First up, thanks to everyone who sent kind thoughts and nice words re: the site’s 21st yesterday. You’re all great. Which doesn’t mean that people who didn’t send kind thoughts and nice words aren’t great, but I can’t be 100% sure. I hope you understand.
Having spoken about him on the Arsecast Extra yesterday, wondering why he hadn’t played some minutes with the youth sides, it was notable to see Emile Smith Rowe start for the U21s against Chelsea last night. He played 45 minutes of the 1-0 defeat, and while I didn’t see it and can’t comment on his performance, these will be very useful minutes for him.
I wondered if we might see him last Saturday against Leicester, because cameos from the bench are the way he’s going to build up his match fitness. When you look at his season though, he’s clearly got a bit of a way to go yet before he can start pushing for a start. He has played just 47 minutes of Premier League football, and that came in five small sub appearances. He has 15 minutes in the FA Cup, in the 3-0 over Oxford, and you have to go back to the 23rd of April 2022 for his last start in the Premier League.
It’s the end of February now, so it’s been the best part of a year, and I think what we’re seeing now is a cautious approach to his fitness. The recent surgery was to correct an issue he’d been playing with for years, so you can understand why he’s not being thrown back in with undue haste. His reintegration into the match-day squad will be part of this process, and I think we’ll be looking at bit part appearances here and there for a few weeks.
Which isn’t to say those can’t be effective. Our second highest scorer last season, Smith Rowe grabbed a number of goals from the bench, and as we head to the business end of the campaign, having the ability to change games with subs will be absolutely crucial. He can still play an important role, and if there are no ill-effects and he can get himself 100% fit, there’s no reason why he can’t push and compete for a starting place.
It was interesting to see Jakub Kiwior also play for the U21s last night. It makes sense, because although he’s been part of the squad since his arrival, he hasn’t played. When you consider he had 20 appearances, including 17 Serie A starts for Spezia, he’ll have gone cold a little bit. It’s more difficult for a defender to get minutes too. Generally, the only time you change a central defender is due to injury, or you throw one on late to do a Rob Holding kinda job.
Gabriel has been very good this season, and there’s no reason to make any change to the team. The partnership between the Brazilian and William Saliba has been solid, but who knows when Kiwior might be needed? An injury, a suspension, and all of a sudden he’s into the team, so last night’s action makes sense. As I said re: Smith Rowe, I didn’t see it, but I did see people on Twitter talking about his range of passing, and we know that’s something the manager views as important for his centre-halves.
Beyond that, there’s not a lot going on. Mikel Arteta will meet the press this morning ahead of our game against Everton tomorrow night. A game, by the way, which is not on TV in this part of the world, which seems absolutely mad considering the importance of it. Not to mention that across the world there will be live coverage in almost every country.
There was a recent story on The Athletic about how ‘Illegal streaming is “real threat” in English football‘. Police manpower was reportedly used to raid 1000 homes in a ‘crackdown’, good job – going after the real criminals there, eh? But what on earth do they expect? Fans love their teams, the Premier League has cynically and deliberately co-opted that fandom to create its own money-making product, yet the UK and Ireland remain about the only place on the planet where you don’t get access to every game.
It doesn’t make any commercial sense, and while I know there are certain restrictions – like the ludicrous 3pm ban in the UK (we get some of those games in Ireland) – it’s absurd that the country in which the league takes place is so restricted in terms of live coverage. Imagine if we could get every NFL game live, which in the US, 35% of the games just aren’t shown. You would say that was stupid, and you would be right.
That’s before even getting into the discussion about the price of Sky, BT etc, and the fact that you now need to pay multiple subscriptions to see the games that are on offer. Fans in the UK and Ireland are being taken for a ride, and the only way to see the game against Everton is via an ‘illegal’ stream which, by the way, is someone taking the Premier League’s coverage from another country and rebroadcasting it. It’s not like they’re cinema pirates, sneaking a camcorder in to the movie theatre to record the new releases.
For all the talk of how the TV deals are the best in the world, remember that the need to stream isn’t simply people wanting something for free – because I’m quite sure most people would pay for good HD coverage of every game it was available – it’s because a lot of the time there is no other choice.
I will stream. I will not feel one bit guilty.
Right, that’s your lot for today – for some extra reading, Lewis has a brand new Tactics Column here. Back with more tomorrow, and join us for a Premier League preview podcast on Patreon later this afternoon.