The first weekend of the Premier League season is over. I tried to watch some of Man City v West Ham yesterday while I was doing some prep in the kitchen but my focus was very much on onions as Pep’s side can be a bit tedious. Erling Haaland with two goals on his debut is a bit of a warning sign though, the second was just such a lovely pass and finish.
If we accept City are up there with Liverpool as the teams to catch this season, then maybe West Ham losing isn’t a bad thing if they continue to be a contender for the European places. Similarly, it’s always good to see Man Utd lose, especially when Scott McTominay is allowed to do what he wants on a football pitch without the proper censure.
His challenge yesterday was a red card all day long, and it hasn’t taken long for the first true If That Was Granit Xhaka of the season. It’s actually quite ludicrous to think that both Xhaka and McTominay received the same punishment – a yellow card – for incidents which couldn’t be further apart in terms of seriousness. I have no complaints if refs book players who dive, although in slight mitigation I think Xhaka was expecting more contact from the opponent. However, how can it be possible that a challenge which goes over the ball and sees studs make contact with a player’s shin is worth the same as that? It’s absurd, especially in the VAR era. Perhaps the way the Brighton player jumped in had some impact on the final decision. I dunno.
Thankfully it wasn’t a leg breaker but it could have been. The worst thing Xhaka did was make himself look a bit silly, he didn’t endanger his opponent in any way. There’s just something so absurd about the rules here. It’s like two men being sentenced to a year in prison: one for stealing a car and joyriding, and the other because his pants fell down in a supermarket.
Still, all in all a decent weekend for us and we continue to build confidence ahead of our first home game of the season.
We had some questions on the Arsecast Extra about subs, and thinking about Friday night more I really do think there’s a gap in the squad for a player who really suits circumstances like this. Given he’d left it late to make changes, I was almost expecting the Rob Holding one, where Rob comes on to suit his name as we’re holding onto a lead. Instead, there were two like for like swaps with Kieran Tierney and Eddie Nketiah on for Olesksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus.
That’s more positive than it might have been last season, but there’s room for more, I think. 1-0 up away from home is literally the last in-game scenario that makes you think Nicolas Pepe would be a good idea, and beyond that there wasn’t much to try and change the momentum of a match in which Palace were on top but not threatening a great deal (which is why I think Arteta was reluctant to change things much earlier). As I’ve said previously, the availability of Emile Smith Rowe and Fabio Vieira will be a help, but Arsenal are still looking at doing some business.
I saw a clip doing the rounds of David Ornstein saying Arsenal are still in the market for a winger, but it might depend on Pepe leaving, while similarly a central midfield arrival might also need a departure in that area first. Easier said than done on both counts when it comes to outward business, but we know Youri Tielemans is high on the midfield list, and you have to imagine they know who they want when it comes to that attacking player.
There’s lot of time still to go this window, and trying to sort this out on the back of a good win away from home on the opening day is far better than a scenario in which the lack of that player cost us points.
This weekend looks like it’s been a successful one for some of our loan players. Blackpool fans are raving about Charlie Patino after he made his debut for them in a 2-0 win over Stoke. There’s still a long way to go, obviously, and a 20 minute cameo isn’t enough to make any definitive judgement, but this is a big season for the young man, and hopefully he can keep it up.
In France, Nuno Tavares scored for Marseille, the kind of goal he threatened to score for us a few times but his right foot tended to fire the ball higher and wider than he did in this instance. In the same game, Flo Balogun grabbed a consolation for Reims but from a personal perspective, it’s a good way for him to start his loan spell in France.
Right, that’s it for this morning. James and I recorded the Arsecast Extra yesterday, so if you haven’t had a chance to listen already, all the bits and pieces you need to do that are below. Enjoy, especially the incredible musical finale!