Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Questions, questions, questions

Morning all.

Mikel Arteta will meet the press later today ahead of tomorrow’s game against Southampton which is now very, very far into ‘must win’ territory after two successive defeats.

Questions I’m sure he’ll be asked.

What are you going to do up front?

Sticking with Alexandre Lacazette is certainly an option, but not a particularly inspiring one after his recent form. There’s talk that he’s been absent from training this week. Perhaps there’s an injury or an illness that will make this decision easier for the manager.

Not so easy is who replaces him. Eddie Nketiah is ‘like for like’ to an extent, and he’s come close to scoring in recent games, denied by the crossbar twice and one brilliant save from Brighton’s keeper. As posited by Ian Wright on Tuesday’s bonus Arsecast, this should be an opportunity he is relishing.

I don’t know what exactly his future holds, but it almost certainly lies elsewhere. Unless he has everything already wrapped up (free transfer etc), some goals in the next few weeks might well open up doors for him that might not otherwise. If simply playing for Arsenal and scoring goals in the Premier League isn’t incentive enough, this adds something on top.

Gabriel Martinelli is another option, and definitely something I’d like to see, although his presence on the left could be tied in with the other big question Arteta will have to deal with (left-back), while Emile Smith Rowe as a false 9 didn’t work against Villarreal but the sample size on that particular tactic is so small it’s not possible to say definitely it can’t work – even if it didn’t a year ago.

Who is going to play left back?

This is the 64 thousand million dollar billion trillion dollar gazillion dollar question for this weekend. Can it be Nuno Tavares? Yes, it can, but will it? I’m not so sure. I don’t think Arteta will give anything away today at his press conference, but I’m sure he’ll be quizzed about it.

Will he implement a back-line shuffle with Rob Holding coming in, Ben White going to right back, and Cedric flipping from right to left? Will he go with a back three, and play wing-backs, thus lessening the defensive aspect of the job and perhaps opening the door for Tavares again? Saka at left back: the nuclear option, with Nicolas Pepe coming into the forward line?

There are options. Some better than others, none especially ideal, but that is football. You can’t always do what you want, so being able to manage those scenarios is a key part of the job. I’m curious to see what he comes up with, and I guess we’ll find out tomorrow rather than in front of the cameras today, but whatever it is, I hope it works.

It’s also possible that he’ll be asked about the club’s sponsorship with Rwanda in light of the story that emerged yesterday which will see refugees trying to claim asylum in the UK given a ‘one way ticket’ to the African nation as part of a deal between the two countries.

I realise that this and promoting tourism via sponsorship on our shirt sleeves are not directly linked, but I can’t be alone in feeling very uncomfortable that there is any kind of association between Arsenal and this treatment of people. Seeking asylum is not illegal, and the UK government’s ‘offshoring’ of refugees, is described by Amnesty International asa fundamental absence of humanity with no regard for people fleeing danger, violence or war.’

I wrote previously about Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president and also an Arsenal fan, as part of the cognitive dissonance football fans have to contend with. In the Mirror today, Colin Millar goes into some depth on the whole situation which makes for uncomfortable reading. I know this is a subject many would prefer not to think about, and I get it, but at a time when refugees fleeing war in Ukraine are being welcomed and re-homed across Europe, there’s an obvious difference for those coming from other parts of the world. It’s just not right on any level.

In truth, it’s much more a question for those higher up than Mikel Arteta, but as the public face of the club, he’s front and centre. In the same way Thomas Tuchel and Eddie Howe have faced uncomfortable questions of late, he may well do likewise today. Ultimately, this is one for every individual and their own conscience. Are you happy for Arsenal to be associated with this kind of thing? Last year the very same UK government expressed concerns about Rwanda’s ‘continued restrictions to civil and political rights and media freedom.’

When a sitting president pushes through a referendum that allows him to run for a third term, then wins the election with almost 99% of the vote, you have to ask questions about the democratic process. As I said, this is something that bothers you or it doesn’t. You can either compartmentalise it or you can’t. But surely what’s happened of late has demonstrated the head in the sand approach is no good to anyone in the end.

Sorry if this has got a bit heavy, but Visit Rwanda … Whether You Want To Or Not … just doesn’t sit right with me.

Right, I’ll leave you with a brand new Arsecast, doing statements with Tim Stillman that he has to either strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree with. All the links you need are below, enjoy!

We’ll have all the stories from the manager’s presser on Arseblog News later this afternoon too.

Have a good one.

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