Sunday, December 10, 2023

Squeaky. Bum. Time.

Good morning from Brixton. 

As you’re aware, Blogs is in New York gearing up for a live podcast with Elliot, Clive and Paul from Arsenal Vision. 

It sounds like it’ll be a fun evening for those who managed to snaffle a ticket. I heard they sold out within 30 minutes, which is very on-brand for Arsenal-related events at the moment. 

Just a reminder that all the proceeds raised from Saturday’s event will be added to the fundraiser pot for The Arsenal Foundation, which will then be topped up by all of the Arseblog Patreon subscription cash for April. 

Maths isn’t my strong point but I did some totting up and the figure that’s already been reached is quite astonishing…you could probably hire Mesut Ozil on a five day contract if you were that way inclined. 

There’s still plenty of time to make a donation, so if you’re feeling generous, head to the Just Giving page. 

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After a slow week on the Arsenal front, the build-up to Sunday’s clash at West Ham steps up a gear today. 

Mikel Arteta is due to face the press at 1.30 pm and he’ll likely be asked for an update on William Saliba’s fitness. We can safely predict he won’t give a straight answer, as he rarely does on such matters, but clearly, it’s a concern that the Frenchman hasn’t trained for a month and our trip to the Etihad is in less than two weeks. 

We know Ben White and Oleksandr Zinchenko also sat out Tuesday’s session as they recovered from the trip to Anfield but it sounded like it was only precautionary so I’m not sure we need to lose any sleep over that at this point. Eddie Nketiah’s return from an ankle injury is a boost although I suspect he may end up feeding off scraps for the rest of the campaign with Jesus and Trossard ahead of him in the pecking order. 

Our opponents actually played last night in the Uefa Conference League drawing 1-1 away at Belgian side Gent. Despite concerns that they are being dragged into a relegation battle, it looks like David Moyes fielded a pretty strong side, so hopefully there will be some tired legs in their camp. 

I’ll cover the best of the press conference quotes tomorrow before doing a match preview on Sunday. 

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With silverware up for grabs on several fronts, the club is facing a monumentally important few weeks. 

Maybe it’s the added exposure that the women’s and youth matches receive these days but the upcoming schedule at all levels feels unprecedented, exciting and somewhat terrifying – exactly the type of scenario Demento had in mind when he referenced shuffling around in plastic seats. 

Arsenal Women, currently third in the WSL, head to leaders Manchester United on 19 April looking to avenge November’s late defeat while also trying to close a three-point gap at the top of the table. Looking further ahead there’s also a bum-clenching away trip to Chelsea who remain in the mix on the domestic and European front. 

Who knows, should Jonas Eidevall’s players overcome Wolfsburg in their Champions League semi-final double-header with Wolfsburg on 23 April & 1 May (tickets here), it could set up a second cup final of the season with Emma Hayes’ side. The Blues have the daunting task of beating Barcelona to reach the final at PSV Eindhoven’s Philips Stadion on 3 June. 

In between, Arsenal’s under-18s are looking to win a first FA Youth Cup since their head coach Jack Wilshere won the competition in 2008/09. The young Gunners go head-to-head with West Ham at Emirates Stadium on 25 April (tickets here) after securing their place in the final with a dramatic late win over favourites Manchester City. 

After the club unveiled new artwork for Emirates Stadium celebrating our rich history in both the men’s and women’s game, including a mural dedicated to our reputation for developing young players, it feels very fitting that a new generation of players is mounting their own three-pronged charge for immortality. It doesn’t happen without a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes, so kudos to all those involved.

I think it’s noteworthy that Mikel Arteta was in the stands to watch Arsenal Women beat Bayern Munich and that Aaron Ramsdale was in the dressing room geeing up the kids before their semi-final with City. Being present matters. Showing an interest matters. Acknowledging the success of others matters. It helps foster a collective spirit and sets an example to the fanbase who also feel compelled to get involved. 

Whatever happens in the next seven weeks, strong foundations have been laid for the next few years and if everyone keeps pulling in the same direction, we have the potential to achieve great things together. 

It’s a far cry from this time two years ago when Arsenal’s decision to join the European Super League sparked a mass protest from supporters. As the fury died down on that balmy April evening, Arteta’s shell-shocked players laboured to a horrible 1-0 home defeat to Everton that left us ninth in the table and 31 points adrift of leaders City.

Everything felt broken at that point. We’ve come a long way since… 

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Before I go, it’s only right we have a quick chuckle at Manchester United who managed to squander a two-goal lead against Sevilla thanks to a brace of slapstick own goals. The look on Maguire’s giant ham of a head after his effort is particularly delightful. 

As someone who naively booked plane tickets to Budapest assuming Arsenal would make the Europa League final (I know, I know), anything that stops the place from being rammed full of Mancunians is much appreciated. Finish the job, Sevilla! 

That’s your lot for today. Keep your eyes peeled on Arseblog News for updates from this afternoon’s press conference. I’ll catch you tomorrow. 

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