Jesus to rise again in April

Sorry, I couldn’t stop myself with the headline.

It is more likely that Gabriel Jesus will be back in March, but this year Easter is in April and sometimes a good headline for a bit of fun is more important than the truth!

Reports are that he will be out for around 3 months. Not sure on the accuracy as he probably has not made it back to Arsenal yet.

I imagine he will fly to Dubai at some point this week to meet up with the Arsenal medical staff. A decision will then be made whether he needs immediate treatment, or can return to Qatar to remain with the Brazil squad.

Depending on the length of his injury will influence Mikel Arteta and Edu’s thinking. So what are the title chasers options?

Eddie Nketiah

Following a good end to last season, Eddie was given a big new contract.

5 goals in 7 games (although only scored in 3 of them), was enough to convince the powers that be that Nketiah still had a future at Arsenal.

During that period, he also showed an improved work rate and ball holding ability. Two things Arteta demands of his forward.

But under different circumstances, would Eddie have been offered that new contract?

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang dumped in January, Arsenal’s two other strikers were also coming to the end of their contracts.

Arsenal could not afford to be strikerless, so a contract had to be offered to either Alexandre Lacazette or Eddie Nketiah. In the end the Englishman signed.

Was the new contract just a result of circumstances? Arsenal would not have wanted to go hunting for 2 new strikers in the summer and Nketiah was the cheaper option of the two.

Nketiah stepped up in the closing stages of last season. Can he do the same in the middle of this?

New striker

In recent weeks, we have discussed whether we should be targeting a new striker or winger in January. Prior to the Jesus move, many agreed that it was a winger we had to focus on.

Jesus’s injury may have led some to change their mind and that we should now prioritise a striker.

Edu showed last winter that he has a long term transfer strategy and is unwilling to make short term moves. But top of the league at Christmas, he might have to show a more flexible approach and do what is best for the next 6 months.

The issue Edu and his team face is “what decent strikers are available in January?”

There is a dearth of top strikers out there, and anyone decent would probably be unlikely to move. It would also take a while for a striker from abroad to acclimatise to the Premier League, and by the time they get their feet Jesus could return.

Another option could be that we ensure we get the winger we need, which could free up Gabriel Martinelli to play up top.

Gabriel Martinelli

For a long time, I thought Martinelli’s future could lie playing down the middle rather than on the wing. He played much of his debut season for us as a central striker, scoring 10 goals.

He certainly has the attributes to replace Jesus. Martinelli is a fantastic finisher, shows good movement in the box and has fantastic work rate.

If Martinelli moved centrally, Arsenal could look at the returning Emile Smith Rowe to play left wing.

The England youngster has missed most of this season injured, but contributed 11 goals last season from the left hand side.

Smith Rowe would then be backed up by the planned winger we were targeting to sign in January.

Mykhailo Mudryk is the name on everyone’s lips.

Signing the Ukrainian and the return of Smith Rowe would leave us with the dual choice of Nketiah and Martinelli down the middle whilst not taking too much of a risk out wide.

Recall Balogun

Some will call for Folarin Balogun to be recalled from his loan spell in France. The youngster has been in fantastic form for Reims, scoring 8 goals in 15 games.

However, reports are Arsenal did not include a recall clause in the loan deal. That means he will remain in France for the duration of the season.


Personally, I would keep with our existing January plans and utilise Martinelli down the middle.

Keenos

Who was your most disappointing Arsenal departure?

Over the years there have been many players to have left us that have felt like a dagger to the heart.

If we mentioned them all, you would still be reading this blog after the World Cup has finished.

The nature of the game, many more players will leave us than retire with us. Here is my list of most disappointing departures:

Most disappointing departure – Robin van Persie

What a player RVP was. The club could, and should, have done more to keep him.

Even now it still annoys me. He could have gone on to be an Arsenal legends.

His just sums up where Arsenal were as a club at that point. Unable to meet the ambition of any decent player.

I do not have as much animosity towards him as maybe I should. Football is a short career and we could not guarantee what he wanted, trophies. He was also not home grown like Ashley Cole

He says that we never offered him a new deal and that AFC got tired of him.

Surely this cannot be true, but whatever the truth, we should have done everything we could to keep him.

Most bitter departure – Ashley Cole

I really do not need to go too much into it. I do not think I have seen Arsenal fans throw as much hatred towards a single player for leaving.

In those seasons he played for Chelsea, you would never hear a good word said about him, never hear anyone trying to justify his decision.

