Some quick European stuff to start off, and the Europa League final this season will be between Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers after the German side beat West Ham 1-0 last night to win 3-1 on aggregate. I wonder will David Moyes look back on the team he picked against us last weekend with some regret. It was a tired looking sending off for Aaron Cresswell, and from there it was always going to be an uphill struggle.
I guess this is one for Hammers fans to do the post-mortem on, and to be fair they didn’t have a lot of choice defensively for our game with so many players out, but maybe he might do it differently. Not that it matters to us.
Former Gunner Glen Kamara played, with Aaron Ramsey on the bench, as Rangers (managed by former Gunner Gio van Bronckhorst) beat Disgustingly Sweet Energy Drink Leipzig, while the in Europa Conference League a final between Feyenoord and Roma pits two on-loan Arsenal players against each other. Reiss Nelson has come to life in recent weeks after a slow start in Holland, he has 6 assists and 2 goals in his last 6 games or so, and he helped his team overcome a Marseille side with William Saliba and Matteo Guendouzi in it.
It’s been less good for Maitland-Niles, just over an hour of playing time since he last started a game for the Italian side – back in mid-February. He didn’t get off the bench in either semi-final against Leicester, but you never know what might happen between now and the final in terms of injury etc, so a door could open for him. In truth though, it’s been a disappointing loan spell for him, and with just 12 months left on his contract at the end of June, he’s one of the players whose future has to be sorted out this summer.
In some ways he reminds me a bit of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a player whose versatility is seen as useful in some ways, but whose lack of a blindingly obvious starting position works against him in others. I really think he missed a trick to nail his colours to the right back/right wing-back mast when Mikel Arteta first arrived. There was a real chance there for him, but he decided he wanted to play in central midfield. He did ok there at times, but never so well you thought he was going to be a nailed on starter. I’m not really sure he’s been as well advised as he might have been either, sometimes a player receiving good guidance makes the right decisions to keep his career trajectory going in the right way.
Would he have played more if he’d stayed? It’s hard to say. Certainly in January there would have been minutes, but he started games when he arrived in Rome before falling out of favour. You might also make a case that his presence might have given Mikel Arteta another option at left-back in the last few weeks, but all in all it’s likely to have been a bit-part role here too. On that basis, you hope the experience of going to another league and another country will be beneficial to him, but where he ends up this summer – and for how much – is almost impossible to guess at this point.
It’s hard to think we’re heading into the third last Premier League weekend of the season, but we are. We all know how high the stakes are and how much we need three points against Leeds on Sunday. There are other fixtures which impact our top four chase of course, but one of the worst things about football – in my opinion anyway – is placing hope in other teams to get results you want.
I remember the end of one season (maybe 1999) when it was us and Man Utd, they played Spurs on the final day and we needed them to lose. You knew they deep down they were going to win and Spurs were gonna Spurs it up, but they went ahead at Old Trafford as we played Aston Villa and there was that glimmer of hope until United remembered: “Lads, it’s Spurs.”
So, all we can do is concentrate on our game, do what we need to do and take it from there. We’ll build-up to the Leeds game over the weekend, and later this afternoon we’ll have our usual preview podcast over on Patreon, as well as all the updates from Mikel Arteta’s press conference on Arseblog News.
Before I go this morning, I just wanted to give a quick update on our April Patreon drive. I pledged to give every penny we generated to charity, so on that basis, with James adding his podcast wages to the pot, and then rounding it up to a nice even number, we have donated the grand total of €35,000 to UNICEF.
That money will go to help children all around the world to provide shelter, healthcare, education, and even food as they struggle in areas impacted by the horrors of war. Thank you all so much for playing your part in this, and you can be sure your Patreon subscription has gone to a very good cause.
Right, let’s leave it there for now, but there’s a brand new Arsecast for you to get into your ears. I chat to Amy Lawrence about the final four games, the Champions League, Mikel Arteta and lots more.