My morning routine has been upended by Twitter blocking access to third party apps, like Tweetbot which I use …well. used on my Mac. It was a clutter-free, no-ads experience, so every morning I’d get up, scan the timeline and see if there was any Arsenal news stirring. Now, I have to look at the abomination of a website to see if I can make sense of whether it’s chronological or just some algorithmic nonsense, all the while blocking ads for ‘Captain Fascist’s Crypto NFT podcast’. Couldn’t that Egon bloke just have stuck to making his terrible exploding cars?
Anyway, Mikel Arteta met the press yesterday ahead of the North London derby and while it was kinda bland stuff all in all, there were a few moments to touch on. One was when he was asked if he was paying any attention to Mykhaylo Mudryk’s Instagram. I don’t know what the winger has done now, but I imagine he’s posted something wearing every Arsenal shirt that ever existed, presenting like a cat in heat, and Photoshopping himself into the new stadium artwork.
Arteta, as you would imagine, wasn’t saying very much, but his face told a different story – as you can see from the blog image this morning. It was a classic of the ‘I know something and you know I know something but I’m not telling you what the something is even though everyone already knows’ genre.
There are reports that Edu has flown to Warsaw, where Shakhtar Donetsk are training, to complete the deal after a move forward in negotiations. Obviously nothing will happen in time for the derby, but maybe he’ll be available for the two games against Man Utd and Man City.
Speaking generally about January business, Arteta said:
We cannot talk about any other players. There is some interest in things we’d like to do to improve the team, because we are a bit short in certain areas with the injuries. We are trying as a club – we are determined to try to improve the team in every window and that’s what we’re trying to do.
There was also an update on Gabriel Jesus about whom the manager said:
I would like to see him very quickly but I don’t think that’s going to happen. We’re going to have to be patient with that one. With every surgery there are always a lot of things you have to be very cautious with, especially in the first few weeks. He’s going to push everybody there to be on the pitch really soon, but we have to be cautious as well.
That’s the second time Arteta has spoken about Jesus in a way that sounds like he’s going to be gone for a good while yet. A couple of days ago the player posted an Instagram update saying ‘5 weeks’, which is more or less where we thought we’d be, so I wonder if the manager is deliberately downplaying that. We know he doesn’t like to give anything away when it comes to injured players and when they might come back. Perhaps he’s being cautious, because we know setbacks are possible, but to talk twice about how long it’s going to be makes me think he’s tempering expectations in the hope that an earlier comeback provides something of a boost. I guess we’ll find out in due course.
The other big question from the press conference was the FA charge after the Oxford game which followed the one from the Newcastle game. I was wondering how he might deal with this, and he went very much down the “No comment” route. Which I understand. If you talk too much about it, you could turn the spotlight up even further. He was asked if he’d spoken to the players and said:
Anything that we can do to improve, we will always have a conversation with our players, with the staff and with the club as well to see what we can do and what we have to change in the game.
A perfectly nothing answer ahead of a game where the atmosphere is going to be intense and there are bound to be moments which spark a reaction on the pitch and on the sidelines. It was funny to hear Antonio Conte’s answer when asked about much the same thing. He said:
I think to intimidate or to create a bad atmosphere is not fair. I don’t like this. I hate the people that try to do it. Don’t forget that we are talking always about a game of football. We have to respect each other.
And of course there’s nothing wrong with what he said at face value, but after a long career in management, with many contentious incidents on the sideline and behind the scenes, there’s an element of people in glass houses and all that. A North London derby needs little external help to turn up the heat, but I think this will be one where Arteta and the Arsenal players will be under the microscope like never before.
Right, that’s it for now. Join us over on Patreon a bit later this morning where Lewis and I will be recording the North London derby preview podcast. Have a great Saturday, and here’s to a cracking Manchester derby with a load of goals, red cards, and hamstring strains.