Also rans…

Emmanuel Adebayor – That celebration when he ran the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the AFC fans was nasty, you don’t do that. Thinks that he’s misunderstood. No he isn’t, we just loathe him.

Samir Nasri – Another one following the money, very good player, but not as good as he thought he was.

Unhappy departure – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

I liked Ox.

On his day he was a very good player, but plagued by injury. I don’t think we’ve missed him, but I did want him to stay.

Bemused departure – Joe Willock

I always felt that he was a good player and that letting him go was a mistake that could bite us. I hope it doesn’t.

No hard feelings departure – Theo Walcott

He was a very good player on his day and a top bloke. His time had come to leave us. I wished him all the best on his departure.

Also rans…

Danny Welbeck – I always felt that he had real potential. He had serious pace, but he was injury plagued and lacking a that killer instinct that strikers need. Really liked him though.

Alex Iwobi – Promised much, but never really delivered. Glad to see he’s doing ok at Everton, even though they’re a crap team.

Who was your most disappointing Arsenal departure?

Paul

Oxford move ruins what would have been the best FA Cup trip in 5 years

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away” – Job 1:21.

I am by no means a religious fan, but I can not help thinking of this Old Testament chapter and verse with yesterdays news.

Early in the week, we got what could only be described the best FA Cup tie we have had since 2018.

Last season we got drawn away to Nottingham Forest – a repeat of the 2018 3rd round; our last decent FA Cup draw.

What makes up a good FA Cup draw? Everyone has their own criteria.

Some prefer “the easiest team at home” whilst lower league clubs go for “the biggest team away”. Me? I want an away game, to a club I have not been to before, at a ground of decent enough size where a decent amount of Arsenal can go.

Nottingham Forest in 2018 was the last of that, despite the result.

In 2019, we face Blackpool away (horrible journey to make in January) and Man U at home. 2020 we had Covid, so away games were not on the agenda.

2021 saw a home game to Newcastle and a trip to Southampton, whilst 2022 saw a repeat of the game (and result) to Forest.

Drawn against Oxford United away looked a cracker.

A team who we had not travelled to since 1988 in the old Division One. A side we had not played since 2003. And less than an hours train journey from Paddington.

The buzz was real, but I also foresaw the future, turning to a mate and saying “bet we will be Monday 8pm”.

And as the Lord gave us a great draw, he then proceeded to chanel his powers through ITV and the game was selected for that 8pm Monday slot.

We already have a horrid Christmas period.

The West Ham game moved to 8pm (then 7:45pm) on the 26th already meant a race to get a train home and no real chance of a post-game beer. TfL will be running their Bank Holiday service which means not many trains beying 11.30pm.

We then visit Brighton on NYE – a trip younger me would’ve been all over with hotels and night out on the south coast. But then our first game of 2023 was moved to Tuesday night against Newcastle.

A disgraceful kick off time on the first working day of the year (and worse for them than us – they will need to take two days off work for it).

They really should ensure all “first games of the year” happen on New Years Day (or the in lieu Bank Holiday). Asking loyal fans to take two days off work just as we return to work is not right.

And now we have the Oxford United game move to a Monday night. Instead of it now being a cracking away day, it now becomes a horror show.

Do I work before the game or not? Maybe need to take a half day. And after the game, it will be a late dash to get home.

Oxford’s Grenoble Road stadium is one of those build next to a roundabout in an industrial park outside the city. Think Reading and Stoke.

It is 4 and a half miles from the station – a 90 minute walk or a bus journey back.

Under these circumstances, we would usually find a pub local to the stadium, let the crowd die down before jumping in a taxi. But with the now evening kick off, that is not really an option.

That last train I can get back to mine from Paddington (I live on the London / Essex borders) is 00:17. Now I need to get the 22:32 from Oxford and hope there are no delays.

So rather than it being a decent away day – if it happened lunch gtime or mid-afternoon on the Saturday or Sunday – it is now a horror show. And once again shows that TV companies do not care about travelling fans (and the criticism of the Super League was just content for them!)

Prior to the Nottingham Forest game in 2018, we had a couple of decent trips in 2017.

Preseton North End away ticked the boxes. And whilst Sutton was a Monday night, it was a ground no one had been and there were trains home!

After Forest, Preston and Sutton, the only other decent trip we have in the last decade was Brighton (prior to them being promoted).

In recent years, we have had far too many games against Premier League or recently relegated sides. As a travelling fan, I have been starved of a decent away trip.

And in Oxford I thought we had one to kick off this seasons FA Cup. And now, in reality, I probably will not got.

UTA

Keenos