You might be heading here this morning thinking I’m about to launch into Freddie Ljungberg and the drab opener to his career in the hot seat. If that’s the case, you’ll be disappointed. We put in exactly the sort of performance I was expecting after the handsome Swede had spent just two days with a squad that looks like it’s been on a 4-day stag-do bender in Benidorm with the boys from Croydon’s biggest building site.
No new-manager-bounce for Freddie. I think fans were genuinely more interested in what he was going to wear before the game, an event far more likely to bring joy than the collection of players that have been mailing it in under a banter manager for 18 months. Turns out, his attire wasn’t quite as striking as we’d hoped. He looked like an account guy in advertising that’d just moved to 3 bedroom garage renovated space, in Stoke Newington, preparing to pop out to pick up a takeaway from Pizza Express. No 3 piece tweed ensemble for the ages, nothing CK flare-ish, just a bit boring.
His team selections were also a bit, how can we say it kindly? Interesting.
He brought back Mustafi, Ozil, and Xhaka. He opted to try and make Lacazette and Auba work upfront. He played his favourite, Joe Willock. His defence omitted Tierney, had Chambers at right-back, along with David Luiz. If we’re being forgiving, which we are, he might have been playing the politics card before he hits the team with his true vision. Conte did that in his first season at Chelsea (bringing a back 3 in after 10 games); play the card everyone wants you to play, prove it’s shite, then switch it up. I mean, not that crazy a thought, Freddie believes in high octane pressing and his front three were Ozil, Lacazette and Auba.
The attacking output was interesting for the first 15 minutes, the passing was more direct, there were some attempts at the combination play of old. The problem though, as always, was the defence. We were a total mess as usual. The midfield did a very bad job holding their shape, the players in the back 4 looked like they were new to the game, and there was the typical array of poor individual performances.
David Luiz just isn’t built for the game in 2019. He’s desperately off the pace, he’s lacking confidence for the first time in his career, and he’s lost that edge we used to hate about him. In the heat of spending frenzy last summer, we all hoped this was a masterstroke. Now we’re looking at him in cold light of day, it’s apparent that was a ‘contacts’ signing for the ages. Nearly £200k a week, a bunch of agents fees, and a pretty large transfer fee on someone that just doesn’t have it.
The manager took a lot of flak for his subs, again, I thought this was unfair. Is there really much of a difference between Saka and Pepe at the minute? Freddie basically said Pepe trains badly. He was an elite player, we might not trust his judgement on knitwear, but you can’t deny that he’s likely very attuned to effort levels in training sessions.
The overarching problem for Freddie is a simple one: He’s the caretaker.
Arsenal won’t give him the job fulltime. The players absolutely know this. Sadly, they’re all still in holiday mode. Freddie is a nice guy that they all like, but he doesn’t have any real authority in that role, because the players know he’ll be leaving. That’s not a slight on Freddie, when Alex Ferguson announced his first retirement years ago, he had to cancel it because his squad switched off. Our squad is a collection of pampered babies, they’ll take any excuse you throw their way.
Regardless, I hoped they might want to play for him, but just look at the overall pace of that game and the lack of commitment. There was no fire in the tackle, everything was halfhearted, no one risked 50/50s. The players weren’t giving it their all, because Freddie doesn’t matter to them like he should do.
That means the club really is going to have to go very hard to make sure the manager we hire is in the door by January 1st. We need authority in the dressing room and we need some ideas on how to get the team ticking again. I cannot accept the notion that the squad is worse than Norwich or Southampton, it’s simply too easy to play that card. Leicester have been a sub 50 points a season team for 3 years, their players weren’t shite, the managers were. No one, and I mean no one, had that squad of players down as anything outside average when we tanked them in 2018 with a blistering performance. Now they have a very good coach, he has them in 2nd, and apparently all he’s done is awaken an incredibly balanced squad. Not true.
Good coaching makes a difference. Players are just like us. They buy into ideas. They want to operate in an organised unit. They want to win. We need some fire in the dressing room and we need someone capable of reenergizing players that have lost their way.
It’s super trendy for everyone to talk about the deeper problems at Arsenal. I’m with everyone on that, but let’s not overcomplicate football here. We need a manager with a believable idea, good communication skills, with the ability to crack the whip in a positive way.
