Saturday, June 10, 2023

Saka’s brilliance, Arteta’s influence …

Good morning, and happy Monday to you all.

I didn’t watch England play, but from what I can gather, Bukayo Saka was the main man. The Guardian match report called him ‘sensational’. He scored a fantastic goal – watch here – and provided an excellent assist. The fact he’s absolutely brilliant is, of course, no surprise to Arsenal fans who have been watching him closely for a long time now. This man delivers with a consistency that is frightening for a 21 year old.

I ought to clarify that: it’s frightening for opposition defenders, not for me. If you’re an Arsenal fan, there’s no fear. It’s excitement and enthusiasm and optimism and, at this point, some measure of expectation, but he is still only 21. This is the start of his career, and he can get even better. If that doesn’t get you tingling in your bits, I don’t know what will.

It’s interesting to consider that when Mikel Arteta took over, we got a lot of reports about his time at Man City and how, in particular, he spent a lot of time with the wingers. Players like Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling were cited as beneficiaries of his one on one coaching. We wondered if we might see the same at Arsenal, and I recall conversations about whether or not he might be the man to get the best out of Nicolas Pepe.

That didn’t happen, but if you look at where we are now, Arteta has two of the most in-form wide players in the game at his disposal. A large part of that is their obviously own talent and application, but there’s no question that both players have improved under the auspices of this manager. 39 goals/assists between them in all competitions this season is evidence of their development.

You don’t have to go too far back into the mists of time to find the ‘Arteta hates Martinelli’ stuff doing the rounds. Despite the fact he was really positive about him in everything he said, the fact he was cautious about playing him meant people jumped to conclusions. There had been a very serious knee injury of course, and the team wasn’t exactly in the shape it’s in now, but Martinelli is currently our leading goalscorer this season, so it’s quite possible Arteta knew what he was doing.

Even someone like Emile Smith Rowe, whose talent and potential was obvious when he played for the youth teams, found that unlocked at senior level too – until injuries hit and halted his progress. As I mentioned yesterday, a goal for England U21s will hopefully go some way to getting him back on track, and he’ll hopefully give us another option in the wide positions for the run-in.

I guess if you’re a talented young winger and you have the chance to move to the Premier League, Arsenal would be a destination of choice. Unfortunately, not all of them have that choice and end up in much less salubrious surroundings, but let’s just be thankful for the wingers we have and what Arteta is getting out of them.

Saka played the full 90 minutes last night, but now has a full week back at home to recharge his batteries before we play Leeds on Saturday. Oleksandr Zinchenko also played the full game for Ukraine. Jorginho stayed on the bench for Italy’s 2-0 win over Malta, and there are some reports that Leeds winger Wilfried Gnonto picked up an injury in that game too.

Elsewhere, the inevitable happened, and Antonio Conte got fired.

*bring bring*

Conte: Pronto!

Levy: Antonio, you’re fired.

Conte: But it’s Mikel Arteta’s birthday … (context)

It’s been coming since that extraordinary and quite hilarious press conference, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Then again, and without wishing to say I told you so, I pretty much told you so in this blog post written the day he was appointed:

Antonio Conte is a very good coach, but he is only one man, and he is only human. He couldn’t stop himself going bald, so why does anyone think he is powerful enough to deal with the immutable force that is Tottenhamium?! This is a fundamental element in their universe which glows brightly at times, but ultimately turns toxic, poisoning everything in its path …

As for who comes next … who cares? No man is powerful enough thwart both nature and the history of the Tottenham.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. James and I will be recording an Arsecast Extra for you later on this morning. Keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.

We should have the podcast for you around lunchtime. Until then.

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