It’s Manchester United at home today, and today’s team selection will be very interesting. On Friday, rumours began to circulate about an injury to Thomas Partey, and by yesterday they had gone mainstream. Not least because the Ghana FA basically confirmed it in a statement, saying:
“He sustained a groin injury during training on Thursday, August 31, 2023. He is currently unavailable as Club Doctors predict he’s likely to be out for a couple of weeks.”
I’ve heard various whispers about how serious it might be, ranging from a vague hope it’s not that bad, to quite bad indeed – an absence of months was mooted at one point. Of course, Arsenal play their cards as close to their chest as possible when it comes to injury news, and you can imagine Mikel Arteta won’t be best pleased that this has leaked from such an official source ahead of the United game. There are obviously some long-term implications to this if he is sidelined for more than a couple of weeks, but that’s a discussion for another day.
In terms of the team for today, the solution – despite Mikel Arteta’s Google Maps press conference making everything sound inordinately complicated – seems relatively simple. Ben White moves to right-back, William Saliba shifts over, you bring in Gabriel or Jakub Kiwior alongside him, and Oleksandr Zinchenko goes to left back – I’m presuming he’s fit enough to start. Your midfield then becomes Declan Rice in the deeper role, and I’m 99% certain he’ll play Kai Havertz after his impassioned defence of the German on Friday. Fabio Vieira may well be in his thoughts for that position too, but I think he’ll back his summer signing – and if he does, today would be a very good day for him to produce a performance.
Will it be Gabriel or Kiwior at the back though? I would go with the Brazilian, but he hasn’t started yet this season for so-called ‘tactical reasons’, an explanation I remain unconvinced by. Today though, against a team like United, and with a need for some defensive security after a wobbly game in that sense against Fulham, it makes perfect tactical sense to me to recall him to the side. Which isn’t a slight on Kiwior, but I do wonder if Zinchenko has 90 minutes in him and you might need a replacement at some point. The Pole, or Takehiro Tomiyasu, are your options in that case.
Making the assumption that both Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka will start, Arteta’s other decision is who gets the nod up front. Again, it’s hard to predict, but after a goal last week and an England call-up this week, I have a feeling he’ll go with Eddie Nketiah. That means you’ve got someone of the calibre of Gabriel Jesus on the bench if you need to change things. He still looks like he’s working his way back to full fitness after the minor surgery, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him start this one on the bench.
As for United, they haven’t looked great defensively so far this season, and while I know we’ve had some issues ourselves, that’s surely something we’ll be looking to exploit today. Hopefully a more stable platform at the back can enable us to find some greater fluency in attack, and we need to turn some of the dominance in our play into end product. If you don’t do that, you can get caught as we saw last week against Fulham, or nearly caught as we saw on the opening day against Forest. They have players who can hurt us, so today would be a good day for everything to click in terms of performance and result.
Catch you later. Come on you reds!