nketiah because what we need is strength and a bit of height to give Mikel Arteta an alternative option up front. If Mikel Arteta wants a winger, he surely has to be as good as Gabriel Martinelli?
I know January seems a long way off but for football clubs, transfer plans probably never stop being discussed. Already, Mikel Arteta is likely to know which of his players have a future at the club beyond the summer and who might be allowed to leave as soon as January. Arsenal are in a really good place right now, in fact the best the club has been for many a year but we can’t sit on it and think job done as we’re not even halfway through the season. A player or two in January, just after the domestic season kicks off again, could make a big difference as we chase down a Champions League spot.
See you in the comments.