Thursday, April 25, 2024

Predictions

Morning all. It’s pretty quiet, so let’s do some predictions for today’s blog. Things I think will happen between now and the end of the season.

Please note: if these do not come to pass, it’s because the fates have got it wrong. Please send any complaints to Bob Universe, c/o The Universe.

Kieran Tierney

The Scottish international has barely been used in the last little while. It’s clear that when Oleksandr Zinchenko is fit, Oleksandr Zinchenko plays. He is now the first choice in that position in the eyes of Mikel Arteta.

Tierney’s relegation to second choice is something of a surprise when you consider the issues we’ve had at left back down the years. His arrival was a step-up when you hark back to some of the previous incumbents, but his injury record meant we still had issues – the deployment of Granit Xhaka at left-back was far from ideal.

It’s interesting to note that both he and Zinchenko, players with iffy injury records, have made 16 Premier League appearances each. They are useful to each other in a fitness sense. However, Tierney’s 460 minutes are miles behind the Ukrainian’s 1268, and he has started just one game since the World Cup, playing just 115 minutes of the 900 available.

However, my prediction isn’t that he will go in the summer. That’s a bit too easy. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that happened, but I think he’s still got a role to play this season. Whether it’s a run in the side, a late goal to earn us three points, or a ‘Kieran Gibbs on the final day v West Brom’ style defensive intervention to save us, I reckon there’s a KT moment on the cards before the end of May.

It’s easy to forget players when they don’t play, but you don’t win a title without your squad players making contributions, and my gut tells me there’s something to come from him.

Vieira’s influence will grow

We’re starting to see Mikel Arteta use Fabio Vieira a little more. To be fair, part of that is game-state. He came on against Everton when we were losing, against Brentford when we were seeking a winner, and similarly was lined up to try and help us grab an equaliser against Man City but then they went and selfishly scored their third goal.

He created Gabriel Martinelli’s goal against Villa – although we do have Emi Martinez to thank for leaving his goal to go up for a corner. That was his fifth assist of the season, despite the fact he’s been in and out a bit. He’s taking some time to properly bed in, but we’re seeing signs of his development.

There’s been a lot of talk in the last few weeks about Granit Xhaka and the ‘left 8’ position, and whether or not Vieira might be considered a starter there. At Premier League level, I’m not 100% convinced yet, but I do wonder if the Europa League might be a way to stress-test this particular theory. Much will depend on the opposition when the draw is made on Friday, but if we are going to compete across two fronts between now and the end of the season, Mikel Arteta is going to have use his squad to the deepest extent possible.

The more likely option is that he comes in for Martin Odegaard, but I would be interested to see the two of them together. Xhaka has been very good this season, but like others in the last few weeks taken a bit of a dip. Which isn’t to write him off, he may very well rediscover better form, but having arrived with an injury and not had pre-season, as well as having more time to understand what the manager wants on a tactical level, I think we’ll see more of Vieira from now on.

Arteta’s touchline ban

Let me be clear, I love Mikel Arteta. I love his passion, I think it transmits to the team. I love how his touchline behaviour boils the piss of some of the pundit class. They are all bleating and bellyaching and looking like idiots, but they don’t care about that. They are well paid for their idiocy, and the more people talk about them the happier they are.

The happiest they will ever be, and this includes in their private, personal lives, is if they get a chance to go ‘I TOLD YOU SO!’, and I think they might get that. It won’t make them right, or any less of a pack of dimwitted grouches, but I think the run-in, the pressure of the title chase, and the way their relentless nagging puts Arteta in the spotlight ahead of other managers who do the same thing, might well result in a routine touchline incident being treated more seriously than it should be.

Remember Arsene Wenger being sent off at Old Trafford for kicking a water bottle (here it is if you don’t)? Something like that, where the punishment far outweighs the crime. On the one hand, I hope it doesn’t happen, but on the other – as we continue to build an us against them mentality – you could see how it would be almost beneficial. It sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but you could imagine him using it to his advantage.

Right, that’s your lot for this morning. Back tomorrow with more, and a brand new Arsecast.

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