The wisdom of playing international matches during the second wave of a highly contagious pandemic has always been questionable, and it felt inevitable that sooner or later Arsenal would be impacted.
That came to pass yesterday when Mohamed Elneny tested positive for the virus on arrival in Togo for Egypt’s game there. The EFA released a statement which said:
“The results of the medical swabs conducted by the national team upon arrival in Togo showed negative all except for Arsenal player Mohamed Elneny, whose result appeared positive without any symptoms.
“The player immediately began to implement the special medical protocol for people infected with Covid-19.”
He will have to self-isolate, and it’s now almost certain he won’t be available for the Leeds game on Sunday. The good thing is he doesn’t have any symptoms, hopefully that remains the case and he’ll be fine after his period of quarantine. It leaves Mikel Arteta with a headache he could have done without though, and with games tonight and tomorrow night, plus travel, he’ll be keeping fingers crossed that no more of his players fall victim to this Interlull, whether it’s from Covid-19 or fatigue/injury.
I’m sure he’ll have been delighted to see his captain, already going through a difficult period where his form has dipped (along with lots of others to be fair), spending the night at an airport ahead of Gabon’s game against Gambia (they lost 2-1). It’s not the worst thing in world in the grand scheme of things, but it’s not ideal, is it?
Those still ‘at risk’ because of their involvement in internationals are: Hector Bellerin, Bukayo Saka, Kieran Tierney, Gabriel, Alex Runarsson, Nicolas Pepe, Sead Kolasinac, Granit Xhaka and Eddie Nketiah.
How do you say ‘fingers crossed’ in Spanish, Scottish, Portuguese, Icelandic, French … etc etc?
Meanwhile, the Premier League have noted an increase in cases of late, with 16 players and staff positive in the latest round of testing, the highest number of positive cases since testing began. These tests took place between Monday 9 November and Sunday 15 November, so it will be very interesting to see what kind of results the next testing period brings, when players who have been scattered across the globe return to England and their clubs. It’s hard not to have concerns that those so-called ‘elite sports bubbles’ are getting pricked a bit, so let’s hope everyone else comes through the rest of this Interlull without incident.
Closer to home, Mikel Arteta has spoken about what lies ahead, after what’s been a difficult couple of weeks, the defeats by Leicester and Aston Villa sandwiching the win over Man United at Old Trafford. When the filling is delicious and tasty, but the bread is disgusting and mouldy, you don’t have much of a sandwich. He says:
There are a lot of things to do, short term and medium term, we have seen a lot of changes not only on the pitch but structurally as a club as well, it’s been difficult, it’s been a challenging time in the last three or four months, a lot of things have happened.
I am a really positive person and I tend to learn much more when things don’t go well and we have a defeat like we had the other day that really hurt after the performance we had at Old Trafford.
We have to understand why it happened, be really critical first of all with myself and try to understand the players better, and give them more solutions to win more football matches.
We spoke about this a bit on the Arsecast Extra yesterday, but we’re at a point where it’s difficult to find the balance between recognising the medium-term work we have to do to improve the team, and the short-term results and performances which have been below par. The reality of football is that even if you can see that there’s a big job to do and time is required to do it properly, results are the real barometer of public opinion.
Even if results aren’t as good as you’d like but you see things in the performances that give you cause for genuine optimism, it’s easier to deal with. But we haven’t seen enough of that of late either, so clearly the mood is going to tip towards negative. It’s a really interesting juncture in Arteta’s time as manager, he’s had a lot to deal with already in his short time in charge, and this is another challenge to overcome.
The plan he might have in his mind right now for Leeds could be very different from the one he’s actually able to put in place, depending on who is and isn’t available to him for the trip to Elland Road on Sunday. It’s a high pressure, high stakes period with Wolves and a North London derby on the horizon too, so I’m curious to see what he’s going to do to improve results (first), and performances (second). A combination of both would certainly go a long way at this point.
Ok, I’ll leave you with the podcast if you haven’t yet had a chance to listen, all the links you need to listen and subscribe are below. Any news updates throughout the day can be found on Arseblog News, more here tomorrow.
** On reflection, I have changed the headline from the original version. Although Elneny is thankfully not experiencing any symptoms, I shouldn’t have trivialised what remains a very serious issue. Apologies.