THE MICHAEL THOMAS COLUMN
Top Four at Christmas! Who would have believed that a few months ago! Arteta is doing a great job keeping the players hungry and raring to go. We need to get through the busy Christmas period & the tough January fixtures. If by the end of January we are still in the top 4 then we have a massive opportunity to bring the club back to where we want to be.
I have mentioned Charlie Patino in previous columns, but even I was surprised he managed to score so quickly on his debut against Sunderland. What a young player! He can be anything as long as he stays level headed and works hard. He’s got a manager that puts a lot of trust and faith into the young players and this can only be a positive for him. The goal was just the icing on the cake to mark the hard work he has obviously been putting in to get close enough to the first team set-up.
Nketiah and Balogun were both starters as well and Nketiah responded with a hat-trick. It is really hard right now for Nketiah at Arsenal to be the first choice striker. Arsenal currently have Auba & Laca, both of them currently aren’t going to give you 20+ goals in the league & the club are crying out for a 9 that will produce that. Auba on form can produce this, but his situation isn’t looking great, and Lacazette gives you a different way of playing, which is really good for the team but still requires someone with killer instinct. I can say that if he does extend his time at Arsenal and given the two players previously mentioned may be leaving, it could be in his best interest to stay and he will get game time.
Balogun had yet another poor showing for the first team, but he is a young player learning his trade, and probably playing out wide doesn’t offer him the best chance of using his attributes to the max. He should definitely be offered the chance to go out on loan and prove himself so the coaches see that he can do it, and more importantly he gains that belief that he can do it at the men’s level.
Pepe got a rare chance and also came through with a goal. He can be an extraordinary talent as he has all the attributes, he is just too inconsistent with his game. He can score, assist and has brought the work ethic into his game under Arteta. The problem he has is that Sake will play at a 7/10 every game minimum and he fluctuates from 7,4,9 which at this level the club are trying to reach, is not good enough. There is a player there though, but it’s now or never for him.
So we had another great win against Sunderland, and we have now won three in a row without Aubameyang, and scored 11 goals. The form has been good recently without him which is a massive positive, but as said above, a goal scorer that just wants to put the ball in the net is very rare and can change a stale game into a 1-0 win which is vital. Whether that is him being that player or signing another, who knows.
I think Arteta will still be looking at bringing in a new young striker if Lacazette and Nketiah leave this summer. If all our forwards leave, we will be left with Martinelli who i believe will end up as a 9 but will still play a lot from the left for now, and Balogun who i reckon will have a full season loan. We must buy a striker possibly as soon as January, let alone the summer.
Granit Xhaka again showed his indiscipline again against Leeds and was lucky not to be sent off, He has always proven that he has an ill temper and can cause massive problems to the team in vital moments. In saying that, every manager seems to throw him back in the team straight away. Admittedly he does bring a certain balance to the team but he will never be a good enough player if he can’t produce professional displays as a start.
With Xhaka’s hot headedness, Partey not finding his form and Lokonga still very inexperienced, Arsenal NEED to get a CM in the club come January. We are going to be extremely short in there and need some quality to get us through. Hopefully the club see that and have made plann, especially give the COVID situation and how quick squads can change game to game.
Arteta needs to seriously think about strengthening in January. As said above a CM should be priority ,but to really keep the top 4 push going a striker and goalscoring winger could be great additions also.
As for the Covid situation which is playing havoc with the fixture list right now, with pundits talking about the volume of players that are refusing the vaccine. I think every person in this world should have the option to choose whether they want to be vaccinated or not and all of their choices should be respected. A lot of people outside the sport are not vaccinated and they are people also.
There are teams that have the majority of the squad vaccinated, if not all, who, as Jurgen Klopp said, are still massively affected by COVID, so with the virus being so overwhelmingly unpredictable still I don’t think I am in the best position to say what players should be doing with themselves in that situation.
Hopefully players don’t catch it and we can all enjoy the game as we want to.
Have a great Christmas and will speak to you very soon.