Nketiah staying, no one joining, all very quiet

Social media really does have a habit of making stories out of something that is not.

Yesterday a gutter journalist tweeted that Arsenal had announced they would be holding a press conference at 2:30, and commentated that this was odd as pre-game press conferences take place on Thursday’s, not Wednesday’s.

What was happening? People enquired? Who are we signing? Maybe Mikel Arteta is being sacked already? The rumour mill was spinning.

An hour or so later, a second journalist tweeted his dismay as the press conference had actually been scheduled for Wednesday since the start of the week and every journalist would have already known about it

The whole situation just highlights how people can manipulate a situation for attention.

Not much was said during the pre-game press conference. An update on injuries, Saed Kolasinac & Lucas Torreira both being assessed, Calum Chambers, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney still out.

There was a little chat about transfers. I have bad news for you guys, I have nothing to say yet! Arteta answered. Can we look to much into the word “yet” at the end? Probably.

John Stones and Franck Kessie were ruled out, although in response to the later Arteta uttered No truth at all at the moment. Like saying “yet” I am sure some will read a lot into this. And that was about that.

Bigger transfer news broke this morning. And in terms of it being big, it is when you consider we have had nothing yet in January.

Eddie Nketiah is staying at the club until the end of the season.

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND – JULY 27: Eddie Nketiah of Arsenal during a training session at London Colney on July 27, 2019 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Talk is that this is due to Pierre Emerick-Aubameyan’s red card, but with 2 games still to play in January we could have easily have kept Eddie till the end of the month. I wonder if the feeling at the club is that it is pointless him going to a Championship side and sitting on the bench again. He might as well be training with Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

There are some that are using Nketiah staying as evidence that Lacazette could be off in January. I can not see it happening, but can see a case where the Frenchman leaves us in the summer.

My feeling is that we will not sign anyone in January, and I have no issue with that. There is no point spending big on a short term option.

It is crazy that some people still try to make a living off transfer speculation when nothing is clearly happening!

Sheffield United this weekend. I still have dreams of finishing top 4.


Loan move beginning of the end for Arsenal defender

Konstantinos Mavropanos has joined German 2nd tier outfit FC Nurnberg until the end of the season.

It is a big move for the Greek youngster who at 22-years-old is no longer really a youngster.

Mavropanos “burst” onto the scene 3 seasons ago with a couple of good performances against Manchester United and Burnley. He was sent off in his 3rd game against Leicester City.

Big things were expected for him during the 2018/19 season, but he was hampered by injury and did no play a game until February. Another groin injury has seen him ruled out for most of this season.

Playing just 6 games in a season and a half, the loan deal is huge for Mavropanos’s future.

The first thing he needs to do in Germany is prove his fitness.

You can have all the talent in the world, but if you are not physically reliable you might as well retire. He will need to stay injury free during his time and put together a run of games.

After proving his fitness, he will then have to move on to proving he is actually a good player.

Most people have judged Mavropanos on a Man of the Match performance in a loss to Manchester United, but that is a single game nearly 3 seasons ago. Not enough for us to judge him in the long term.

A big problem for Mavropanos is that Arsenal have a lot of central defenders ahead of him.

If we ignore Shkodran Mustafi who looks set to leave for Galatasaray in January, Mavropanos still finds 4 team mates ahead of him – David Luiz, Sokratis, Rob Holding and Calum Chambers.

Due to his lack of game time over the last 2 seasons, it is impossible to make a case that he should be starting ahead of any of them; although I am sure some will try.

Next summer Arsenal will surely go big for a 1st choice centre back (Dayot Upamecano? Andreas Christensen?) and also have French teenager William Saliba set to join. That will leave the club with 7 centre backs – at most you only need 5.

So Mavropanos will need to put in some huge performances whilst on loan in Germany to be one of those 5.

It also raises a wider discussion as to “who will be Arsenal’s 5 centre backs in 2020/21” as we will need to shed 2.

Both Sokratis and David Luiz have re-found their form under Mikel Arteta. Sokratis will be 32-years-old at the end of the season, Luiz will be 33. The pair will both have 1 year left on their contract.

