Morning all. Hope you’re well. A few snippets this morning before Mikel Arteta meets the press ahead of tomorrow’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal.
Fitness issues are something he’ll be addressing, and yesterday the club posted pictures of both Alexandre Lacazette and Kieran Tierney in training. Full training too. Not light jogging around a pitch, separate from everyone else.
Tierney and Lacazette both involved with the full group during training today, not just doing individual work.
— Charles Watts (@charles_watts) May 4, 2021
At the weekend, after the 2-0 win over Newcastle, the manager was asked if these players would be available for Thursday, and said:
They haven’t trained with the team yet so I think they’re unlikely to be.
I suspected that’s why Granit Xhaka continued at left-back, to provide some continuity by virtue of his recent selection there. Now, I suppose both of them are in with a chance. It’d be a risk, but if there was a gamble being taken, the one worth going for is Tierney. Aubameyang was back in goalscoring action on Sunday, and I assume he’ll be starting up front (unless we play Willian tied to Cedric as some kind of human centipede false 9 experiment), so Lacazette, if he makes it, would provide some depth from the bench. Good.
Having Tierney available at left-back obviously changes the way we play – which is why, incidentally, I’ve been banging the Saka at left-back drum in his absence. It’s too late now, but I wish we had done it, because the disruption caused by Xhaka in that position is just too big. You have to play someone – usually Dani Ceballos – in that left-sided midfield pocket, your left-back doesn’t overlap and offers no attacking threat, and rather than just changing one player for a similar one (Saka can basically do what KT does), you have a number of moving parts. Anyway, it is what it is now, but two wins from four Premier League games since Tierney got injured show you it hasn’t been wildly successful (and I know there are other factors to that).
Without Ceballos tomorrow night because of his avoidable red card in the first leg, I think we need Xhaka back in midfield – even if Tierney doesn’t make it. If he can fill up his Tesco bag with his shin-pads play the 90 minutes then great. He makes such a difference, but I suppose the risk isn’t simply if he’ll aggravate the knee injury again, it’s also how ready he is for a game of this magnitude. I would never doubt his attitude, but after a month out, there might be a lack of sharpness that could see his performance level below where you need it to be. Plenty for Arteta to think about, and no doubt we’ll hear a bit more about his prospect of playing later on.
Good news for Arsenal Women as Katie McCabe signs a new contract. It’s been a long time since we’ve had an Irish player with a sensational left-foot do great things for the first team, so I will live vicariously through her! What a season she’s had, in fairness:
📊 – Katie McCabe so far this season:
✅ Most assists (11)
✅ Most key passes (48)
(2.62 per 90)
✅ Most completed passes into the penalty area (38)
✅ Most completed crosses into the penalty area (17)
76 chances created (#2)
34 dribbles completed (#2)
22 tackles won (#2) pic.twitter.com/bXq8JDUsjB
— miedemastuff (@miedemastuff) May 3, 2021
I’m absolutely delighted. I love this club and I feel like we’re in a really good place and that we’re ready to push on. I’m delighted it got done and now I’m ready to kick on and help this club win more trophies.
Manager Joe Montemurro says:
She’s been thrown every challenge from the day we brought her back on loan and she’s developed into a world-class, left-sided player. All credit to her, she personifies exactly what we want from our squad.
Katie scored a goal and won a penalty as Arsenal beat Everton 2-1 on Sunday, and with Joe Montemurro departing and a new manager set to come in, it was massively important to secure Champions League football for next season, and she played a big part in that. She’s from just up the road from me here in Dublin too, so it’s great to see how big a player she has become for Arsenal and Ireland.
Elsewhere, I have to admit I enjoy watching Phil Foden, and he was sensational last night as Man City beat PSG who, very enjoyably, lost their cool as they were dumped out of the Champions League. Angel di Maria’s red card was one of the most hilariously stupid things I’ve seen outside a Fail Army video where some fat man decides he can use a home-made swing to cross a canyon and falls 50 feet onto his back because the rope snaps.
What an incredible story though: a plucky little club bankrolled to the billions by an oil-rich nation state who just a couple of weeks ago signed up to a Super League project to stick it UEFA now have the chance to win the UEFA Champions League for the first time.
The pure, unadulterated magic of football right there.
Yesterday, I did a Patreon podcast with Tim Payton from the Arsenal Supporter’s Trust about their meeting with Daniel Ek, fan involvement at board level, reforming football club ownership and lots more. I think it’s the kind of chat which should be heard more widely, so I’m going to make it free to everyone later this morning, but if you fancy signing up to Patreon to support everything we do here at Arseblog, as well as getting ad-free podcasts, apps for iOS and Android, Discord chat, a free audio book, and lots more, you can do so at patreon.com/arseblog.
Right, we’ll cover Arteta’s presser on Arseblog News this morning, and the build-up and excitement to tomorrow night can begin.
In the meantime, take it easy, mind yourselves.