It feels like an age since we played, but we’re back at it today when we face Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round.
Ordinarily, you’d imagine this is a game that the manager might rotate substantially for with Liverpool and Sp*rs on the horizon, but while I think there might be some changes, I don’t think it will be quite as wholesale as some might imagine. Not least because we just don’t really have the first team numbers to do that, especially in central midfield.
You would imagine the likes of Bernd Leno, Nuno Tavares, Rob Holding, Albert Sambi Lokonga and maybe Eddie Nketiah and even Flo Balogun might see some action today, but they will have to be augmented with some ‘first team’ players too. Gabriel is suspended, of course, which could open the door for Pablo Mari, but if Mikel Arteta went with Ben White and Holding I wouldn’t be surprised. The Spaniard hasn’t played since an EFL Cup tie in September, and barely even makes the bench these days.
There are reports that young players like Charlie Patino, Salah Oulad M’Hand and Omari Hutchinson are in the squad, which would give the bench a youthful zest. Whether any of them start remains to be seen, I guess much will depend on some of the players Arteta expressed doubts about in his pre-game press conference. There were injuries, but also Covid issues to contend with, so there might be an absence or two we’re not aware of yet.
On his approach to today’s game, the manager says:
You have to go game-by-game, regardless of the competition. You want to plan what’s going to happen in two or three games and you decide for key players not to play because they’re going to play in other matches, it doesn’t work like that, because maybe the next day they get Covid or something happens and you don’t have them! We go game-by-game, try to win every single game and then the rest will be much better.
So, it sounds like he’s going to go pretty strong, but hopefully – and this is taking nothing for granted – we’re in a position where we can give the second half a bit of a Hale End flourish with some of those previously named young players off the bench. Kick off is at the weird time of 17.10.
As I’m sure you’ll have seen, we play in an all white kit today as part of the ‘No More Red’ campaign to highlight the work done by Arsenal in the Community to keep young people safe from knife crime and youth violence. It’s a great initiative, kudos.
Elsewhere, Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ move to Roma was made official yesterday. Poor lad has to contend with Jose Mourinho from now until May, but on the other hand I’d say the Italian food over there is pretty good. Or, as they call it, food.
He’s got former teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan to help him settle in, and a couple of English lads – Chris Smalling and Tammy Abraham too – so they’ll be able to point him in the right direction too. Best of luck to him on a personal level, but of course success for Roma means Mourinho is happy and I can’t get on board with that. Does that make me a small, petty man. Yes, yes it does, but I’m ok with that.
Finally, a dollop of transfer gossip to see us out. A report from Brazil says we’ve made an offer for Palmeiras midfielder, Danilo. As always you have to take stories like this with a pinch of salt, but we know we need a midfielder, he’s left-footed, 20 years old and ticks many of the boxes of our recent recruitment strategy. Let’s add some fuel to the fire by reminding people Edu spent some time in Brazil over the new year. Sure, he could have been there just to have a party and see family, but what if he wasn’t BBQing his bollix off and instead was there to do business?
Anyway, let’s see what happens. I don’t know much about the player himself to be honest, but it sounds credible on paper, even if the publication itself might not be the most trustworthy.