Neither has a long term future at Arsenal, but a case is easily made for at least one of them to remain at the club for another year, passing on their experience to the younger guys. Luiz is probably more suited to this role than Sokratis, especially if Arsenal sign Christensen from Chelsea.

Arsenal might also decide that it might be better to cash in on either Rob holding or Calum Chambers.

The two Englishmen are no longer “young Englishman” and both have suffered a string of injuries recently. Despite this both would still go for a decent enough transfer fee.

Chambers has been linked away every summer for the last 2 or 3 years. He seemed to have finally nailed a spot in the 1st team before his most recent injury. There is still a case to be made for his versatility – covering right back and central midfield alongside being a centre back.

The club would probably be reluctant to sell someone with his versatility. He could easily play a role of 3rd choice right back, 5th choice centre back and 5th choice central midfielder. But then a bid of £20million could be a lot to turn down.

A decision will also have to be made on Rob Holding.

He has not fully recovered from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered in December 2018 and has seen his playing time restricted to just a handful of cup games.

By now many would have hoped he would have established himself as 1st choice at Arsenal and we would be talking about Holding +1, but the horrendous injury has stalled his career.

Holding’s Arsenal career is now at a cross roads. Will he be able to get fit, get the game time and kick on to be 1st choice? Will his career now be hampered by injury like so many who have had a long term absence? Do we still think our defence should be “Holding +1”?

The feeling is the answer to all of the above is “who knows”, which is why it is important that next season Arsenal keep hold of either Luiz or Sokratis for one more season.

They way I see it is:

Arsenal sign a new 1st choice central defender
Who is partnered by whichever senior centre back we keep (Luiz or Sokratis)
And competing with Rob Holding
William Saliba is 4th choice, getting cup games
Calum Chambers 5th choice, also covering right back and midfield

Sokratis or Luiz will be moved on and it will also lead to the end of Mavropanos’s stay at Arsenal.


Arteta’s Arsenal becoming harder to break down

Under Unai Emery, one of the most concerning statistics coming out of every game was how many attempts we were conceding against opponents.

Whether it was 18 at home to Burnley, 24 against Wolves or 31 against Watford. It was simple too easy for opposing sides to get a shot off against us.

Sides found it very easy to carve through our midfield and defence to see the whites of the keepers eyes. Only Bernd Leno’s brilliance saved us from conceding more in many games this season. Too many shots conceded was a huge part of Emery’s downfall.

In just a handful of games, Mikel Arteta has addressed the situation.

Against Crystal Palace, Arsenal faced just 6 shots. That was our lowest in the Premier League this season and just 1 more than our lowest in all competitions (we conceded just 5 shots against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup).

Whilst it was frustrating to come back from South London with a draw, there was plenty to be optimistic about, especially in the way our players battled for the ball.

Arteta has the team defending from the front.

He has also got Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira battling for every ball in the middle again. No longer are we seeing opposing midfielders run away from Arsenal players. They chase them down, win the ball back. Gone is the lazy running and half-hearted covering,

We have also seen Sokratis and David Luiz step up their game at the back. Now moving towards the ball and engaging with the attackers rather than standing off.

The fact is, the less shots you concede, you reduce the chances opponents have of scoring. When you let you opponents have 31 shots at goal, like Arsenal did against Watford, there is always a high chance 1 or 2 will go in.

In the Premier League under Unai Emery, Arsenal were showing relegation form when it came to chances conceded to opponents. In just 4 games Arteta has turned that around and we are now showing top 4 form.

Whilst Arteta wants to be playing free flowing, attacking football, he knew his first job was to come in and fix Arsenal’s leaky defence. Key to that was to reduce how many chances we concede to opponents.

Arteta’s Arsenal concede 40% less shots than Emery’s. A huge improvement.

With 2 clean sheets in the first 5 games under Arteta, Arsenal’s defence is moving in the right direction – Emery’s Arsenal had kept just 5 clean sheets in all competitions; 3 of which were in the cups.

The rest of this season is going to be about rebuilding the structure of the team. Getting us tactically proficient and raising fitness levels. Once Arteta has sorted out that aspect of the game he can then encourage the players to be more extravagant in attack.

Arsenal are becoming harder to score against. There is still some way to go but we are now moving in the right direction.