Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Saturday reading: Arteta on defending, Beth Mead, Irish Arsenal

Morning all, let’s have a quick Saturday round-up.

Without too much focus on tomorrow, because we’ll obviously preview the game fully in Sunday’s blog, Mikel Arteta didn’t give much away about team news in his press conference yesterday. When asked about the three Gabis and Bukayo Saka, he played a straight bat, saying:

There is a chance. They haven’t trained but tomorrow we have another session so there is a chance that they can be available.

I smell some obfuscation here. Players who haven’t trained until a day before a big match are usually not available, but have they trained or is Arteta just saying they haven’t?! Perhaps more will emerge over the course of today, but we probably won’t know for sure until the teams are announced an hour before kick-off.

Elsewhere, there’s a typically excellent interview with Arteta by Nick Wright on Sky Sports. It’s well worth a read, he talks about the title race, Kai Havertz, and lots more, and I particularly enjoyed the bit about instilling a love of defending in all of his players, not just the ones in those specific positions. He says:

The key is that everybody goes 100 miles per hour for every ball. Our strikers, our wingers, our attacking midfielders, they have a love for defending.

Installing that within the players is something really important. Applauding and paying compliments to that as well, so when those defensive actions happen, they are valued as much as the attacking ones. If you want to win consistently, that door has to be shut.

If Arteta put a list of his non-negotiables on a whiteboard, I’d bet that players working hard in both directions would be pretty close to the top. The commitment to defensive work is so important. A player who doesn’t track back, or whose effort isn’t sufficient even for a split second, could easily be the difference between conceding and not, but it takes time to make that part of your team’s DNA.

Another aspect of this Arsenal side that doesn’t get spoken about too much is our physicality. This is a big side, and I do wonder if there’s some Edu influence in that when they’ve had discussions about transfer targets. He was part of the last Arsenal team to win the Premier League, and I don’t think any side before or since had such an perfect blend of technical quality and physical bastardry (for want of a better word). All the chat about intimidating teams in the tunnel of late has been fun, because it is a throwback to days of yore, but I do think it’s worth mentioning because it hasn’t happened by accident. Let’s hope we see the benefits of that tomorrow.

Also tomorrow, Arsenal Women are in action against Chelsea in the Conti Cup final. In the build-up, Tim has an interview with Beth Mead. She says:

This Arsenal team are hungry to win trophies. Over the last so many years, we’ve not done that so consistently. You want to beat Chelsea, you want to win games, and ultimately, that’s what we’ll be out to do.

This season probably hasn’t gone as well as people expected, especially with the quality within the squad, so let’s keep fingers crossed they can do the business tomorrow and add some silverware to the trophy cabinet. That game kicks off tomorrow at 3pm, so there’s some crossover with the men’s game, but we’ll have all the usual coverage on site for you – so bookmark our Arsenal Women section on Arseblog News for that.

Finally for today, there was an event last week (which sadly I couldn’t get over for), celebrating Arsenal’s Irish connection, with players like David O’Leary, Liam Brady and Niall Quinn. Tony Leen has a lovely piece in the Irish Examiner about it, and while England have taken the likes of Declan Rice, Jack Grealish and Bukay O’Saka in recent years, it’d be great (for me anyway), if an Irish player had the quality to make it with us these days.

Right, that’s it for now. Have a great Saturday whatever you get up to.

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