It won’t surprise you to learn I did not stay up until after midnight to watch our pre-season run-out against Orlando City. A decision made pre-game, but made more wise when kick-off was delayed due to a thunderstorm.
Anyway, we won 3-1, with goals from Gabriel Martinelli, whose early shot was deflected in to make it 1-0.
The home side got one back with a decent finish from outside the box, but the defending from Nuno Tavares and Pablo Mari wasn’t great. 1-1.
Good work from Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Jesus allowed Eddie Nketiah to pounce in the box to make it 2-1, before Reiss Nelson added a little gloss to the scoreline to make it 3-1 from a Bukayo Saka pass.
Afterwards, Mikel Arteta said:
It’s going well but there are a lot of things to improve In terms of the consistency, the level that we play from minute zero to 95, has to still improve. Physically still we are not there because we haven’t loaded the players with 90 minutes yet, but there a lot of positive signs at the same time.
That’s what these games are about more than anything tactical, getting the players physically ready for the opening of the season. I guess there will be longer highlights available at some stage, but I don’t think I’m going to spend any time on them. Next up: Chelsea on Sunday, and in the afternoon in this part of the world, so I’ll probably cast my beady eye over that one.
With imminent new signing Oleksandr Zinchenko in the stands, watching alongside Edu and Vinai, it was inevitable the manager would be asked about him. Earlier in the day Pep Guardiola had basically confirmed the deal, and even the usually tight-lipped Arteta couldn’t do anything but talk openly about the 25 year old, saying:
“There are still a few formalities to get everything completed but we’re really happy to have him. I know the player really well, he’s an exceptional footballer and he is someone that is going to bring as well another competitive edge to that dressing room.”
With a lot of discussion about where exactly he’s going to play, whether it’s left-back or central midfield, he continued:
“He can play in both. He was a natural number 10 early in his career and we converted him into a left back which can do a lot of things that we want in our way of playing.
“That versatility is something that is going to be important for the team because we have players in that position who are more specific full back so I’m really happy.”
As I wrote the other day, there’s something of a theme developing with many of the players we’ve brought in during the last 12 months – between last summer and this one – and that is their ability to play in more than one position. It’s not true for all of them, but when you add Zinchenko to the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Fabio Vieira, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White and even Martin Odegaard to an extent, the depth via versatility aspect to our squad building seems blindingly obvious. Especially when you then think of existing squad members like Emile Smith Rowe, Saka and Martinelli who can all be deployed in various positions should the manager require it.
Zinchenko will be the fifth addition to the squad when it’s made official, and Arteta made it clear that there’s other work to do in this market, basically trimming the squad down to size:
“We have a large squad so we have to make some decisions as well on the players that we’re not going to be using consistently and be fair and straight with them and that’s a process that is going to start very soon as well.
“We have a big squad and now we have to make things happen.”
I think if you asked people to compare and contrast the faith they had in the club’s ability to buy well between the start of last summer and now, most people would admit things have taken an upward turn. We’ve done good deals, brought in good players who we like, and – at last – eschewed the fix-it-now, sticking plaster signings who very rarely fixed anything and often created more problems.
Where the jury continues to be out is how we sell and move players on. To be completely fair, it’s a more difficult job than we think. Buying good players is relatively easy; getting any kind of decent money for players whose careers have plateaued, who have one year left on their deals, who were never that good in the first place, that’s tough work. Nevertheless, it’s part and parcel of the job of a football executive, and on that basis, I’m really curious to see what happens with the clutch of players we all know should be playing somewhere else before the end of the window.
My suspicion is that there will be a lot of late deals as we head towards the final weeks and deadline day itself, but ensuring we maximise revenue-in without the currently bloated squad impacting the work and preparation we need to do for the start of the campaign is quite the challenge for Edu, Richard Garlick and those doing the work behind the scenes.
Good luck to them, I say!
Right, that’s your lot for this morning, have a good one.