Hello, a quick Friday round-up for you.
First up, it was reported by Sam Dean of the Telegraph that Arsenal might be facing Man City tomorrow with a ‘skeleton staff’, which sounds cool because it’d be amazing to see Pep Guardiola put off his game-plan by an actual skeleton, but in reality it means that more of Mikel Arteta’s coaching/back-room team have tested positive for Covid-19.
There is a press conference today where we’ll get updates on that, as well as if any players have been affected too. Hopefully there’s nobody else to add to the list, but we’ll just have to wait and see. City played on Wednesday, of course, having also played on December 26th, but fatigue shouldn’t be an issue for an expensively assembled squad that was able to rest Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan for their 1-0 over Brentford.
More on the Man City game tomorrow, but those of you celebrating tonight, remember it’s a 12.30 kick off. I suspect the preview blog might be quite short.
Meanwhile, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has reported for training with Gabon ahead of the AFCON. It was reported that he took a private jet from Barcelona to Dubai for their training camp, having been given permission by Arsenal to leave early. Other AFCON departees – Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Nicolas Pepe – are expected to be available for tomorrow’s game before they leave.
I’ve seen some people raise a quizzical eyebrow at the fact he was in Barcelona, wondering if it has some bearing on his future, but I doubt it. It’s probably more about travel rules in the current circumstances than a potential move to a club which would struggle to pay his wages even if he went there on loan. However, what happens after AFCON will be interesting.
I don’t think that we’ll be able to get the striker we want in the January transfer window, and with all due respect to Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah, I don’t think they’re enough to get us through until May. Clearly there’s a lot about the Aubameyang situation we’re not aware of, and whether this time away will allow some healing remains to be seen. It might well be a case that necessity – on both sides – could bring about some kind of truce until the end of the season, at which point both sides will be able to be more definitive about what happens next.
I was watching a video on Instagram earlier this morning, Arsenal’s top assists of the season so far. In there was one from Emile Smith Rowe for Aubameyang to score a great goal in the North London derby back in September. Let’s not forget his flick around the corner to send his young teammate racing behind the Sp*rs defence too.
The fact is, since his disciplinary breach, Arsenal have not missed Aubameyang, but that’s not to say we might not miss him in the future. It’s a shame this has all happened, I’m not pointing fingers, just saying that he scored plenty for this club since he joined, and it’s sad that there’s such ignominy around him – even if he is ultimately responsible for the situation he finds himself in. It’d be nice to think that some rapprochement could be found, and that he might contribute to what could be a successful season in terms of an improved final league position.
Finally for today, just a word to say thank you to everyone for simply being here throughout 2021. For many, including myself, it’s been an extremely challenging year because of personal loss. I’m grateful that this website has allowed me to retain a sense of routine and normality which has been enormously helpful in terms of coping with all of the shit this year threw up. A big part of that is knowing that you are out there reading every day, listening to the podcasts, and everything else. I can’t even begin to express how much that support means, and how much it has helped.
I won’t be sorry to see the back of 2021. Even without anything to contend with on a personal level, we’re now nearly two years into a pandemic which has radically altered what we thought was normal, and it’s not easy to cope with. I hope that next year might be better in that regard, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
For now, let me wish you and yours a very happy and healthy new year. May 2022 bring you everything you need and more. Look after yourselves, thank you again for everything, and we’ll see you on far side.
Finally, there’s a brand new Arsecast for you below, which is our Patreon Preview Podcast. Lewis and I talk Man City, Arteta, team selection, some end of year awards and more. Enjoy.