Morning all. A quick one today as I’m out early this morning.

NOTE: I wrote the below (in italics) last night, and it emerged subsequently that because some players and others in the traveling party tested positive for Covid-19, the trip has been cancelled.

It’s obviously gutting for all the fans who bought tickets, flights, paid for hotels etc, as well as the most painful aspect: not getting to see the team play live and in person. I know fine well how much it means to Arsenal supporters around the world when we visit on tour, and hopefully the world soon returns the kind of normality which allows these kind of things to take place without such risk.

The team fly to the US today ahead of the Florida Cup, taking place in Orlando (it’s also funny how the outline of Florida looks like a wig Stan Kroenke might wear). There were some concerns that because of the rising number of Covid-19 infections in the state, the ‘tournament’ might be in jeopardy, and there were reports that Inter Milan – who we play on Sunday – had asked to withdraw.

Either the report was erroneous, or it looks as if concerns they may have had were taken care of, and they will travel. Interestingly, the CDC and the State Department in the US are advising against anyone traveling from there to the UK – again because of the surge in cases and the Delta variant. With restrictions now lifted in the UK, how secure are the ‘bubbles’ in which football has existed?

Obviously there are financial incentives for clubs to travel to events like this, and I know first hand how much it means for fans to see the team up close and personal, but even with vaccination roll-outs etc, it does present a higher risk than if you don’t do things like international travel, airports, coaches, and so on. Arsenal aren’t the only team on their travels during pre-season, but fingers crossed the ‘bubble’ (which must preclude any kind of fan events involving players?) ensures we don’t have any issues with players having to quarantine/isolate before the start of the new campaign.

How can football be immune from reality though? I’m almost certain there are going to be Covid interruptions this season, or scenarios where teams are weakened, perhaps forced to play without key players, or even many players, because of isolation/quarantine etc. That raises questions of fairness/sporting integrity etc, and I wonder if the Premier League are prepared for this. 

Speaking yesterday, Mikel Arteta was asked about further incomings, and whether we’d see more players of the profiles of Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga. As mentioned yesterday, those profiles are a source of encouragement for those us keen to see the club learn from the mistakes of the past, but the manager made it clear that a bit more experience would be needed with some signings, saying:

“We need some senior players. Players with different types of leadership in the team, with different qualities, people that complement each other.

“At the end of the day it is about the cohesion of the team so we need a squad that is cohesive that can develop and adapt, that offers different qualities to change games, protect games when we need to and this is what we are trying to build.”

The two most obvious positions for this are the central midfielder who will replace the Roma-bound Granit Xhaka, and the attacking midfield position which has been linked to the likes of Martin Odegaard, James Maddison and Houssem Aouar. Sambi appears to be a de facto Ceballos replacement, probably the third or fourth option, depending on what happens too with Mohamed Elneny, Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

So, that means someone more experienced as the Partney Parter, and even though we have 20 year old Emile Smith Rowe as one of the ‘CAM’ options, means you’d probably want someone with a few more seasons under their belt there. I do think Smith Rowe gives us the opportunity to kick that can down the road a little bit. It makes it far less pressing and urgent than the central midfielder who, all things considered, really should be ready to start the season – especially when you take into account some of the opposition we’re going to face early on.

That means you need to get something done pretty quickly, to do the paperwork, for the player to potentially undergo a period of isolation etc, and still have time to settle in, meet his teammates, do the training and be fit to start on August 13th against Brentford. It doesn’t seem as if anything is particularly close here, and given the way transfers happen these days that could be viewed as a bit worrying. It’s not impossible that an out of the blue/we didn’t see that coming/it happened very quickly style transfer can go down, but more often than not deals are signposted for some time. It’s just the way of things now, there are so many ways in which information can leak it’s almost inevitable that at least something does, meaning that surprises are extremely rare.

Anyway, I’m sure the need for that central midfield is something that Mikel Arteta is both fully aware of himself and anxious to get sorted, so let’s see what happens in the next week or so.

Finally for today, you may have seen announcement during the week about Arsenal’s ‘partnership’ with a thing called Socios, a ‘fan engagement’ experience built around a cryptocurrency. Leaving aside the inherent iffiness of cryptocurrencies anyway, the idea of fans having to pay to vote on things related to the club just seems a bit tacky. It’s obviously another revenue stream for the club during a difficult financial time, and nobody has to part with any money if they don’t want to, but it still doesn’t feel right. If you really want to engage fans, make it equal, not based on your ability/willingness to throw good money away on something with no actual value.

If you’re interested in finding more, there’s a good long-read here from @uglygame that’s worth your time:

For some extra reading, below is an interesting thread from the co-creator of Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency created as a joke but which has a current market cap of $44bn! Click through to read in full.

Right, let’s leave it there for this morning. News throughout the day on Arseblog News, more from me here tomorrow.