Morning, and a happy Friday to you all.
Full focus now on what’s coming up this weekend, daunting as it is, and Mikel Arteta will meet the press later on to discuss the trip to Anfield. There was an early medical team update, which focused on two players. Granit Xhaka remains on track for a January return, while Sead Kolasinac is likely to spend some time sidelined due to a nasty ankle injury sustained on international duty.
It’s never nice to see a player injured, but with Kieran Tierney back after a few weeks out, and Nuno Tavares impressing in his absence, we’re well covered at left back. I suppose it might have an impact on a potential January departure for the Bosnia and Herzegovina international, but that’s a bridge we can cross when we come to it. Tierney v Tavares is a decision the manager has to make for tomorrow’s team. It’s a pretty decent problem to have, to be fair, especially when you consider where we were last season when we had left-back issues.
The most interesting line from the official update was ‘All other players in the men’s first-team squad are currently fit and available for selection,’ and that means that Thomas Partey is in contention for the weekend. He missed the Watford game and the subsequent internationals due to a groin strain, but hopefully he’s recovered sufficiently to be involved at Anfield.
When you look at the upcoming fixtures, this feels like it would be a good time for him to really step up. Which isn’t to say he’s been bad or anything like that, but I don’t think we’ve seen the absolute best of him since his move from Atletico Madrid. Not on a consistent basis at least, and when you’ve got Liverpool, Man Utd and Everton coming up, that would be a very good time for him to demonstrate his quality and his experience. This is a very young team, and while that has positive aspects, there are going to be times when your senior players are needed.
Right now, those are Partey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Xhaka would probably be another if he were fit but he’s not, and so around those older guys, these young players are going to do their stuff. I don’t think they look at all fazed, but at some point stuff might not go as well as we’d like, and we’ve yet to really see how they react to that. Last season, Partey was superb in our 1-0 win at Old Trafford, playing alongside Mohamed Elneny if I remember, and if we are going to get through these next few games with the kind of points tally we’d like, we’ve got more chance of doing that if he’s at his best. Hopefully the few weeks of rest/recovery, rather than travel and international games, has recharged his batteries and we see him firing on all cylinders.
Speaking of Aubameyang, concerns over his injury status were allayed this week, he’s apparently fine and ready for Saturday. There are plenty of questions about this game, how we’ll approach it and all the rest, but that can wait for tomorrow’s preview post and the preview podcast on Patreon later on. Those will come with the benefit of hearing from the manager during his press conference, and whatever little bits of information he’s willing to share.
Not a lot else going on this morning so I’m going to leave it there for now. It’s a bit short, but hey, that’s what happens in the week after an Interlull. Don’t blame me, blame FIFA and countries and borders and things. I did see a story about Elneny leaving for free in January, but that doesn’t seem that likely or sufficiently interesting to spend any real time on.
Anyway, I will leave you with a brand new Arsecast, chatting to Jim Campbell of the Football Ramble about all things Arsenal, and we have John Gibbons from the Anfield Wrap to give us some Liverpool perspective.
We’ll have all the stories and updates from the press conference over on Arseblog News throughout the morning. More here tomorrow. Until then, take it easy.