Thursday, December 7, 2023

Emirates Cup + Raya’s personal terms

Morning all.

It’s Emirates Cup action this evening as we take on Monaco, and I’m quite interested to see what kind of a team Mikel Arteta puts out for this game. With the Community Shield against Man City on Sunday, will he go strong tonight, or will it be a chance to get some minutes into some of the players who haven’t played a huge amount during pre-season?

I was expecting a little bit of club media ahead of this game, but so far there’s been nothing so we’re none the wiser in terms of the manager’s intentions. There are a few things I’m curious to see though. First up, who starts at left back? Without the injured Oleksandr Zinchenko, Jurrien Timber was given the nod there for the game against Barcelona. I suspect that was about giving him minutes rather than a change in the pecking order in that position, but with both Kieran Tierney and Jakub Kiwior in the squad too, it was an interesting choice.

Thomas Partey anchored the midfield at SoFi Stadium, to excellent effect too, but that selection decision was made easier because Declan Rice picked up a little knock in training and they didn’t want to risk him. What about tonight? The £100m man has spoken publicly about how much he is learning under Arteta, and while training ground work is important, minutes on the pitch is the best way to assimilate him into the team. He was pictured in training so he looks like he’s available.

Leandro Trossard scored twice against Barcelona, but would tonight be a good chance to continue Gabriel Martinelli’s return from the injury he picked up at the end of last season? Trossard can play as the 9 (false or otherwise), but it’s likely to be Gabriel Jesus up top with Bukayo Saka out right – because it’s always Bukayo Saka out right!

Some might say a game like this is a chance to put some players in the shop window, but I don’t think that’s realistic. Even if the likes of Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga are back in the squad now, it’s hard to imagine Arteta giving them minutes for that reason alone. We know how seriously he takes every game he plays, and there are other players much closer to the first team for whom minutes tonight might be beneficial. Someone like Eddie Nketiah, for example. He hasn’t scored in pre-season, his last Arsenal goal was back in January when he bagged that brace against Man Utd, so if he is to be the back-up for Jesus this season it’d be good for him to get some productive minutes. Then again, Eddie is a player who – for me at least – straddles that line between preparation for the new campaign and the shop window, so let’s see what happens there.

The game is at 6pm UK time this evening, and the guest of honour will be Arsene Wenger, whose statue outside the stadium was unveiled last week.

Elsewhere, it’s reported that Arsenal have agreed personal terms with David Raya, but I’m not sure that means a transfer is imminent. As James explained really well in one of his videos this summer, agreements between clubs and players are par for the course, and although some might view it as ‘tapping up’, that’s just how transfers work.

As the Declan Rice situation demonstrated very clearly, agreeing personal terms with a player is basically the easy part. You still have to deal with the selling club, and there are all kinds of reasons why it might be complicated to get this one done. Brentford want a high fee, higher than I would feel comfortable with given we may have other priorities in terms of how we spend our money. On top of that, it feels like Arsenal need to sell before we can buy again, not to mention all the other various facets of getting a deal completed.

Of course things can change quickly, so let’s see what happens, but right now we’re a club with five goalkeepers listed in the squad on the official website, and that’s already way too many. If we’re trying to sell one or two of them, does it make sense to add another, thus weakening your hand in the market? We already find it tricky to sell as it is, so that might well be another factor in when any deal for Raya is done. If it’s done.

Finally for today, we’ve announced a new season of Fantasy Football for our Patreon members, with a top prize of €1000 for whoever comes out on top. There are other cash prizes to be won too, plus Arsenal shirts and the now famous fourth place trophy. Beyond that, if you sign up, you get ad-free Arsecast and Arsecast Extra, a preview pod for each Premier League and Champions League game, ‘The 30’ – a podcast rounding up the Premier League action each week, Poorly Drawn Month, access to our Discord, and lots more.

If you fancy it, it’s barely the price of a pint each month, and you can join here:

Right, let’s leave it there for now. We’ll have some Emirates Cup stuff for you later on Arseblog News, and more here tomorrow including a podcast at some point too.

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