Good morning. It’s still cold.
The players are back and preparations for Crystal Palace will be well underway at London Colney over the next couple of days. Palace were in action last night, going down 1-0 to Everton in an FA Cup third round replay at Goodison Park. Whether that makes them more tired for Saturday, or more determined to bounce back, we’ll have to wait and see – but you would like to think our time off will have recharged the batteries sufficiently and given us some physical advantage.
We’ll hear from Mikel Arteta tomorrow when he meets the press, and we might even get an update on the fitness of certain players. There were midweek reports that Oleksandr Zinchenko is unlikely to be available for the weekend, which isn’t a surprise as this routine is one we’ve seen before. A ‘slight’ calf strain that isn’t considered too serious ends up sidelining him for three or four weeks. I know there are those who might say ‘We should do something about this’, but I think we did – it’s just really unfortunate that the man we brought in to share the burden in both full-back positions, Jurrien Timber, picked up a serious injury on the opening day of the season.
Elsewhere, I saw a piece in The Athletic (£) about Calum Chambers, and how he’s surplus to requirements at Aston Villa now. I had been thinking about him and Rob Holding recently. Chambers had some bad luck with injuries in his career, but to get to 28 and find yourself in a situation where you just never play must be quite difficult. He left Arsenal for Villa in January 2022, and since then has started just 11 Premier League games.
As for Holding, since joining Crystal Palace in the summer, he has made just one appearance, that was in the 3-0 EFL Cup defeat to Man Utd. He’s currently out with a reported ankle injury (according to this site anyway) but it’s hard not to draw parallels with the trajectory of Chambers’ career. When you’re at a club like Arsenal, chances are your move will be sideways at best, but it’s quite something that both of these guys have moved on to clubs where they appear not to be trusted at all.
It might be a case that they have gone to the wrong club at the wrong time, but it also raises questions about their time at Arsenal. When assessing that, you have to take into account the context, how recruitment priorities in other areas impacted our ability to upgrade on them. For example, Chambers was a centre-half/full-back, we spent £50m on Ben White to strengthen that position properly after muddling around with other clearly incompatible options. William Saliba had to go on two loans to prepare him properly for a first team place and the Premier League, and ultimately Holding was probably the fourth choice option for that position, but was thrust into too much action last season because of simultaneous injuries to Saliba and Tomiyasu.
A footballer’s career is rarely linear, but Chambers and Holding illustrate just how things can tail off in ways you don’t necessarily expect. I don’t think either were ever good enough to play for an Arsenal side that has ambitions of challenging for the title, but I didn’t think they’d be so peripheral having moved on elsewhere. Football, eh?
Meanwhile, many people’s favourite option to add to our forward line, Ivan Toney, has been talking to Sky Sports ahead of his return to action against Nottingham Forest this weekend. He hasn’t played a competitive game since May 6th last year, and he spoke about his return, his absence, his desire to get back out on the pitch, but of course the lead on this story – especially this month – were comments about a potential move. He said:
You can never predict when is the right time to move elsewhere, but I think it’s obvious I want to play for a top club. Everybody wants to play for a top club, that is fighting for titles. Whether it’s this January that is the right time for a club to come in and pay the right money, who knows?
I guess it’s not surprising that a channel that thrives on transfer speculation in January has focused a bit more on this stuff than any of the other things he talked about, but it’s really difficult to see anything happening this month. First, Brentford need him and I think he owes Brentford – something he mentioned last week. They are in trouble right now, and they need his goals, if he can find his shooting boots.
Secondly, the fee to do a deal right now would be prohibitive, and even if we were flush with cash, does it make sense to spend it on a player who is going to take some time to get properly match fit again and who is potentially going to be a bit rusty? Even in the summer, I’d harbour some reservations about splashing as much as Brentford would want for a 28 year old who maybe not quite the next-level option everyone wants. I like him, don’t get me wrong, but I just have a gut feeling he might not be the right guy. Then again, I don’t know who is, and it’s not as if anybody making this decision is going to pay attention to me or any other fan’s opinion on this anyway.
It will be very interesting to see how he fares. That rustiness I mentioned could simply be a player with really fresh legs at a key point in the season, the breath of fresh air that Brentford need to get them out of their current slump, but even so, the chances of him making any kind of move to North London in January are so slim as not to even bother considering.
Right, let’s leave it there for now. Over on Patreon we have an episode of Waffle, the podcast in which me and James answer questions about anything and everything except Arsenal. Back tomorrow with more here and a brand new Arsecast.