Welcome to Friday and it’s the final Friday of what seems to have been a very long month. It’s that Friday when you get paid again for the first time since before Christmas and you can stop having lunches of ‘That thing that’s been sitting in the cupboard for a year’. I’m looking forward to going to the supermarket and buying another thing that will sit in the cupboard for a year so I can enjoy it next January. Mmmmmm, so furry.
We’ve had our first few words about the new boy from Arsene Wenger who called him ‘focused, serious and ambitious’, all good qualities to have but I suspect this is what the manager liked most:
I like the players who come from nowhere and show they can adapt.
Sometimes I wonder if Arsene Wenger is part dragon because he does love a hidden gem. Only fans of Villarreal, and those particularly up on Spanish football, could really claim to have been aware of the Brazilian before the last week or so, but he’s made quick progress to the point where he’s been snapped up by us.
I know you might well suggest that this is as much to do with our pressing need for a central defender as the player’s quality, and while there’s no denying the first part, none of us can really speak to the second yet until such time as we see him play. And not just once. Over a period of time when it’s then possible to make an early judgement on his ability.
We ought to remember that it can take some players time to settle, and arriving in January is certainly more challenging that having a pre-season in the nice weather and getting to know your teammates and new surroundings. Gabriel is going to be thrown in at the deep end to a certain extent because, not only does he have a role to play in general, he’s also the guy whose presence will allow us to keep Laurent Koscielny ‘fit’ between now and May – at which point we have to decide if a summer off will cure those pesky Achilles or if a more scalpel-y solution is necessary.
But then that’s football. Nobody said it should be easy and the challenges it presents are many and varied. I’m sure a couple of weeks ago Gabriel was thinking about little else but seeing how well he and Villarreal could finish the season in Spain, now he’s got an entirely different set of priorities and it’s his job to get on with them. From what the manager said yesterday he’ll go straight into the squad for the Villa game on Sunday but I suspect a place on the bench is most likely. But the sooner he’s integrated the better because he’ll be needed soon enough, no doubt.
The other bit of a team news that emerged was a concern over Alexis Sanchez who will have a test on a hamstring problem before his participation against Villa is decided. If it were me, and if there were any chance of aggravating the issue, I’d rest him completely. He’s a player we want, and need, for the North London derby next weekend, and although even a couple of months ago the idea of playing anyone without him was a bit scary, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case any more.
The creative and goalscoring burden is being shared much more throughout the team. Santi Cazorla is playing beautifully, Tomas Rosicky’s renaissance continues, Ozil and Walcott hit the target against Brighton to bolster their comebacks and, while doing the business under the radar somewhat, but still very effectively, is Olivier Giroud whose form since returning from injury has been excellent.
I know we can’t take any opponent for granted, especially when the hapless Anthony Taylor is due to officiate on Sunday, but we’re now in a position where we don’t necessarily have to risk Alexis. He’s important, of course, but now not the only player who looks like he can make a positive contribution. If there’s any risk, let’s keep him fresh and safe so he can run amok at White Hart Lane.
Right then, time for this week’s Arsecast and today I’m joined first by Spanish football expert Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) to discuss the signing of Gabriel, what kind of player he is and how Joel Campbell might get on with his loan spell at Villarreal. Then Tim Stillman (@Stillberto) pops in to discuss transfer business, the make up of the squad, the future of Theo Walcott and more. There’s all the usual waffle in there too.
You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes).
To download this week’s Arsecast directly click here – 34mb MP3. The Arsecast is also available on our SoundCloud channel, as well as via the SoundCloud app for iPhone and Android. You can now also find it on the Stitcher podcasting app for iOS and Android. Or, you can listen without leaving this page by using the player below.
You can leave comments on the SoundCloud page and reviews/comments on iTunes and Stitcher are very welcome too.
Any further team news and injury updates can be found over on Arseblog News, updated throughout the day as we hear from the manager at his pre-game press conference (not cancelled because he’s a big baby or anything).
The Gent is here later, from me – till tomorrow. Enjoy the podcast.