Throughout this whole suspension and pandemic, time has seemed to move oddly slow. Don’t get me wrong, these slow-moving days still caused me to look at a calendar in shock this last week when it flipped over to June, but the journey along the way has been slow and the news has come in trickles. That is if you don’t count the rapid transfer rumors that come every 30 minutes, which I definitely don’t.
Suddenly, this morning, I awoke and feel as though everything is moving fast, matches are approaching, and Arsenal are pressed for time. Project Restart is coming to fruition whether it should or not.
We already knew that Arsenal would resume their season with Manchester City on June 17th, a daunting task indeed, but somehow that still felt off in the distance. But yesterday, the month of June’s schedule was leaked, and I was reminded that we are under two weeks away from full-on competitive matches that matter greatly if Arsenal have any aspirations of salvaging the year.
It’s a lengthy, dizzying list and if you are like me you really only want to see the lines that say “Arsenal” in them, so I will give you a brief rundown:
Manchester City v. Arsenal (A)
Brighton v. Arsenal (A)
Southampton v. Arsenal (A)
Sheffield United v. Arsenal (FA Cup — A)
Arsenal v. Norwich (H)
Immediately, thoughts go to two things. One, that’s 5 games in 16 days which no doubt will be a struggle for Arsenal and other sides going through similar stretches of compact games. The worries are increased after the number of injuries Arsenal seem to have had to contend with this year. After this suspension, Arsenal are pleased to announce everyone is fit aside from Chamber, who won’t be back until at least Fall, and Torreira, who is ramping up his rehab with hopes of returning some time during this resumed stretch.
With this fast and furious schedule, the Premier League has confirmed that 5 substitutes, used on 3 separate substitutions, will be allowed for the remainder of the campaign. This will put added emphasis on in game management tactics from managers that now have the ability to change half of their outfield. Some have had concerns over Arteta’s usage of substitutions early in his career, which is something that certainly comes with experience. Fans have called out that he sometimes seems very wrapped up what his team is doing on the pitch that some of his changes come late or not at all.
It is something to keep an eye on as maximizing this opportunity will not only save legs for the run in, but will be necessary to counter oppositions changes and tactics. It seems like a change that is far from a subtle alteration to the game, so many will be curious to see what effect it has on outcomes and if it will be something that stays long term.
It’s not an easy stat for Arsenal by any means. Not only do they open against Manchester City who walked through them 3-0 with a goal in the opening 2 minutes, 2 goals in the opening 20 minutes, and all 3 before halftime. It was a different team then, under different management, at a point where Emery’s removal was long overdue, but still a memory no fan will want to remember.
To make matters more difficult, Arsenal’s first four games are away from home where they have struggled immensely. In the Premier League, Arsenal have played 13 matches away resulting in 2 wins, 8 draws, 3 losses with 14 goals scored and 16 conceded for a total of only 14 points. Brighton, Southampton, and Sheffield in the FA Cup will all feel like games fans believe should be won, but Arsenal lost to Brighton at home, tied with Southampton on a 90+6 last second leveler, and have not beaten Sheffield in their two attempts this year. Not the most promising when you keep in mind those games were at home.
There is no doubt the lack of a crowd may have a beneficial effect on Arsenal, but that will remain to be seen. Getting off to the right start is crucial to keeping their season’s hopes alive which means they will need to find a way to get over their poor form on the road.
The remaining fixtures will be released later in time.
Arteta has a lot of work ahead of him and the challenges certainly stack up against us, but at the very least it is more experience for him, youth players, players that normally don’t get time but now may with 5 substitutions and a compact schedule, and an opportunity to try different things to advance our long term rebuild.
Here’s to hoping everyone stays safe and healthy, and that we can see our precious Arsenal play once again.