Morning all. A blog of two parts. First a Wolves preview, then a look at how deadline day went down.
As I’ve said a few times of late, the team Mikel Arteta picks tonight will be hugely informed by the physical condition of the players. Speaking at his press conference on Monday, he was asked about fitness issues and said:
Let’s see today how everybody is. We have some other issues in the last few days as well, so today we’ll have a better picture of who is available to play tomorrow. Then we’ll put the players who are completely fit to start the game.
We know for certain that Kieran Tierney won’t be available, so that will mean Cedric continues at left-back. Whether there’s any change to the back four remains to be seen, and I suspect that it’ll be the players ahead of them most likely to be rotated, having given a lot in the 0-0 draw with United on Saturday.
I have a sneaky feeling we might see Martin Odegaard start tonight. We’ve asked a lot of Emile Smith Rowe in recent weeks, and this might just be the night for him to make his contribution from the bench. The Norwegian international now gives us that depth, and that can only be a good thing.
Dani Ceballos is fit again; Bukayo Saka was in training yesterday, but having missed United as a precaution we’ll have to wait and see if he’s involved (and where, if so); while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was also back in the fold, and I can only assume this means he’s available for selection. He’s had a week or so without training, and had some travel during that period too, so he might not start, but he’d be a fantastic option to have if needed later in the game.
Arteta is expecting Alexandre Lacazette to be available, so if Saka is back we could see the same front three that did so well against Southampton. Whatever happens, and assuming there are no fitness issues that might impact his selection, I think it’s important Nicolas Pepe starts. He’s shown signs in the last few games that he’s feeling more confident, and his performances merit inclusion.
Since beating us at the Emirates in that game in November, Wolves have struggled, winning just once (against Chelsea). That absolutely shouldn’t lull us into any false sense of security though. We had a similar run after our win at Old Trafford, and then sparked back into life in a big game against Chelsea.
We know they’re a well organised side with some very dangerous players. The 2-1 scoreline in the previous game is something we need to put right later on, but evidence that this Wolves team can hurt you unless you’re properly switched on. We have won at Molineux in the not too distant past though, a 2-0 win in July with goals from Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette, so there’s encouragement to be taken from that.
You can’t say that a 0-0 draw with United is a bad result, but I think it says something about what we’ve done of late that we perhaps found it a bit disappointing. It’s also worth pointing out that we’re in 10th, just behind a couple of teams with games in hand, and while we’re not too far off a relatively competitive place, it’s games like this one that we need to take maximum points from. Fingers crossed for later.
Transfer Deadline Day
Adding to the deals we’ve already done this month (as listed here):
I like this. I think it will do him good to experience something new. There’s a world of difference between London and Newcastle, and for a lad who has spent his entire career and life at Arsenal, broadening his horizons is no bad thing.
I might be in a very small minority in that I haven’t completely given up on the idea that Joe might be a useful squad player for us, but a good loan spell would be beneficial in a couple of ways. It might go some way to cement that status at Arsenal if he returns, but it might also make him a more valuable asset should we decide to cash in during the summer.
He’s made 78 first team appearances for us, and that kind of playing time goes a long way to increasing a player’s transfer fee if you decide to sell. If he can work his way into the Newcastle team and make a positive contribution, it’s a win/win for Arsenal, whatever the intentions in the summer.
I guess it’s not a surprise that he’s gone, but I have to say I wonder if this is the right move for him. West Brom are going to battle relegation between now and May, and while there may well be benefits from experiencing/enduring a different kind of football under Sam Allardyce, I’m not entirely convinced.
It seems the key to all this is his desire to play in midfield. If that’s what he really wants, then I suppose he has to go for it, but I can’t help but feel he’s missed a real opportunity at Arsenal to nail down a place at full-back. None of his three managers at Arsenal – Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery, or Mikel Arteta – have seen him as a midfielder, always defaulting to the defensive option where he has been very good at times. Like I said though, if this is what he wants, he has to give it a try somewhere.
I also worry that we’ve left ourselves a bit short at full-back without bringing anyone else in. We have three obvious options in Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Cedric Soares, but all have had some injury issues in the not-too-distant past (and present for KT), and I suppose they’re looking at the likes of Bukayo Saka and Calum Chambers as players who can do a job there in a push.
Saka has been so good on the right it seems almost criminal to think we’d pick him as a defender, even if there have been positive signs from Nicolas Pepe, his most obvious replacement there. As for Chambers, he’s had some struggles at right-back previously, and I harbour some concerns about his readiness to play in the most physical demanding position there is after a long spell out with an ACL and almost no playing time this season.
Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how Maitland-Niles gets on at West Brom, but not interesting enough for me to sit down and watch West Brom. Ultimately a deal which might benefit the player himself, but not one which does a great deal for us right now.
How people view the window and what we’ve done will differ. Where you stand on clearing the decks and trimming the squad versus paying people to go away is a personal choice. However, I think it’s impossible to argue that we didn’t need to do some of the things we did, even if it meant taking a big hit financially, making some already suspect deals look even worse.
Nevertheless, there aren’t too many out there who have suggested a significant rebuild isn’t necessary for this club, and while the methods might have been unconventional, we got a lot done in this window. There’s plenty of football still to play this season, but what we’ve done in January means planning for the summer can begin in earnest with some measure of clarity.
We’ll have a transfer window review podcast for Patreon members a bit later on this morning, so tune in for that.
Right, I’ll leave it there for now. Catch you later on for the game.