Good morning folks. A little housekeeping first. Tomorrow, I’m going to post a piece by my friend and fellow Gooner Josh G. I think you’ll enjoy it.
The reality is that we all need a break from the football. A few years ago, I gave up my duties on Arseblog and slowed down writing here because the workrate was just too much. We were playing Europa League, so that meant that I was doing two sets of stats and usually had to work the whole weekend plus Monday and Thursday. Essentially, I was going full on from Thursday to Tuesday every week.
And that’s sort of what it feels like is happening this season with the non-stop football. Everyone praised the UEFA Nations League tournament when it was announced because ostensibly it would end these “meaningless friendlies”. But I remember pointing out that while it did do that (sort of), the real thing that it was doing was increasing the number of matches that players were forced to play. None of the supposed innovations from FIFA or UEFA are about the players or even us fans. They are simply ways to extract the maximum profit from the system. Or as Toni Kroos said on his brother’s podcast in 2018 when the UEFA Nations League was announced:
With the invention of all these new things we seem to be just the puppets of FIFA and UEFA. These competitions are created to suck everything out of every single player physically and to suck out as much money as possible.
And like Hunson Abadeer, this summer, FIFA and UEFA open their raspy-toothed mouths and suck the soul out of football.
Not that I think the clubs would necessarily be better. Left to their own devices we’ve seen their proposals which are a 39th game and a Super League. They too would play football 365 days a year if they could.
And so here we are at the end of an extra long season, playing some super meaningful Nations League games which people seem to care very deeply about… Not at all like those meaningless friendlies. Ironically, the Nations League format was invented to stop countries like England from playing against those many old tiny kingdoms that dot the European landscape but it looks like both England and France might get relegated to the 2nd division of the Nations League and will have to play some smaller teams to get promoted back to the 1st division. So much lols.
I probably shouldn’t laugh, though, because Arsenal have several young English players on the team. Ramsdale and Saka both played in yesterday’s “chastening” defeat to Hungary and both players came in for pretty heavy criticism. I would just like to point out, as an Arsenal supporter and thus just a one-eyed prick, that from what I saw the entire team looked like shit and has done in at least two of these opening four matches. Yesterday was actually hard to watch because the entire team looked disorganized from front to back. Harry Kane was so slow, so tired, and his passing was so bad that I was surprised Southgate kept him on the pitch. It looked to me like the plan was to get the ball to Kane so he could just pass it into a bad area of the pitch for one of the younger players to run on to. But whenever they did catch up to his weird errant lumps he was rarely in position to receive the return pass. Like I said, it was weird.
And Hungary did to England what Spurs tend to do to teams: they sat back and hit them on the counter. That’s the kind of situation which makes defenders look really bad. I know that I’m still traumatized by those famous Arsenal high line matches where the opponent would score 3 goals off three shots. I shudder to think what Koscielny or Vermaelen went through in their first few years are the club. If you’re going to play high up the pitch against any opponent these days you have to have systems in place to stop the counter and England just didn’t have that yesterday. Or it was more like they had the systems but the players couldn’t execute them. So they got caught with their pants down.
And here we are, football still hasn’t stopped, and we are about to go into training camp at Arsenal and we are about a month away from Arsenal’s USA tour. Talk about spreading these players thin!
In the transfer market, Arsenal have signed a young Brazilian forward for 3.5m and a backup keeper. Both of these deals are good in my mind. The Brazilian, Marquinhos, is basically the club panning for gold. Arsenal are hoping that he can have a similar impact to what Martinelli has done. Arsenal bought him for around 7m and he’s currently valued (on transfermarkt) at about 40m. Even a modest increase in Marquinhos’ profile means profit for the club if/when they move him on.
Interestingly, Arsenal are also linked to another Brazilian forward: Gabriel Jesus. Jesus is an interesting choice for Arsenal because I think he ticks a lot of the boxes for how Arteta seems to want to play. Jesus’ strengths are that he’s very good on the ball and he’s also a gifted creator. Over his Man City career, he has consistently averaged 0.28 assists per90. I think he will fit right in to the Arsenal system and can play in any of the three positions up front.
The only things that I’m a bit worried about is that he’s A) kind of small and B) misses a LOT of chances. Two different sites have him listed as either 175cm or 177cm so let’s split the diff and say 176cm. That’s my height. And while I am a short king, my daily job isn’t to try to win long balls against hurking lumps like Harry Maguire. His weight isn’t great either, just around 72kg.
As for him missing chances, that’s just something you’re going to have to accept. All forwards miss chances, Auba was notorious for it when he came to Arsenal and he turned out alright and I was watching some old Thierry Henry matches and he also missed a lot of good chances. The key question for me is whether the team will score more goals and get more chances with Jesus leading the line. Personally, I think the answer is yes.
Tammy Abraham is another player linked to Arsenal (though not in any of my reliable sources) and I think I would take a pass on him. I know he’s great in the air and he would be a valuable addition there, but he’s one of those players who really benefits from a counter-attacking system. He needs extra time and touches to sort out the ball at feet and he gets that when he’s got 100 yards to run in to, like at Roma. Look, I’m not saying he’s a bad player, but I just wonder if he would fit Arsenal’s system.
Then there’s Victor Osimhen. He’s quite a powerful built player, he’s a decent dribbler, kind of a poor passer, and a good finisher. The only issues with him are that Napoli will want at least 100m and his passing is not great. In fact, the Napoli matches I’ve watched he rarely seems to get involved in the buildup play and he’s definitely not the sort of “false 9” that someone like Jesus is – or more accurately, he hasn’t played that way in his career so far. Again, he’s not a bad player, and I’m not saying I don’t like him, and when Lacazette came to Arsenal no one thought of him as a false 9 either – good players can adapt. Would he or would we change our system? We do have a lot of guys who can carry the passing and possession load for him.
In midfield the two links are for Tielemans and Zinchenko.
Both players are left-footed (correction: Tielemans it turns out is right-footed) and would probably slot in on the left-side of Arsenal’s midfield. I’m a huge fan of Zinchenko, I’ll just go ahead and admit that I love watching him play and especially in midfield. But.. he’s REALLY small to play in midfield. Not so much his height but his weight at just 61kg. Arsenal tried that with Torreira (who has the double-whammy of being just 5’5″) and it really didn’t work. However, maybe it would be better for Zin since he’s not playing the DM role. Zinchenko has the added bonus of being a good LB. I’d take him just play backup/starting LB if I’m honest. Bottom line for me is that this kid would immediately be one of Arsenal’s best passers. Tielemans is also left footed, so it’s pretty clear that Arsenal are looking for either a replacement or competition for Xhaka’s spot on the left side of midfield. Tielemans is roughly the same height as Zinchenko but 11kg heavier. Tielemans’ data shows him to be a kind of a high-medium talent passer of the ball (which isn’t bad and could just be the system at Leicester), good defender, and great goalscorer.
I could see a system with Martinelli, Jesus, Saka up top, Tielemans, Partey, Ode in the middle, and then our normal starting back line. It would be, in my opinion, a pretty good team. But I guess Arsenal could also remake themselves a bit and swap out a few of those players for Osimhen or Abraham. Either way, what I love seeing is that Arsenal have creditable links to a number of good quality players. Let’s hope they get that business done quickly.