Sunday, December 10, 2023

Arsenal win Emirates Cup + Jesus injury blow

Morning all, it’s a bit of a two-parter today. There is the game last night to consider, and the injury to Gabriel Jesus, so let’s deal with them in separate sections.

Starting with the match, with some observations rather than a chronological recap.

Arsenal 1-1 Monaco [5-4 on pens]

– I did wonder if Mikel Arteta might use this fixture as a chance to give some players who haven’t played much during the summer some minutes. So, we saw Jakub Kiwior, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Emile Smith Rowe, Fabio Vieira, and Eddie Nketiah all start. The latter may have been given the nod for this one anyway, but without Jesus, and with Balogun still injured, it cemented that decision.

– Declan Rice also started, playing a more advanced role. I think he did quite well, but it looks to me as if he’s got a little way to go in terms of fitness. Which isn’t to say he’s unfit, far from it, but I feel like there’s quite a specific level of fitness required to play in this team – especially in that left 8 position – and he’s just got a bit to do yet. It will come.

– Again, it was Jurrien Timber at left back, and he was impressive again. I could be wrong, but I don’t think this is a position we’ll see him in a great deal during the season. However, picking him there again is a sign that the manager wants him match fit as quickly as possible, and it’s an indication he is very firmly in the plans.

– Defensively we were a bit wobbly. The goal we conceded was poor on a number of levels, but again, we were playing with two players who haven’t featured much in pre-season, and a centre-half/right-back on the left. William Saliba was rather harshly booked for a sliding challenge that was a bit late, but maybe lucky to escape a second. The fact it was a friendly at home probably saved him. It feels a bit to me like he’s in that post-World Cup zone where he’s not quite motoring fully yet, but these minutes will be important for him to get there.

– Eddie did pretty well all things considered. There were moments I thought he might have been more aggressive in the final third, but he took his goal very well, and some of his play around the box and linking with others was good. More on him, and the striker position, anon.

– There wasn’t a lot to take from the second half. Trossard had a chance, Vieira flitted in and out of the game but I do feel like there are signs he’s gaining some confidence, and it went to penalties. Ours were excellent, particularly Jorginho and Havertz, and Ramsdale’s save meant we won the Emirates Cup. Hurrah, etc etc. I was a bit worried we didn’t see Saka but he wasn’t feeling well, so wasn’t risked, and hopefully that’s all it is.

Now, this.

Gabriel Jesus injury

Afterwards, Arteta revealed that Jesus had undergone minor surgery on his knee, a complication from the previous injury rather than anything new:

Unfortunately, he has had a little procedure this morning, he had some discomfort in his knee that has been causing some issues and they had to go in and resolve it. It’s not something major, but he’s going to be out for a few weeks I think.

it’s a big blow because we had him back to his best, especially with the way he played against Barcelona, and he was in good condition, and we’ve lost him. He’s been feeling some discomfort in the last few weeks, we had to look at it and we had to make a decision and the best one is to protect the player and get him back as quickly as possible, so we decided to do it.

Obviously, it is far from ideal on the eve of a new season to lose such an influential player. How exactly we deal with it will depend on exactly what ‘a few weeks’ means. It is three? Is it six? Could it potentially be more?

There is already plenty of discussion around the centre-forward position, and whether this is an area in which we should invest. Again, that’s dependent on departures, because as it stands, we have Eddie Nketiah, Leandro Trossard, Folarin Balogun (when fit), and even Kai Havertz who can play there. If the Jesus injury is relatively short-term, I don’t expect this injury to be something which drastically alters our transfer plans.

Even then though, there’s a discussion to be had about the quality of those options. As I said above, I thought Eddie did well last night, and his goals tend to come when he starts, but I just think there’s a big gap between him and our number 9. Balogun, as much as people want him to be given a chance, is untested at Premier League level. Trossard is probably my choice to start in the absence of Jesus’, but wouldn’t be a long-term option by any means, while Havertz underwhelmed at Chelsea in that position and it does look as if our plans for him are very different.

Here’s the thing: when a key player gets injured, I – and I think this is true of many football fans – have a tendency to look at it with my glass very much half-empty. It’s just human nature. This might be a chance for Eddie, it might be a chance for Balogun, football and footballers can always surprise you, but that somewhat gloomy outlook isn’t just about the injury. It’s about concerns I already have even with Jesus fit, and the injury then exacerbates them.

Personally, I would question the pursuit of a £40m goalkeeper in the current circumstance, because I think there’s much, much better case to be made for that money to be spent elsewhere. If in a year’s time I’m sitting here eating humble pie because David Raya is the best thing since sliced bread, I’ll chow down on seconds and eat my hat at the same time, but we saw last season what happens when a key player is absent and you don’t have the right calibre of replacement. We coped without Jesus last time, but this is a new season, with bigger expectations, more pressure, and there’s still time to do something in the market.

Hopefully it is just a few weeks, but having lost him last season, and now again with a ‘recurrence’ of that same injury, is it too much of a risk not to address that because this is problem that could happen again? Something for Mikel Arteta, Edu, and the rest of the staff to consider very, very carefully.

Right, I’ll leave it there for now. We will have an Arsecast for you a bit later this morning, discussing the game, Jesus and much more.

Until then.

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