It’s Friday, Mikel Arteta will hold his pre-Leeds press conference today, and the main reason you know football is back because we’ve had images of training and we’re freaking out over who is there and not there on the training ground.
It mostly looks good from an Arsenal perspective, but Eddie Nketiah was missing, and so too was William Saliba. Then we got some stories about him being absent for Leeds, and online speculation about the seriousness of the injury he picked up before the Interlull. There’s some talk that surgery is required, but that the club will do their utmost to nurse him through until the end of the season because we have just ten games to go.
I don’t know if Mikel Arteta will expand on this later on, he’s usually quite reluctant to provide any detailed information about player fitness. There doesn’t even seem to be full consensus as to what the injury actually is. I’ve seen back, hip, and hamstring mentioned – it could be all three. Back would worry me because anyone who has suffered any kind of problem there knows how hard it can be to do even basic stuff, let alone play football at the highest level.
What compounds this particular issue is that the fact that we have also lost Takehiro Tomiyasu, a genuine double-whammy in injury terms at least. Otherwise, an injury to Saliba would mean he slots in at right-back with Ben White moving back into the centre of defence where he played all of last season. That option is now gone, and the deputy will be Rob Holding.
I do think there are still some scars on the collective psyche from last season’s White Hart Lane performance. It was probably his worst moment as an Arsenal player, and it proved costly in terms of what we wanted to do in that run-in. And look, there’s no question that William Saliba is 100% the first choice in that position, and any period without him will be a blow. However, these are the challenges that you have to face throughout a season. We’ve already experienced something similar when we lost our Gabriel Jesus, our first choice striker, and had to replace him with a player – with all due respect – who isn’t as good.
That is the nature of football, and football squads. Eddie Nketiah acquitted himself well during the Jesus-free weeks and months, there were telling contributions in big games that if we get over the line to win this title will have been vital. If we need Rob Holding in the next couple of months, let’s hope he can step up too. And it’s worth pointing out that last season’s North London derby performance could have been a big learning moment for Holding too. He won’t want another night like that, and I’m sure if he is needed he’ll be determined to make his mark on what could be a special season.
Clearly losing a first choice player is far from ideal, but that’s what happens to almost every team. It’s how you deal with it that sets you apart. You can’t just down tools and cry into your cornflakes. So far this season we’ve shown enough quality and character to be fine, and I think that will certainly be the mindset inside the squad, even if from our perspective as fans there’s a fair amount of trepidation, let’s see.
Elsewhere, here are the opening two paragraphs from this Guardian article:
Premier League clubs have approved tougher measures for its owners’ and directors’ test that would bar anyone found to have committed human rights abuses from owning a club. At a meeting of English top-flight club shareholders on Thursday amendments to the test were agreed, including a number of new “disqualifying events”.
Human rights abusers – based on the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations – and people subject to government sanctions will not be allowed to become owners or directors, and the list of criminal offences that would result in disqualification has been widened to include violence, fraud, corruption, tax evasion and hate crimes.
Is it just me, or is it a bit mad that it’s 2023 and measures like this are only being put in place now? As welcome as they might be, it feels very much like shutting the stable door after the horse bolted. Bolted about 20 years ago.
For now, I’ll leave you with a brand new Arsecast, chatting about ticket demands and more with Tim Payton from the AST, as well as Wenger, Arteta, Saka and more with Clive Palmer. All the links you need are below. Happy listening.