Sunday, December 10, 2023

Succession planning …

Morning, happy Friday.

The manager will meet the press later today ahead of our home game against Sheffield United on Saturday. News that Gabriel Jesus will have a scan on his hamstring sounds a bit alarming, but it’s surely standard procedure to figure out how serious the strain is.

Without taking anything for granted, this is surely the kind of game where you can apply some caution – not least because we have a very difficult trip to Newcastle the following weekend. That’s 100% a game you need Gabriel Jesus for, and if we can’t beat Sheffield United without him, then we’ve got more problems than we think we do. Let’s see what Arteta says – or doesn’t say – about him later on.

And for a bit more on the Brazilian, Tim’s column this week gives you exactly that this morning.

The other fitness question is Thomas Partey who picked up a knock in training ahead of the Sevilla game, and missed the Champions League fixture. On his YouTube, Charles Watts said his understanding he won’t be available for this weekend, although there’s no significant fear this is anything long-term. I was told it was a ‘thigh’ problem, which has been an issue more or less since he arrived at the club.

The frustration, of course, is that he was able to go and play minutes for Ghana during the Interlull. Which, by the way, is absolutely fine. As a way of getting a player back up to speed, sometimes these international games are useful in that sense. Competitive minutes = match fitness, and as we have done previously, we sent a member of the medical staff with him to help manage his situation.

When you say it out loud though, you realise just how unusual that is. Very few players take a club physio with them on international duty, and I’m sure very few national teams would actually allow something like this to happen anyway. I guess it’s a sign that Partey is a player who needs that kind of intensive management, which is why it shouldn’t be a massive surprise he’s injured again. He’s so injury prone he requires round the clock, hands-on care; but even that’s not sufficient to stop him twanging something again.

Thomas Partey injury record

There’s a lot of debate about where Arsenal should prioritise transfer funds in the coming windows, and much of that revolves around forward positions – centre-forward in particular. Do we need an Eddie upgrade? An alternative physical presence up top? Ivan Toney in January? Can we bring in another winger like Pedro Neto? Which are all completely reasonable questions, and I’d certainly have a bit of go at Neto if I could, he’s a lot of fun.

However, I reckon some serious succession planning for the centre of midfield is in order. Partey’s continuous injury problems put him very much in the category of player who when fit is a real asset, but whose absences make it impossible to rely on him. There’s only so long you can have a player like that without thinking about moving on. The fact that he’s now 30 is another consideration. It’s not ‘old’ old, but we’re not offering him any kind of new contract, and with a year to go this summer, I’d be keen to get what we can for him and replace with a newer, younger, fitter model.

That player may well have already arrived, with Declan Rice impressing wherever he plays, and long-term you have to think he’ll establish himself as the first choice at ‘6’. But he can’t do it alone. Jorginho is a smart player, but he’s 32 in December and the legs aren’t what they once were. After that it’s Mohamed Elneny, but he’s another player whose contract isn’t likely to be renewed and who is at an age when you have to be thinking about change. That trio of 30+ central midfielders is, for me at least, the most obvious area of the squad that needs to be addressed.

There have been links to players like Fluminense’s defensive midfielder Andre, and Villa’s Douglas Luiz who has shown in recent times that there’s maybe a bit more about him than we had initially thought. Arsenal’s interest in him was sparked by a late injuries to Thomas Partey (of course) and Mo Elneny towards the end of the summer window, and it felt a bit like a desperation target. However, under Unai Emery he has really flourished. I would say his form is such that it makes a move much less likely, but these are the profiles of player I think we need to target, and maybe it’s time to start doing as much groundwork as possible because we could potentially lose three experienced CMs next summer. At least there’s plenty of time to do all that, and let’s hope the injuries we have right now aren’t too serious.

Ok, that’s your lot for this morning. As always, we’ll have our Premier League preview podcast for you on Patreon later on, so please join us for that.

For now, have a good one.

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