Pre-season is almost over and Arsène got some practice in on giving injury updates before the weekend. Gabriel? Still injured. Jack Wilshere? Not back in training yet. Santi Cazorla? Who knows? Business as usual for the Frenchman in being the doom merchant.
His world was thrown out of kilter yesterday when he ‘opened’ the pitch at Borehamwood. Immediately on cutting the ribbon, he looked skyward, searching desperately for the banner telling him his cutting technique was all wrong.
Santi is morphing into this squad’s Tomas Rosicky: romanticising about what might have been had he been fit, helps numb the pain of reality for some. A point or two extra here or there? Perhaps but that’s to obliterate last season’s weaknesses entirely. In a parallel universe, the same conversation is being held about the cost of Aaron Ramsey’s absence.
The conversation about Alexis was brief;
“Alexis and Mustafi, their first training session will be on Sunday, the day we play against Sevilla [in the Emirates Cup].
“They are practising on the day.”
Inevitably, thoughts turned to which of them would be used against Leicester. After assessing their condition, it’s a case of needs must.
“Of course it depends as well on what is the need in the squad, what is their quality. All of these things together make your decision. Do you put them on the bench when they are not ready? It is easier to put a striker on the bench than a defender, sometimes. Because in a short period they can make an impact. We’ll see.”
If either surfaces against Leicester, it’s either the injury crisis arriving unseasonably early or a damning indictment of the players we have at the club. We shouldn’t even be thinking about playing either Mustafi or Alexis against Leicester, possibly not even Stoke City.
Skeletor vs He-Man
That said, you’d certainly find out Mustafi’s physical condition at the Bet365. Mark Hughes’ Stoke aren’t as agricultural as Pulis’ but let’s face it, “Blackeye Rovers” wasn’t a lightly given sobriquet to his time in charge at Blackburn.
The question of who Wenger’s back three will be at the start of the season isn’t tricky: Holding, Mertesacker, and Monreal; Sead Kolasinac on the left and Hector Bellerin on the right. Nothing makeshift about that defence at all, is there?
Should you feel a little nervous about it, I can mention Wembley and the FA Cup final, when the champions were over-run and deservedly beaten. We need the whole team to perform at that level not just the defence for the improvement we need in the Premier League.
We have a back-up plan, of course. Mohamed Elneny played in the centre of defence, while Ashley Maitland-Niles stood in the centre of defence as the Chelsea attacked whirled past him in a cinematic video effect. I have no issue with Elneny unleashing his inner Beckenbauer, Passarella, or Krol.
He isn’t a first-choice but an alternative option; at FC Carrier Bag in the Europa League group stage, alternatives are what you need. Everton found that the home games are going to be tough going with a bus depot parked in these matches. Away from home, having a midfielder with a range of passing which eclipses the usual defensive lumps would be an advantage.
Personally, I think Xhaka would be better in that role but Wenger has more use for him in the centre of the midfield than further back. That would mean delving head-first into the market again, which is something I don’t think is on the cards. Talk this morning is of Ross Barkley if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain leaves for Chelsea.
By the power of Greyskull
Thomas Lemar is reportedly off the cards, with Monaco rejecting the latest £50m bid. The French club screwed City for £50m+ for Mendy, close to £100m for Silva as well. We’re likely to move into the £70m range if we want to tempt them into selling an attacking midfielder.
Whether we’re serious in our pursuit of him is another matter. I guess that comes from the outcome of contract talks, not least with Oxlade-Chamberlain but also Alexis and Özil.
When that will happen is unclear, certainly for Alexis. He’s feeling an ickle bit ill…
Finally, there’s a new playlist on Dad’s Jukebox and a review of a superb box set up later.