We look tired. And we can’t blame Covid.
Back end of 2021 games came thick and fast. We won game after game as momentum built.
Against Manchester City on New Years Day, we put in 110% and got nothing for our efforts. At the final whistle we looked dead on our feet.
I said at the time that the performance against Man City would mean nothing if it was not backed up with victories. We have failed to win a game in 2022.
Against Nottingham Forest we never got going. We played like a Sunday league team where every player was in Faces the night before. They had all rolled out of bed an hour before kick off. Quick snout and played the game.
Whilst we performed admirably in the first leg of the League Cup, Thursday was similar to the Nottingham Forest game where we just did not seem with it.
At the beginning of the season it felt like our squad was too big. We had quantify over quality. But now we do not have enough players to be able to rest and rotate.
Mikel Arteta spoke about having just 5 senior players available earlier this week. If that is true why let Pablo Mari, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Folarin Balogun go out on loan.
The African Cup of Nations has taken away 4 senior players (although Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was out of favour).
Thomas Partey had just begun to find good form. His red card against Liverpool was a consequence of landing at noon on the day of the game.
Over the last couple of weeks, Mohamed Elneny and Nicolas Pepe both would have had a role to play.
We have looked lightweight and inexperienced in midfield with Partey out and Granit Xhaka suspended. Elneny would have added some stability in the middle with his consistent 6 out of 10 performances.
This season Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka have been our brightest sparks.
Against Liverpool, Smith Rowe was rushed back from injury whilst the other two could probably do with a rest. Pepe could have rotated in.
Then we have the suspensions.
Against Man City, Gabriel was sent off. Xhaka then received a 3 match ban following his challenge in the first Liverpool game. Now Partey is facing another game on the sidelines after his two yellows.
Playing for so long with 10-men against Liverpool and Man City took a lot out of the legs. Then you have the consequence of them not being available for the next game.
When we face Burnley, we will be without both Partey and Xhaka. A team ravaged by injury and ACoN damaged further with suspensions.
We need to win against Burnley to keep our top 4 dreams alive.
After this Sunday’s game we then have a 17-day break until we face Wolves.
By the time that game comes around all those from Africa will have returned. We then play once a week between then and the end of the season.
Injuries, Covid and Africa have led us to having a paper thin squad; but we have not helped ourselves with suspensions and loaning out fringe players.
We go again tomorrow…