It’s Brentford away at noon, and the corresponding fixture last season was a damaging one for Arsenal, even if there was some context. With Chelsea and Man City to face, this was the one where points were a real expectation, but a combination of Covid absences, injuries, incomplete transfer business, and a home side determined to mark a special occasion meant we fell to a 2-0 defeat.
It’s not quite the same this time around. Mikel Arteta says things are different:
“Obviously, the context has changed, the environment has changed and we have to maintain it, as it is, for a long time.”
While his opposite number, Thomas Frank, has been impressed with what he’s seen from Arsenal this season:
“It was one thing to beat them a year ago. For me, now, after Manchester City, they are the best performing side in the Premier League.
“I said to the players today that we will need to be able to suffer and defend very well.”
As ever, Mikel Arteta gave little away in terms of fitness issues when he met the press on Friday. There were reports from Ukraine that Olkesandr Zinchenko had picked up a calf strain and would stay in London during the Interlull because of that, but when asked, Arteta said:
Again we have to wait until tomorrow to make that decision, where he was on that moment and what we have decided to do for international week, doesn’t mean that we are going to say the same for the weekend, so it’s something we will address tomorrow.
How much of that is genuinely wait-and-see rather than giving the opposition more information than the manager wants … well, we’ll wait see when the team news drops around 11am. Thomas Partey is back in training, so he could return to the side if he’s deemed fit enough – and if he does I guess it opens the door for him to play in Ghana’s two internationals during the break.
There is no Emile Smith Rowe, as discussed yesterday, so that front four is unlikely to change, and the only other decision the manager has to make is whether or not to change anything at the back. Arteta declared Ben White fit, although I did hear he’s been dealing with some low-key issues which might have influenced Gareth Southgate’s decision to leave him out of the England squad.
Takehiro Tomiyasu is pushing to start and regain his place at right back, more than an able deputy you’d say, and perhaps when you’re facing a side who offer a real threat from set-pieces his presence might well be useful. Whoever he picks though, I’m very comfortable with what we’ve got at the back, although with only two clean sheets from our seven games this season so far, today would be a good day to add another.
Last season, defeats came in clusters, and this is one of the aspects we need to improve on this time around. It’s been a strange time with the postponements, but last time out we lost at Old Trafford, and we need to show that we can respond. With two weeks between our last Premier League game and this one, we should be fresh and ready, full of energy and ready to consign last season’s game here to history.
Results yesterday mean we have to win go back above Man City, and I’m sure that will provide an extra bit of motivation. We had a stumble against Man Utd in terms of the result, but on the day I thought we played some very good football, so fingers crossed we can find that rhythm again today, and match it with some end product. If we do that, we have a good chance of taking all three points.
As ever, we’ll provide live blog coverage of the game for you, and have all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News.
Catch you shortly for all that!