Here we go again, into the second half of the season. Thin? Possibly. Optimistic? Not really. Hopeful? Always. We head into a critical half of the season with 20 outfield players. Those 20 have performed admirably at times this season, sensationally on occasions. But at times we’ve looked leggy and flat. That’s where depth comes in, to ease fatigue and swapping a player or two out for those “squad players” is a perfect solution. The problem however comes when injuries rack up, suspensions kick in and in this day and age Covid strikes. As soon as you move into the area where you have 4 or 5 first team players out, that 20 looks very small indeed. For me, this is a huge gamble.
Our striking issues were plain to see at the start of the season. With Laca’s contract up, Eddie almost certainly on the move and Balogun not ready we pinned all our hopes on Auba. Based on form, that wasn’t overly unreasonable but it was also obvious that should he not perform to those levels we had no back up. The situation we now find ourselves in is the latter. Yes we’ve had a season of goals from the midfield but placing the burden of scoring on the shoulders of ESR, Saka, Odegaard and Martinelli is unfair considering their age. Eventually you have to feel that this will take its toll.
And then there’s the forgotten man. What happened to Pepe?! His form at the back end of last season was brilliant. Then over the course of the summer he and Arteta evidently stopped seeing eye to eye. Why? We’ll probably never know. But surely following his return from AFCON, Arteta must think that playing him is a gamble worth taking. Pepe isn’t a terrible player, his price tag in that now infamous dodgy deal hangs over his head but that’t not his fault. That’s also not to say that he’s a bad player, in patches he’s shown his quality and with Saka racking up the minutes he must be a ready made substitute for him.
When you look at our fixtures we have a tricky run in. Then postponed games against: Chelsea, Liverpool and the scum. The next few weeks will be interesting indeed and they start against Wolves tomorrow.