Attention turns away from the Premier League this week to Europe. The team will train this morning at London Colney before flying to Lisbon where Mikel Arteta will meet the press, and perhaps give us some insight into what kind of starting XI he’s thinking of.
I’ll be honest and say that as I sit here this morning writing this, the Europa League feels quite secondary to me. After what happened at the weekend, the drama that the Premier League has engendered thus far and promises to serve up in the next twelve games, it’s difficult to think of anything else. There’s also a feeling that we don’t want or need anything to take our focus away from that, but I suspect that’s more of a supporter’s fear than a reality for the players or the manager.
We know Arteta is trying to instill a culture at this club where every game, regardless of the competition, is important and should be won. It’s hard to argue against that really, but while standards should always be high, practicality has to be taken into account too. With an away trip to high-flying Fulham on Sunday, it would make sense for rest/rotation to take place for this game.
I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that during the final games of the Premier League campaign, we’re going to miss a player or two here and there. As you get to this part of the season, the physical impact of everything that has happened up to now can start to cause casualties with injuries, and maybe a bit of fatigue here and there could cause a mistimed tackle or two and you face possible suspensions.
We’ve already had some of that in the last few weeks. Thomas Partey missed a couple of games; Eddie Nketiah wasn’t in the squad for Bournemouth; Leandro Trossard picked up a groin strain in that game – we await some kind of time-frame for his recovery, although some initial reports suggest it’s not too bad.
We’re fortunate in that we’ve got some players coming back who won’t be feeling much in the way of accumulated fatigue. Emile Smith Rowe is starting to feature again, minutes that will be vital for him to build match fitness, and I saw some suggestion that Gabriel Jesus could be in the traveling squad for tomorrow’s game. Whether that’s to just have him involved around the team again or if he’s capable of playing, I’m not sure, but it would be a promising development either way. The reality of these two players is that because of their injuries, and how little they’ve played, the heavy legs of a long season won’t be a consideration. It’s about how quickly they can get match fit.
Elsewhere though, we’ve got some players who are, for want of a better term, a bit cold. Someone like Kieran Tierney, last season’s first choice left back, has had just 20 minutes of Premier League action in 2023. In 10 games, he’s had 3 appearances of 11′, 1′, and 8′ respectively. He did play in the FA Cup games, but it’s not a lot of game time all things considered.
Think too of Jakub Kiwior, who started 17 of Spezia’s 1 Serie A games before he joined in January. The only game he didn’t feature in took place on January 22nd, he joined us on Jan 23rd, so he was left out to ensure nothing scuppered the deal. The only time he’s featured in an Arsenal shirt since then was 45 minutes in an U21 game. He’s been brought in to give us cover/competition for Gabriel, and if he’s needed during the Premier League run-in, I think we’d all feel a bit more comfortable if he had some minutes under his belt.
The same could apply to Takehiro Tomiyasu, maybe Rob Holding too. There’s Jorghino for midfield, and while we’re a bit restricted as to what we can do in terms of rotating our attacking trio, there are definitely changes the manager can make for this game that make sense for the Europa League itself, but which also could be useful in Premier League terms. If these players get minutes, and garner a little bit of rhythm, it could make the difference if they’re needed.
So, let’s see what he has to say about it all. The press conference takes place this evening, and we’ll cover that on Arseblog News. We’ll also have a bit of a preview podcast for you over on Patreon, so do join us for that.
Right, let’s leave it there for now. Have a good one.