Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Goalkeeping trivia + time for Gabriel to nail down his place

Here’s a good quiz question: Which player has never made a first team appearance for his club, but is nearly in double figures for his country?

Answer: Karl Hein. He’s been on the bench for us a few times, including the opening day of the season against Brentford, but has yet to play for the first team. Last night though, winning his 9th cap for Estonia, he kept Wales at bay for Estonia, including one outstanding save from professional golfer Gareth Bale – check it out here.

I’m definitely not the Arsenal history guy, there are people out there who remember all kinds of stuff about all kinds of things, but surely this is a unique situation? A player yet to make his debut for us, or in senior football at club level, but basically first choice for his national side? He is only 19, and this season he has Bernd Leno and Aaron Ramsdale in front of him – possibly even Arthur Okonkwo too, so his chances of an Arsenal appearance are slim.

He could possibly play another handful of internationals between now and May though, so it presents quite an interesting situation for the club to deal with. There’s likely to be some goalkeeper turnover next summer so perhaps he’ll get his chance then. If he can keep performing for his country, why not?

Of course, Karl Hein carries on the great Estonian goalkeeping tradition at Arsenal, following in the footsteps of Mart Poom who made two appearances for us in the 2006-7 season, but played 120 times at international level. Maybe there’s a long-standing tradition in Estonia where the goalkeeper’s first and last name must be four letters each. Other keepers with more vowels and syllables will never stand a chance, so if you’re in Estonia now and your son is called …

  • Dayv Lynx
  • Robo Cask
  • Trev Flog
  • Iain Pluk
  • Stan Glov
  • Arty Ziff
  • Paul Sayv
  • Nige Milk
  • Bren Dann
  • Kris Burd
  • Timm Tamm
  • Xavi Webb
  • Fred Netz
  • Leon Post
  • Ztop Penn
  • Nail Quin
  • Greg Blok
  • or
  • Jame Plop

… then I think you need to buy them a pair of gloves, and starting booting footballs at their head immediately to build up their reflexes. Worry about concussion later.

Mikel Arteta meets the press later this morning, ahead of Saturday’s game against Norwich. I’m sure he’ll be happy enough that Gareth Southgate’s aversion to using substitutes meant that Bukayo Saka didn’t play at all against Poland last night, so he should be fit and ready to go. Hopefully we’ll get the question mark over Emile Smith Rowe answered in a positive way too, because it would be nice to go into a game with the strongest team possible.

The training videos put out this week show Thomas Partey back out there, ready to do his stuff, and Gabriel Magalhaes is taking full part too, which is very welcome after Pablo Mari’s dodgy start to the season. From the outside, his performances left a lot to be desired, but internally that must have been felt too, because why else would we pick Sead Kolasinac? This is a man whose Arsenal race was run a long time ago – a player viewed with such disregard last season that we were happy to let him go and simply have no back-up left back at all.

I think this is going to be a big moment for the Brazilian. Remember, this was a player signed by Mikel Arteta last season for a fee of nearly £30m, so there’s a need to make this work. You could argue that his first season was difficult in places. There were obviously some adaptation issues, he picked up Covid which set him back physically and cost him his place in the team for a while, there was pretty harsh red card, and all the while he was playing in a team which always felt like it was struggling like an old car trying to get up a steep hill (even when we were better in the second half of the season).

Now, he’s had that time to settle, he’s recovered from his summer injury, and it’s blindingly obvious there is a place for him to take and call his own. I don’t quite know what his true level is yet, but given he’s only 23, and he’s got all the physical aspects you need to be a modern centre-half, his ceiling is clearly much higher than Mari or Kolasinac. The chance is there for him to absolutely nail himself down as a first name on the teamsheet kind of player, so let’s hope he can start that process against Norwich.

Elsewhere, new signing Takehiro Tomiyasu played 90 minutes for Japan (at centre-half) against China on Tuesday night, so his participation is probably up in the air a little bit. He has to come to London, meet everyone for the first time, get settled in a bit, and I suspect it’s too soon for him to start, but going forward a back line consisting of him, Ben White, Gabriel, and Kieran Tierney is an interesting prospect.

Anyway, whatever happens at the press conference, we’ll cover it over on Arseblog News. For now, I’ll point you in the direction of Patreon, where there’s another episode of Waffle, the podcast in which James and I answer questions about anything and everything except Arsenal (a refreshing break).

Back tomorrow with a regular Arsecast, a Patreon preview podcast, and more on the blog. Until then, take it easy.

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