Thursday, December 7, 2023

Injury headaches for Arteta ahead of Bournemouth

It’s Bournemouth away today in the Premier League, and based on what he said in his press conference yesterday, Mikel Arteta has some injury issues to contend with.

After the game against Brentford on Wednesday, he mentioned having 7 players back at London Colney because of fitness issues. We knew that Declan Rice, Bukayo Saka, Thomas Partey, Gabriel Martinelli, Leandro Trossard, and Jurrien Timber made up six of those, so who was the mysterious number seven? In his presser, he mentioned that William Saliba and Fabio Vieira both had knocks which prevented them from playing in the EFL Cup game, so that’s actually eight!

Online chatter suggests that Rice, Saliba and Saka are part of the squad today, but with Man City on the horizon, that might factor into the team selection decision today. Let’s not forget there’s a midweek Champions League game against Lens too, so the manager has some thinking to do. Does he risk players today and potentially aggravate something, or does he trust in his squad after they went away to a difficult place on Wednesday to beat a strong Brentford side.

It feels like one of those where there’s always going to be an argument for the opposite. If he is cautious with big players like Rice, Saliba and Saka, and the game doesn’t go our way, people will wonder why they were there if they weren’t ready to start and maybe there are questions about not taking the opposition seriously enough. If he starts one or all of them and there’s an injury, he’ll be accused of not looking after the players properly.

That issue of player welfare was something he was asked about in the second part of his press conference. The demands on top level footballers are so high, between club and international commitments, there’s barely any downtime, and it led this week to Vincent Kompany suggesting there should be a cap of how many games a player can play in a season.

Arteta’s response:

Something has to be discussed seriously about where we’re taking the game, the exposure of the players and how we’re going to allow it. Because, as well, if we’re not going to change that, then we’re going to have bigger squads. If you’re going to have bigger squads, we need bigger resources. And you have to allow teams and squads and provide the financial resources as well to have squads of 30 players.

Because at the end it’s a way of limiting a player to play 50 or 60 games, having a squad of 20 or having a squad of 30. It’s a different sport. We already made some changes with the five subs. Now if somebody tells you, no, tomorrow is only three subs, we would all be shocked, we are not used to it. So, there is something that has to be changed because at that level is impossible to maintain.

All I can say about today’s team is that the players who came in against Brentford demonstrated we have a deep squad now that is capable of dealing without eight first team players as we saw. That should give Arteta some reassurance that if he is a bit cautious, they can still produce what we need today against Bournemouth. We also have to acknowledge that his decisions will be made with far greater information than is available to us about the extent of the injuries and how the players themselves are feeling.

I think there will be some obvious changes, with the likes of Oleksandr Zinchenko, Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard coming back in, and I do hope the Brazilian plays up top. If Martinelli and Trossard remain out, and Reiss Nelson can’t get a start after his good display during the week, then there’s something wrong. He couldn’t have done more to show the manager he is ready to play, not least with the big defensive shift he put in on top of the goal that won the game.

So, let’s see what happens, and who is available. As ever, we’ll have live blog coverage, as well as all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News.

In the meantime, there’s a preview podcast on Patreon to pass some of the time, and I’ll catch you later on for the game.

Come on Arsenal!

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