International breaks have never been fun. They’re overlong, often pointless, and devoid of the sort of regular hum of activity that surrounds your club.
As breaks go, however, this one has been a festering, wretched disaster.
Moods are never improved heading into a break after a drubbing and the Aston Villa match was the sort of aberration that you’d hope to experience no more than once a season – at most.
Instead of allowing the wounds of that defeat to heal, though, the two-weeks away have added a sizeable portion of salt to those wounds and a kick in the balls for good measure. Not only have we had the existential crisis of a bad defeat to linger on, we’ve had two positive tests for COVID-19, Auba stranded on various airport floors, Willian’s mid-season jolly to Dubai, and a training ground scrap that saw Dani Ceballos punched on the hooter, with all the inevitable drama that entails.
The leaks from within the club that many of us rely on for juicy transfer news have instead become a torrent of misery, detailing every fresh twist and turn in this mini-soap opera. Mikela Arteta’s own annoyance at this was so palpable it could have leapt out of the screen and punched you on the nose itself.
In preparation terms, it’s left us in something of a shambles heading into the Leeds match tomorrow. Although I’m certain Arteta runs a tight enough ship to ensure all minds are focussed as they need to be, we’d all much rather it was a 3-0 win over Villa that had launched us into these stormy waters. A lesson yet again of the importance of going into a break on the back of a win.
I can’t say my expectations for this match are sky-high as this season has shown repeatedly that any and all outcomes are possible. Even at this early stage of the season, though, we do need to show we can bounce back and get a positive result. We need to stay on the heels of those at the top of the table and a win is the only way to do that.