Paul Kagame issued a scathing assessment of Arsenal’s performance following their 2-0 defeat to Brentford last Friday
Mikel Arteta admits he has 99 problems at Arsenal right now but the President of Rwanda is not one.
The Gunners host Chelsea tomorrow having clinched a £30million deal for Real Madrid playmaker Martin Odegaard and agreed to spend almost as much on Sheffield United’s England goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
Neither is set to feature in the derby however and fans fear the same applies to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal’s main source of goals.
At a time when Chelsea are preparing to unleash new £97.5million signing Romelu Lukaku, the Arsenal strike pair are still recovering from a bout of Covid.
Positive tests forced them to miss the curtain-raiser at Brentford, which ended 2-0 to the newly-promoted hosts. Lacazette had not trained at all in the run up to the Chelsea game, Arteta revealed, although Aubameyang was able to join his colleagues on Thursday.
Willian and reserve goalkeeper Alex Runarsson had also tested positive before the Brentford game, which saw 20-year-old striker Folarin Balogun hastily handed a Premier League debut.
Defeat to opponents who had last played in the top flight in 1947 inevitably saw a whole heap of criticism come Arteta’s way, with the Spaniard already having been installed as the bookmakers’ choice as the Premier League manager most likely to be the first to lose his job this term.
WE JUST MUST NOT EXCUSE OR ACCEPT MEDIOCRITY. A TEAM HAS TO BE BUILT WITH PURPOSE TO WIN WIN WIN. SO THAT WHEN WE LOSE….IT WAS NOT TO BE EXPECTED! I AM SURE WE ALL KNOW ON WHOSE SHOULDERS THE HEAVIEST BURDEN RESTS. I HOPE THEY KNOW TOO OR EVEN ACCEPT IT!!! END
— Paul Kagame (@PaulKagame) August 13, 2021
Arteta spoke darkly of those who wanted to “bury” him and his team but appeared surprised when the name Paul Kagame came up. The Rwandan government sponsors the Gunners, who wear ‘Visit Rwanda’ on their sleeves and the African nation’s president, a fan, had been critical of the display against Brentford.
“Arsenal should not accept mediocrity,” said Arteta on being hastily informed of Mr Kagame’s post-match Twitter rant. “I totally agree with that.”
Arteta’s critics might have softened their stance had the club made it clear straight away just how much Covid had affected preparations. The Spaniard said he was surprised the match had not been postponed but it was not until Thursday that the reasons behind fielding an inexperienced line-up were made public.
“I am always very direct but there are some policies and medical privacies that I can’t forget,” he explained. “I have to protect the club and I have to protect the individuals.
“For me it was simple. My best players had Covid, they cannot play. I had to put a team out there that is unprecedented in this league and take all the pressure off. The club will be always in front of me. I will do that again next time.”
Arteta opined that he had “no clue” as to the origins of the Covid outbreak amid suggestions that a party for one of Aubameyang’s children could have been the source. Worryingly, it was confirmed that not all of his players had agreed to be vaccinated.
“Most of them are double vaccinated, others have one, we are trying to encourage them to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families and the environment around the club,” said Arteta, who was one of the very first in football to be hit by the virus in March last year. “We are trying to guide them and explain why it’s better to do it but at the end it’s a personal position.”
Another rod for their inexperienced manager’s back is the fact that Arsenal have now spent more on new players than anyone else in the Premier League this summer.
Chelsea, with the Lukaku signing, still appear to be streets ahead of their London rivals however. “We have done what we had to do,” said Arteta testily on being asked which club had enjoyed the better window. “I don’t know they wanted to do so it is difficult to compare.
“There were a lot of sales as well, it’s not just about the spending, we have a lot of players out of the door.”
A Lukaku hat-trick tomorrow and Arteta could be as well.