I don’t need to tell you Arsenal need to win.
I don’t need to tell you Mikel Arteta needs his Arsenal team to win.
Everything is obvious. As I said the other day, the subtleties of football go out the window when things are like this. You’re getting punched in the face repeatedly, and you need to punch back. Or at least get out of the way of the digs. Would a draw be good tonight? Ideally you’d want more, but in the context of the last few weeks, just not losing might feel like some small amount of progress.
In terms of the team, Granit Xhaka is suspended so will need to be replaced. With Thomas Partey still well and truly injured, the only real option is Dani Ceballos who at least tried to add a bit of energy when he came against Burnley, but with ten men that was always going to be difficult. It does feel like just not Xhaka is a bit of a plus.
Hector Bellerin’s fifth yellow card of the season means he sits this one out too, leaving Arteta a choice between former Southampton man Cedric Soares, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. With Nicolas Pepe now back from his suspension, and hopefully earmarked for a start on the right, I’d like see him and AMN, but the Ivorian and Cedric have played together a bit recently in the Europa League so that might be something the manager considers.
What else can he change? It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang return to the left, from where he has scored a lot of goals for us, but much will depend on whether or not Arteta felt that second half spell when we played well against Burnely was sufficiently promising to continue with the same formation. One of the issues with it though was the use of Alexandre Lacazette as a second striker with a fair amount of creative responsibility, I just don’t think it’s a job he’s cut out for at Premier League level.
Could we see a start for Emile Smith Rowe? It’s a lot to ask, but then so is winning and scoring goals at the moment, so he could give it a try. Reiss Nelson is fit again – at least I assume he is because he wasn’t mentioned as a casualty on the latest fitness bulletin, so maybe he could play from the left, and Bukayo Saka could slot in more centrally? Joe Willock? A place on the bench for Balogun?
Patience, despite calls from Edu for exactly that, is in short supply among fans at the moment, and that is principally driven by results. Part of it, however, is the reliance on the same old faces who just haven’t produced for us this season. I think there may well be a gap between what we need and how ready some of the young players are to do it at this level, and I can’t advocate a complete ‘play the kids’ approach, but play some of them to show there’s a recognition of the under-performance and you buy yourself at least a little goodwill.
Southampton are riding high, enjoying a good season so far, and clearly we’re not. We’re the kind of team you want to play if you’re where they are. But maybe we can be something else. How many times have Arsenal lost games to a team on a barren run of goalscoring, a team which can’t win for toffee, a team which has somehow lost 25 of it’s last 20 games we end up losing to them? Maybe we can be that to Southampton tonight. I realise that is so far from what we want to be or where we feel we should be, but these are difficult times. Different times that force us to reassess our status, especially in the short-term.
In conclusion: I don’t need to tell you Arsenal need to win. I don’t need to tell you Mikel Arteta needs his Arsenal team to win.
But Arsenal, and Mikel Arteta, could really, really, really do with three points tonight.
Elsewhere, there was a fan’s forum meeting last night (virtual) with Vinai and Edu in attendance. There were further expressions of support for Arteta, and an interesting comment about the January transfer window from the Technical Director. Slightly paraphrased here:
It’s quite clear what we need. (about transfers) We need a player with creativity in the middle, we don’t have that in the squad right now.
If we can bring in that player when the window opens, that would be great, but I think it also tells you everything you need to know about the chances of a recall for Mesut Ozil. In recent times both Arteta and Edu have referenced the situation, talking about it in vague terms, hinting they’ll discuss in January, but it’s not going to happen. With 6 months left on his contract, Arsenal aren’t going to bring him back having left him out so publicly.
It is time for the club to think about the future, to recruit properly for the rebuild we need. Change the age profile of signings, bring in the kind of players we need for the club we want to be again, not for who we think we still are. No more Willian type signings. No more Luiz type signings. No more Cedric type signings (handing four year deals to players in their late 20s).
The summer departures of Ozil, Sokratis, Shokdran Mustafi and David Luiz – all of whom are out of contract in June – will save the club £750,000 every single week. That is an astonishing amount of money which could be used to much greater effect. Let’s start using our resources properly instead of squandering them. It’s not too much to ask, and I think after a couple of years in which our spending was not given sufficient scrutiny, I can only hope that KSE Overseer Tim Lewis will ensure it doesn’t happen to anything like the same extent again.
Find the full thread from the fan’s forum below:
A few points from the Fans Forum at Arsenal tonight.
Vinai: The transfer window wasn’t like a normal TW. Dramatic COVID impact. Outgoing was difficult leaving too many players and a difficult decision. #AFC
— Peter Høst (@Peterhoest) December 15, 2020