It’s a busy day of Premier League action, but all eyes will be on the Emirates this afternoon as we take on Leicester at 4.30.
My sense is that last night’s win for Man Utd is probably the best result for us, even if you could make the case that a draw would have seen both sides drop points. We have those games in hand on them and, of course, it’s always good to see Sp*rs lose. It does mean United are above us in the table right now, but maybe that’s not a bad thing for our players to see as they look to focus on the job in hand today.
There don’t appear to be any significant issues with injuries or absences. Mikel Arteta basically said Emile Smith Rowe will be back in the squad today, while the only other problem we have is with Takehiro Tomiyasu. It seems like caution is the order of the day, with the manager saying:
He had an injury, he made a quick recovery, we played him … maybe too quickly, I don’t know. He had a recurring injury there and he felt it again one day when he was back in training.
It’s a disappointment because he’s been really consistent, he played a lot of minutes … quality minutes, and he made a good contribution to the team. Now he needs to be consistently training for a period so we can minimise the risk of having a recurring injury in the same muscle because that would be something to worry about.
It means Cedric will continue at right back, and he’s done fine of late, but hopefully Tomi will recover quickly. There are some big games coming up that I think he’s better suited for so fingers crossed on that.
So, the only decision Arteta has to make is whether Smith Rowe comes straight back into the team, and given Gabriel Martinelli scored one of our three superb goals last week, I suspect he’ll keep his place on the left hand side. It’s also nice, if Smith Rowe is on the bench, that we have our leading scorer in reserve if we need him, not to mention a player who has been able to come on as a substitute and score this season. With Pepe and Nketiah, that would give us three attacking options of varying degrees.
We should know well enough what Leicester are about, not quite as consistent as last season or the season before where they fell out of the top four right at the end of the season. But clearly the fact they were doing the business at that end of the table for the last couple of years tells you they’re not to be taken for granted because of their league position at the moment.
The absence of Jamie Vardy today is welcome because of how often he’s caused us problems in the past, but they still have plenty of talent and some dangerous players. They may well have looked at Arsenal and our defensive lapses in recent games, and seen where they might hurt us. Thankfully we’ve been able to take maximum points despite those errors, but we can’t keep expecting to do that in the Premier League, so I’m hoping for much greater defensive security today.
Beyond that, what else can we say about this team and what it needs to do? Week on week we’re more assured of what they’re capable of, and as the season progresses and the pressure starts to build, it becomes as much about how we cope with that aspect of it – the expectation and the need to win games. In that sense, it’s much like last week when fixtures went our way and we had to beat Watford, which we did. This week, United have sent a reminder that they’re still scrapping away for top four, and we have to deal with that as well as Leicester this afternoon.
Hopefully though, a home game, a great atmosphere inside the stadium, and a team that is growing in confidence and momentum will bring us the right result and throw the gauntlet back towards United etc.
Let’s leave it there, catch you later for the game.