Morning. A quick Saturday one for you.
As expected, Mikel Arteta was giving little away when it comes to the fitness of Bukayo Saka, saying only that he is ‘in contention’ for tomorrow’s game. There were some attempts to get him to be a bit more expansive about the situation, but he did his usual job of playing his cards so close to his chest he now has a tattoo of the 9 of diamonds above his left nipple.
There’s an image for you.
Elsewhere, The Times reported confidently that Saka had been ‘declared fit’ for tomorrow, so we’ll just have to wait and see. Neither outcome would be a particular surprise to me, but the proof will be when team news drops tomorrow. Or when the people who camp outside the team hotel on the day of the game report Saka’s presence or absence. Or when one of the Fantasy Football accounts who somehow have the team news hours before matches nowadays does a Tweet that will send people in raptures/despair [delete as appropriate].
Thomas Partey will be in the squad, and beyond that there doesn’t seem to be anything else to report. I was hoping for a Martinelli miracle, a return to training ahead of a big game in which his qualities would be so useful, but I don’t think that’s likely. Arteta wasn’t even asked about him, which makes me think his absence is just taken as read at this point.
Anyway, more on all that in tomorrow’s blog when we preview the game here.
Meanwhile, Oleksandr Zinchenko has reflected on Arsenal v Man City, games he played in during his time as a City player. And he said:
It was always a pleasure to play here as a City player. Apart from the amazing crowd, they always had amazing grass on the pitch. It’s a pleasure to play here. I don’t remember getting cramp playing here because of the quality of the pitch.
I don’t know why this made me laugh so much, but it really did. I get the comment about the amazing crowd – this is now his crowd of course – but the idea that the only other positive thing he could mention about Arsenal is the famous carpet. I just love the idea that poor quality grass gives Zinky cramps.
“Mikel, there was no Oleksandr Zinchenko in the team this afternoon. Was that a tactical decision, using Takehiro Tomiyasu in that position to give you more presence, while on the other side Ben White’s overlapping runs allow Bukayo Saka to operate in those internal attacking pockets where he’s so dangerous?”
“No. He went out to warm up but that’s some bad grass out there and he could not continue.”
The discourse around Zinchenko has been quite interesting this season. As ever, you take stuff you see on social media with a pinch of salt (a much smaller pinch by the way as hardly anyone seems to be using Twitter anymore, or at least I barely see anyone that used to frequent it, and I have almost zero replies to anything unless I dig down via the search function), but he remains a key player for the manager.
We talk about him a bit on the Patreon preview podcast, and how important he is for us to play out from the back and break between the opposition’s lines, and while there have been one or two moments this season, I think there’s more awareness from him with regard his defensive duties. It’s not his strongest point, obviously, but I’ve been a bit bemused by the contention I’ve seen out there that he’s been really poor this season. Anyway, let’s hope the grass is to his liking tomorrow, and he can help us get one over on his old team.
The Patreon preview podcast is here if you need something to listen to, and elsewhere I did a thing with my pal Rog from Men in Blazers which you can watch below. For now, have a good one.