Morning all. A quick Saturday round-up for you.
Emile Smith Rowe is now England international Emile Smith Rowe, after making his debut in a 5-0 win over Albania. There’s still far too much Harry about the England team, but nevertheless I am happy for him. They play San Marino on Monday, which could be a chance for Gareth Southgate to give some players a start, he could be one of them.
England XI against San Marino:
Harry Hands, Harry Meatfoot, Harry Tableforahead, Harry Coalmine, Harry Tripe, etc etc.
Bukayo Saka did not play last night, but he too should be feeling more confident about starting on Monday because in reality the supply of Harrys available to Southgate is quite limited.
Elsewhere during this Interlull, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a penalty for Gabon, and there’s been a lot of talk about who should take our penalties after he missed against Watford. It’s an interesting conversation because I’m never absolutely confident when he’s on penalty duty. I think both Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe are more convincing penalty takers than he is, and if I could watch Ainsley Maitland-Niles take every penalty for us from now until the end of time (probably around 2026 the way things are going), I would pay good money for that.
The thing is though, Pepe is hardly ever on the pitch anymore, and Lacazette has only come back into the team. He was also fouled for the two most recent penalties, and I wonder is that playing a part (remember when Henry/Pires used this ‘system’). I was also informed that Aubameyang offered the Villa penalty to Laca, who must have told him to go ahead. Also, the ‘foul’ on him in the Watford game was Danny Rose clubbing about him the head and neck with one of his lumpy arms, so if Lacazette had taken the ball and slightly woozily walloped it over the bar, people would have questioned the wisdom of him taking it.
I had a conversation with Clive about this on the Patreon pod, and there’s another thing to consider: if you ‘take him off’ penalties, you have an unhappy striker. He’s the captain, one of the senior players in the team, and if he says he wants to take them, you’ve gotta go with that. He’s always going to back himself to score, even if we might be less confident. If he misses the next one or the next one, maybe you have the conversation on the training ground but for now, I don’t think it’s a massive issue.
According to TransferMarkt Aubameyang has scored 31 penalties in his career, and missed 11. That’s about a 75% conversion rate. Thierry Henry scored 28 penalties, and missed 7, a conversion rate of around 80%. Lacazette’s 31 taken and 5 missed gives him a much higher percentage, and while I’d have no problem with him taking them, he’s not gonna be here beyond this season. I just wonder if this is such a big talking point because we haven’t had too much else to complain about of late.
I thought James made an excellent point on the Arsecast Extra on Monday about Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka positioning themselves as potential takers. Lots of training ground practice will help, but it’s been notable this season that both have been taking most of our set-pieces (corners, free kicks etc), and it’s a short hop from being responsible for that to stepping up when we’ve got a penalty. And as both are long-term fixtures in the team, while everyone else in the penalty conversation has some kind of question mark over how much time they have left in red and white, adding another string to their already impressive bows would be a good idea.
Not a lot else happening really. If you’re looking for an Arsenal fix today, the top of the table women take on Sp*rs away in the North London derby. It kicks off at 13.30 and it’s on BBC1. The latest edition of the Arsenal Women Arsecast is well worth a listen about TV rights deals and Sky’s coverage of the women’s game, and for some extra reading this morning, Tim has an exclusive interview with midfielder Frida Maanum which is well worth your time. Some really great insight in there.
Right, let’s leave it there. There are dogs to be walked, bacon sandwiches to be eaten, and coffee to be mainlined into my veins.
Have a good one.