Mikel Arteta says Arsenal have to adapt to the new Covid-19 protocols that have been put in place for matchdays and that includes travelling directly to stadiums instead of staying in a nearby hotel the night before.
It sounds as though the squad will fly to Manchester this afternoon where they will be picked up by a couple of coaches and taken straight to the Etihad. With nowhere to have a pre-match meal, we assume they’ll eat in the air.
When they get to the stadium for this evening’s 8pm kick off they will take a sterile route straight to the dressing rooms before warming up and playing 90 minutes in front of empty stands. After the game, they’ll head straight home. It means a late night before starting to prepare for Saturday’s game at Brighton.
Given we have four away games in a row – we also face Southampton and Sheffield United before the month is out – the constant travelling and short recovery times could well take a toll on a squad who’ve not played competitively for three months.
Arteta is hoping that the logistics don’t become too much of a hassle.
“It’s a new experience and a new challenge for us,” he said in his pre-game press conference.
“We have four away games in a row from the moment we start playing. We’ll just do it with the help from everybody at the club in the nicest and easiest way.
“We have to travel on the afternoon of the game, we have to take trains and buses and we have to go straight to the stadium. We don’t have a hotel to stay in, we don’t have anywhere to have a meal so we have to adapt. It’s a challenge.”
That challenge is all the greater given our opponents are the reigning champions. Arteta is desperate to hit the ground running, knowing a win would close the gap on the top four to five points.
“It would be great [to win], we have been missing the game for three months,” he said.
“The players are all desperate [to play] although there is a lot of uncertainty about how they are going to feel, how it is going to look like getting to a stadium and competing for three points in the Premier League.
“If we can start with three points it will be a massive lift for everybody in what we are trying to achieve.”
Other new stuff to look out for…
If a ball goes into the stands, the referee will decide if the ball can be retrieved without a noticeable delay. If not, they can use a spare sterilised ball left on the side of the pitch.
All coaches will have the chance to throw on a couple more players at some point, however, as before there will only be three opportunities to make them.
Presumably, this was something hot countries wanted and we’ve just gone along with.
Sorry, Mark Hughes.
There will also be a number of ‘broadcast enhancements’ including:
La Liga may have turned to CGI graphics to make it look like supporters are in the stadium. The Premier League won’t. Instead there will be massive wraps covering the lower tier on which clubs can display various messaging; presumably from sponsors.
Enhanced coin toss
You’ll be able to hear the players call heads or tails. Brilliant.
In-game musical interludes
Home sides can play pop music when the ball hits the onion bag and when they make a substitution. Sweet
There won’t be any in the stadium. So even if you choose the option to listen to fake EA Sports crowd chants on your broadcast, the players won’t hear anything other than the bollockings of their coaches.
Fans on big screens
It looks liken the Premier League chickened out of massive Zoom meetings and instead a select group of 16 fans per club will be shown on big screens at stadiums and by broadcasters at home. Are you one of the 16?
Players will be directed to perform socially-distanced celebrations in front of a designated camera. Kill me.
You can see players walking to the pitch and back to the dressing room. Someone send Fabregas down there with a Mighty Meaty.
For more details on the above, see Blogs’ earlier article.