I’m very excited to welcome new guest columnist Jonathan Blaustein (he’s NYT levels). He’s a great writer, he packs a punch and this is his first article (stay for the podcast at the end as well). Find him @jblauphoto.
Well hello there, fellas.
What do you know?
You probably don’t remember, but I wrote a guest post here at Le Grove back in 2014, as I was the poor schmuck whose DVR failed, dooming me to miss the first FA Cup victory.
(All was not lost, as I did a full media blackout, and watched a replay a few days later.)
For the last couple of seasons, I’ve written a regular column at the American Arsenal blog 7amkickoff. (Thanks, Tim.) It gave me a chance to opine on all the ridiculous elements of the Late-Wenger-Era, with a healthy dose of Jose Mourinho mockery too.
Perhaps to tie those themes together, we should keep a running tally of all the times Mourinho mocks Wenger this season? That man would fuck Arsene Wenger’s corpse if he could get away with it, just to have the final word.
All along, though, I continued to read Le Grove daily, beside 7amkickoff, Arseblog, ESPN and The Guardian.
Nearly two years ago, I surprisingly found myself coming around to Pete’s way of thinking. Instead of sounding like a cocky asshole, he came across as a forward-thinking, intelligent young man, well ahead of the curve. Sure, he was on the same message for the last 4 years, but eventually, the world moved in his direction.
Pete called for the modernization of Arsenal Football Club. He said hire a proper backroom staff. And a Director of Football. Modernize the training methods. Get current on analytics. Bring in high-level talent from other successful organizations. (Ultimately Barcelona and Dortmund.)
Pete was bitching about the red zone, and proper player rotation, at least 5 years ago.
And while I was a newbie as both an Arsenal fan and a sports writer back in 2014, now I am neither. (I’ve been a professional photography writer for 8 years, including 5 years at the New York Times.)
I’ve watched 95% of the Arsenal matches since I became a fan in 2011, and have seen 3 FA Cup titles in the interim. I’ve got a solid track record of prognostication over the last two years, and think I’m ready for you guys.
The truth is, everyone needs a change sometimes. It seemed like the perfect time to jump back to Le Grove.
I’m aiming for a monthly column, but might write a bit more than that if the situations are worthy.
But since this is my August contribution, I’ll give you my quick synopsis of the situation.
I like Unai Emery, and mostly like the summer and the squad. (I would have been happier if we’d brought in a CB with true quickness and speed, but that will likely wait until next summer’s window.) Emery strikes me as a passionate, likeable, hardworking grinder with a vision how to build this team.
Remember, he only got the PSG job because he was considered an up-and-comer who wins trophies. Sure, he’s got less shine now, (since he got sacked in Paris,) but I’m not sure he ever had a chance, once they signed Neymar.
The biggest stain on Emery’s reputation is the choke-fest against Barcelona in the 2017 Champions League. And don’t forget, one of the stars of the victory was… Neymar.
Speaking as a student of human nature, there is no fucking way Neymar was going to come to PSG with respect for a coach whose team just capitulated like that. Emery never stood a chance last year, and still he brought home silverware. (Though he gets no credit for it, given his budget, and the fact that Monaco drastically disassembled their title-winning team.)
Right now, after Saturday’s win, it still looks a bit like Wenger-ball, but with more cutback crosses from Hector Bellerin. The press hasn’t really taken root yet, but you can see where he’s going with it. And the attempts to build from the back, (to break the press,) are far-less-feeble than during Wenger’s last couple of years. (Post-Cazorla-injury.)
Even if Mustafi and Sokratis are a scary pair, (not in a good way,) with Torreira and Guendouzi potentially patrolling in front of them, I’m far less frightened than if we were stuck with Ramsey and Xhaka instead.
My belief this season is all about the Europa league, and the race for 4th. Everyone talks about the latter, but the former is more realistic, in my opinion.
Arsenal literally hired an expert in winning the Europa league, and have handed him enough talent to do it. (I’ll bet you £10 that Atletico don’t crash out of the Champions League early this year either.)
Emery has 2 cracks at the Champions League, and I think he’s a decent bet to come through on one of them, but probably not both. If he wins the FA or League Cup, but doesn’t get into the Champions League, I think he’ll keep his job, but it will be considered more failure than success.
Basically, I’m currently bullish on the post-Wenger era. (Especially now that Emery pulled out his first, very Wenger-ish victory.) And for the record, I officially called for the end of Arsene in the winter of 2017.
By then, I’d come around to Le Grove’s way of thinking, and hope you guys dig my columns to come.
Latest podcast that discusses:
- Shite defence
- Confused midfield line-up
- Attack that needs two to work
- The Mesut issue…