Monday, May 20, 2024

Arteta on Jesus, Zinchenko, Timber, rotation

Morning all, let’s do a little quotes round-up for Mikel Arteta’s press conference yesterday, taking bits from the live section and the embargoed quotes from 10.30 last night.

Further to yesterday’s post about Gabriel Jesus and his knee problems, the manager was asked if this might be an issue that has a long-term impact on his career, and played that down completely, saying:

No, I don’t think so. When you see him train the way he trained today, again, there is nothing there. Injuries are part of football. He had a few. You look at how many games he already played at his age and the level of games he’s played, it’s an unbelievable career he’s having. That’s not a concern.

As for how much he’ll be able to play during this run-in, there was a question about if he’d be able to play in every game if we needed him to do that:

It’s possible, yes. When you look at the history in seven years he hasn’t done it. But can he do it? Yes, he’s prepared, he’s physically well now and as well it will be determined how much he gets kicked, the kind of fatigue element that builds into a game in relation to the scoreline. A lot of factors, but he is ready. He looks really good now.

I don’t think any manager, especially not one as taciturn as Mikel Arteta, is going to give away public information about a player’s injury situation, but it’s interesting his update is a little at odds which what Jesus said himself about the potential for summer surgery. Anyway, let’s hope we can take him at face value, that whatever needs to be done during the summer is relatively minor, and that he can remain an important player for us.

In our Patreon preview podcast, Lewis and I discussed the potential of a midfield trio of Declan Rice, Martin Odegaard, and Kai Havertz, with a front three of Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, and Jesus. I know Havertz has done very well up there lately, but Arteta didn’t rule out using him in midfield again – and I do think that is, to a large extent, dependent on who we can play up front. Jesus makes that a credible option, more than Eddie, for example.

Next up, Oleksandr Zinchenko and his form this season. I am a fan, but I can also recognise that he hasn’t been at his best this season. The things he does with the ball aren’t offsetting some of the defensive issues to the same extent as last season, but on him Arteta provided a vote of confidence:

I think Alex has got the personality to play in any game, under any condition, being himself. That’s a big thing to have. He has some difficulties, especially with injuries, to find the rhythm and to find the consistency and now he’s back on it, he’s got a few games under his belt and he’s playing better and better. He’s a really, really important player for us.

As I said in midweek, left-back remains a position I’d like to see the club pay some attention to this summer. Which might sound a bit mad when you consider we have Zinchenko, Kiwior, Tomiyasu and Jurrien Timber in the current squad, with both Kieran Tierney and Nuno Tavares on the books too. We have so many options, but do we have the right one? I’m not sure.

I do think the Timber discussion is interesting, because while I think he definitely can play there, I don’t think Arsenal bought a player who has played his entire career at right-back and right centre-back to play as a left full-back. It’s a moot point at the moment anyway, because he’s not ready to play, with Arteta saying:

He’s still got a few steps to make. He needs to play a game, at least with the under-21s and he’s going to have an in-house game soon as well. He’s done everything in training, now it’s getting that match fitness and having people around him to start competing in a full match which is different to training.

With a little over a month to the end of the Premier League season, it’s certainly possible we might see him play, but are we going to see the best of him? It can take players time and games to get properly match fit and to find their form again, and both of those things are in short supply as we head towards the end of the campaign. Obviously it’d be an important psychological step for him, but it’s important to keep expectations realistic and let him build his way back to full fitness. Next season is when we’ll see the best of Jurrien Timber, and it’s an exciting prospect, wherever the manager decides to deploy him.

Finally, there was a question about rotation, and whether players can use their anger at being left on the bench as motivation. Arteta said:

I want players that if they are unhappy to talk to me and understand why and try to explain it. But these relationships are always the same. They have to have that will to play and they can be unhappy on matchday. It’s not the moment to be unhappy.

They can be angry at me, that’s fine, but they have to make it professional, not personal, because it’s my role to make those decisions. It’s not the person I’m putting on the bench, it’s the player.

I really like that last line. That the qualities of each player are distinct from them as people, which sounds a bit harsh, but that’s the reality of top level sport. It’s not about who you are, but what you can do (although it’s fair to say sometimes the lines between those things are blurred). Let’s see which players might find themselves called into action for tomorrow.

Right, have a great Saturday folks. Back tomorrow with a full preview of the Villa game. Until then.

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