Games are coming thick and fast now.
Tonight we play Leicester. And if it feels like we only played a couple of days ago; that is because we did.
Whilst some managers have complained about the short turn around for players, the actual truth is that teams in Europe are in this situation every season.
Arsenal would have played Saturday / Sunday and Tuesday / Wednesday for 6 weeks (bar a game against Southampton on a Thursday).
This is not much difference than what clubs do in November and October, jumping from weekend Premier League games to mid-week European and League Cup matches.
The only major difference is there is no international break (which sees players fly across the globe) and the furthest a club would have to travel is either Newcastle or Bournemouth rather than taking midnight flights to deepest darkest Eastern Europe, also known as Belarus.
For teams like Arsenal, players will be used to playing twice a week. And the lack of long travel for Euro aways is actually easier on their body.
Teams lower down in the league might complain that they do not have the resources to play twice a week for long periods, but you never hear them feel sorry for top clubs when they arrive back in the UK from Moscow at 3am Friday morning, and then need to be in Newcastle for a noon kick off on Sunday.
Plenty of news floating about this morning.
The first is Arsenal are considering a new deal for Shkodran Mustafi.
He has been in fine form since returning to the team under Mikel Arteta, and has always been a good centre back. He just makes a mistake every 7 or 8 games that leads to conceding a goal. And it always seemed to lead to a goal which saw Arsenal lose, rather than a consultation goal in a 5-1 victory.
With his deal running out next summer, Arsenal need to make the decision soon.
The club have been impressed with his contribution during the Covid19 pandemic. The German donated over 16,000 meals and other emergency supplies to people in Islington.
He has stepped up as a personality within the squad, and maybe the club have looked at the finances and what players are available on the market and decided Mustafi might be the best choice?
With Pablo Mari signing, David Luiz staying and William Saliba returning, adding Mustafi and one of Rob Holding or Calum Chambers would not be a bad group of central defenders.
Since Arteta took over, Arsenal have conceded 14 goals in 15 league games. Only Liverpool and Manchester United have conceded less (11). Across all games Arsenal have kept 10 clean sheets in 21 games.
The current defenders at the club are certainly making a case to be kept, rather than big investment made in another new central defender.
My gut is stick with what we have, Saliba and Mari are new signings, and then next summer recruit someone to replace David Luiz is Mari, Saliba or Mustafi do not form a solid partnership.
On William Saliba, a headline this morning is that “Arsenal have made a U-turn” with allowing him to play in the French Cup final.
This story has always been written from a very odd standpoint.
The media criticised Arsenal for “going back on an agreement” that “angered Saint-Étienne.” But then the truth came out that Saint-Étienne were demanding an additional £2.5million for Saliba to play one game.
Why would Arsenal pay the French side £2.5million to pay one game when not contracted to? – remember the original loan deal had expired so a new temporary loan deal would have to be agreed.
Arsenal were painted in the media as the bad guys, when it is clear that all Saint-Étienne was the money.
Now it is reported that “Arsenal have made a U-turn”. Again, making it appear Arsenal were the bad guys.
Chances are it is Saint-Étienne who have U-turned; realising that having their first choice central defender play a final is more important than the £2.5million they wanted Arsenal to pay.
The French side basically had a choice:
- Accept no fee, get Saliba for the final
- Do not accept no fee, don’t get Saliba for the final, receive no money
In both situations they do not get money; but in only one situation they get their on-loan defender for their biggest game in recent history.
We end today with the rumours over Matteo Guendouzi.
David Ornstein broke the news last night that the Frenchman had been training alone since the post-match spat with Brighton.
It shows Arteta’s authoritarian stance.
Guendouzi has previously mocked Unai Emery, cause issues for Freddie Ljungberg and was dropped following a row with coaching staff during the mid-season trip to Dubai.
A lot of Guendouzi’s behaviour can be labelled as “immature”.
From mocking Emery’s accent to taking his shirt off at dinner and waving it over his head in Dubai. Whilst he is only 21-years-old, footballers need to grow up quickly.
Everyone has been impressed with the maturity shown by Bukayo Saka. He talks well and behaves in the way you would expect of an Arsenal youngster.
Compare Guendouzi to Declan Rice.
They are the same age, but in recent weeks Rice has stepped up as a leader on the pitch for West Ham, captaining them a few times. He is showing the mentality needed to become a top player. Guendouzi is not.
The ball is now in Guendouzi’s court.
He either needs to take responsibility for his behaviour, his actions; stop being the class clown and concentrate on his football. Or be sold.
Guendouzi’s current deal runs out in 2022. This summer he should be signing a new 5-year double your money deal. Instead he could find himself being shipped out.
There will be no shortage of suiters for the midfielder, who is still one of the brightest prospects in Europe. Like with Mario Balotelli and other problem players, managers will think “if he matures, I can get him to play, there could be a world class player in there”.
Arsenal might be best off getting cashing in rather than hoping he quickly matures.
The £40million he would raise would be key transfer funds, almost paying for Thomas Partey.
On a final note, we remember the 52 people that died in the 7/7 London bombings; 15 years ago today. We shall never surrender.