It was the first quick turnaround of the season for Arsenal and much of the conversation leading up to the match was centered around the early injury crisis created by Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny going down in rapid succession. Partey seems set to miss a few weeks and upward of five matches, while Arteta reports that Elneny’s injury is not looking good. With this in mind, many were wondering what to do about that defensive midfield role.
Up stepped Albert Sambi Lokonga to fill some big shoes and he put on a solid performance. Arsenal dominated possession again at home. They had 68% of the ball in the first half and 60% possession across the full match. They also managed 15 shots and 7 on target in the first half, going onto accrue their second straight 22 shot match (9 on target).
Arsenal win 2-1. They absolutely deserved it. They go five-for-five. And they sit atop the table with all fifteen points to their name. Before we move onto Deadline Day and Manchester United this weekend, there are a two worries to quickly discuss.
Early Injuries Stacking
It’s a bit obvious but if there is one thing I know keeps all you readers coming back, it’s my clunky writing about the most obvious Arsenal things imaginable.
That may have been a little joke, but the rising injuries that Arsenal are trying to navigate are not. Partey and Elneny went down in quick succession and last night Arsenal had Ødegaard more or less sub himself off with an injury AND had Ramsdale go down. After the game, Arteta had this to say:
on Odegaard’s injury…
He got a bad kick, and he was struggling. It was very recent so we’ll have to see over the next few hours how he recovers.
on Aaron Ramsdale’s injury…
I think he felt something, I don’t know what exactly. He managed to finish the game but he’s another we’ll have to assess.
on Thomas Partey’s injury…
He’s going to be out for a while but we don’t know how long that period is going to be. Obviously, it’s not the first injury that he’s had in that area so it is a recurring injury, so it’s one for the doctors to put a timeline on it and see how he goes.
on Elneny’s injury…
That’s not good news, we still need him to see our specialist but I’m afraid we’re going to lose Mo for a while.
on central midfield issues…
We were pretty protected in that position and now we are more exposed, but we have to be more prepared for uncertainties. Injuries, suspensions and things like that can happen, especially this season which will be really strange with the World Cup. We’ll try to prevent things but sometimes it’s not easy.
Frankly, I am a little worried about the response surrounding Ramsdale, who did complete the match. After seeing him play on, I had hoped Arteta would dismiss the injury, but this seems like it may be more serious. Perhaps Arteta is being cautious and is truly unsure, perhaps the injury is more significant. Ødegaard getting kicked and having swelling is a nuisance but feels much less serious. Anyone who has played in clumsy 7v7 leagues has been on the receiving end of a nasty kick. Pop some meds, ice it a bit, and on you go. But with Ramsdale, if its a semi-serious hamstring issue, the area he seemed to be holding, and he’s unable to play, it would be one of the most intimidating debuts for Turner. Old Trafford with our flawless season in tact and on the line? Tough, tough tough. Let’s see what they say about Ramsdale in the coming days.
Overall, these early injuries are really upsetting and causing a worry. The team has started so, so well (cue Pep Guardiola impressions) and it feels like only we can stop ourselves by suffering serious injury casualties.
Let me clarify one thing up front — the worry here is less about the player, more about him not yet getting the call for debut minutes. We know he has been nursing an injury from before we signed him, we know he has been slowly integrated into team sessions, but we still don’t know a whole lot more about Fabio Vieira. Is he someone Arteta sees as relief and rotation for Saka? Is he Granit Xhaka relief? Is he relief and rotation for Ødegaard?
Two of the three players mentioned made way last night, but Fabio Vieira never got the call and it leaves you scratching your head to find an answer. Certainly a close game like yesterday’s isn’t the kindest entrance for a new player to make, but on the same night we saw Lucas Paqueta come on for West Ham against Tottenham and we saw Alexander Isak start and score for Newcastle against Liverpool at Anfield. When a player is of a certain level of talent — or price tag — no game state should disqualify them from being someone that could be selected, regardless of the minutes they have or have not played, so that doesn’t hold water for me.
The only rationale I have come up with is that Arteta views him as someone most likely to rotate with Xhaka. However, Xhaka is a machine, and now that he is given the responsibility of helping Sambi, he is simply too crucial of a player to remove. Xhaka was a standout performer that offered experience and a lot of skills on both sides of the ball so it makes sense if there was hesitation to remove him. I would hope Arteta went into the game with the intention of giving Vieira his first minutes, they are starting to feel long overdue, but that’s simply not always how games work. They aren’t predictable.
As I said, currently, the worry is not about Vieira as much as beginning to wonder what game he is a fit for and where he gets his minutes. The Europa League is approaching and you would imagine he gets lots of time there but his quality and price suggest he isn’t someone you would consider relegated to cups and group stage matches. Time will tell.
Also a part of this series ARS – AVL Standouts, Worries, Over Criticized: Standouts and Over Critcized