By Tony Attwood
When Arsenal declared its 25 man squad at the start of the season, and we saw there were only 20 men in it, and we noticed that some of those 20 players were still likely to be transferred out, some of us had a few worries for the forthcoming season.
20 senior players was a low number and what made it even more worrying was that three of these were tipped to be leaving in the remaining days of the transfer window for the rest of Europe, (although of course in the end none of them did).
That list of 20 was
- Aubameyang, Pierre-Emerick
- Bellerin, Hector*
- Ceballos, Daniel Fernandez
- Chambers, Calum*
- Holding, Robert Samuel*
- Kolasinac, Sead (L)
- Lacazette, Alexandre
- Leno, Bernd
- Macey, Matthew Ryan*
- Maitland-Niles, Ainsley*
- Martinez, Damian Emiliano*
- Mavropanos, Konstantinos
- Moreira Marinho, David Luiz
- Mustafi, Shkodran (L)
- Ozil, Mesut (L)
- Papastathopoulos, Sokratis
- Pepe, Nicolas
- Tierney, Kieran
- Torreira, Lucas
- Xhaka, Granit
The asterisk of course means the player qualifies as home grown.
Making the matter even worse of course was the case of Xhaka, Ozil and Mustafi, who many pundits and commentators thought ought to leave because they were no good. Plus three more players (Mavropanos, Bellerin and Tierney) who were on the long term injury list. Kolasinac was also tipped to be on the way out.
Of course Kolasinac, Mustafi and Ozil did not leave, and Xhaka did not follow the advice freely given by the newspapers, and so 20 it was, minus the three long term injuries – in effect just 17 fit players to take us into the new season. And to rub salt in the wound, three of them were keepers. It did not look too promising. Doom and gloom was screamed from the headlines.
But then, as so often is the case, things happened.
The injured trio started to emerge, and this week in a further promising sign, we saw Mavropanos playing as the overage player in an under 21 game, while Bellerin and Tierney, now fully fit returned to the squad. So we were back to 20. Not 25, but at least it was no lower.
But by that time Gabrielle Martinelli had emerged from hiding – not just as one for the future but with two games (one as a sub) and two goals. That’s 21.
After that we had the usual question of who was going out on loan, and the disappearance of Eddie earlier had made it all look a bit worrying (not least because we didn’t know about Martinelli at that stage).
But then the youngsters (who of course are not registered for the official lists, as these only list over 21s) started to step up:
- Tolaji Bola
- Joe Willock
- Emile Smith Rowe
- Robbie Burton
- Reiss Nelson
- Bukayo Saka
- Folarin Balogun
Which now gives us a squad of 28.
Of course not all of them are going to make it; some will get injuries, some will not develop their talent, some will find they are fighting for a place that is not vacant.
But on the other hand as long as we stay active in at least two of the three cups alongside the League, a lot of them should have their chance to play on the big stage. (You will have seen that as Untold predicted, Liverpool only got a meaningless fine for playing an inelligible player so we have a very tough away fixture in the league cup for the next round).
This could be quite an exciting squad for this season, and it could be the start of something rather exciting for several years to come.
Let’s hope that a) they stay fit, and b) they get their chances.
Up to but not including the Europa Cup game last night and excluding under 21 and under 23 games the table of appearances looked like this…
- Arsenal v Tottenham; the team and some rather jolly recent history
- We are running out of referees, and the reason is the PGMO.
- Arsenal v Tottenham: the key fact the media won’t to tell you – and why they won’t
- Arsenal v Tottenham: different clubs, different managers, different successes
- Arsenal v Tottenham with clubs now getting more cards than they put in tackles!