The managerial shortlist looks unwieldy at the minute, but it’s filtering down as we learn more about the names.
The Guardian ran a piece yesterday that said the club has massively cooled on the idea of inviting a super agent lackey into an already messy situation. I’m am VERY pleased about that. Thank you to everyone that raised the alarm there, you clearly made a difference here. Nuno would have been a fucking disaster. It looks like he’s off the shortlist.
Pochettino is apparently a favourite of the board. Why wouldn’t he be? The guy is absolute mustard, he’d be an incredible hire, but from what I understand, it is very, very unlikely he’d tarnish his reputation for Arsenal. So, likely rule him out.
Allegri has been out of a job for a while considering his talent. Word on the street is he interviewed very badly. He couldn’t sprechen zie English that well and he also asked the club to sell him on Arsenal (power move). That’s a bad footing he might struggle to come back from. I think Allegri is a saucy beast, but his English is very poor if you watch his online videos, but more to the point, the guy is at the top of his game. He’ll want to win the Champions League with his next move, fast. Any human arrogant enough to ask for the interviewer to sell them on the role is probably not suited to a shit show like Arsenal. No money, an unbalanced squad, and basically a huge step back for a top, top manager.
Brendan Rodgers is interested in Arsenal. He couldn’t be any more excited about the opportunity. He’s clearly had his people leak ‘dream job’ to the press, and he wasn’t exactly emphatic when asked about his desire to remain with the Leicester project. Brendan is not everyone’s cup of tea, but look, the guy is a very good coach, he’s certainly better than Emery and it’s very hard to deny what he’s done at Leicester is anything outside exceptional. The football he played when he took Liverpool to 2nd was outstanding. Celtic might be a cakewalk, but keeping any side focused enough to be invincible is a notable achievement. If we end up with him, I’d certainly not complain. Only worry with Brendy R is he’s a bit of a berk, and I wonder how that’d go down with players that ripped the piss out of their last manager to his face. There’s also a harsh sting with Brendan: He comes with a £14m buyout clause and he’d likely cost us £10m a year (with his team). Just three weeks ago people were leaking that we were struggling to meet the ‘fuck off’ fee of Emery’s last 6 months. We are skint. I do not think we’ll be throwing that sort of money at a manager because that will hit our summer transfer budget. He’d be a solid hire regardless.
I’ve written extensively about Mikael Arteta, you know my feelings on him, he’s certainly on the radar of the club. He has had a lot of strong endorsements in the media (Henry Winter, arguably the #1 English journalist, being the biggest). He’d come at a very low cost, he’d slot right into the system, and he’d arrive with a big idea we’d all salivate over. Challenge with him is does he engage with Arsenal again after what happened last time? Would he fuck Pep over at a very bad time for the Manchester club? We’re what he wants, the question is, do the club have the cojones to make a hire that has some meek fans wetting their pants / calling me a melon fucker on Twitter.com.
Carlo Ancelotti will most certainly be asked about the role again. He knows the league, he’s world-class at bringing players together, and he has the sexy prestige that’ll have Raul firming up at the dinner table. I love Carlo and what he’s done, but I do think he’s had his time at the very top. He’s not a tactical master and most of his success comes when he’s given the best tools to work with. Also worth remembering that he lost to Emery in the Europa League last season, during a really bad Arsenal run of form. He also comes with a huge entourage of expensive people, including his son I believe. He’s a superstar manager, on superstar wages, not quite sure he’d deliver to the levels we’d want, but still a solid name to consider just because he’s a very cool guy and I like him.
I also wouldn’t be surprised to see someone like Ralph Rangnick considered again. He’s been targeted by a lot of top clubs, Bayern had a go for him and United were rumoured to be interested. I would have preferred him as a technical director, not sure if he has the management chops for the Premier League, but it’s hard to argue that he’d not be suited to our mess at the moment. He’s picked up far worse problem clubs in his career and pushed them forward. RB are also at the forefront of football development. He’s had his fingers in lots of club pies with their franchise and Red Bull are doing pretty well out of it.
Patrick Vieira will be sniffing around the role. Petit was speaking about it at the weekend. I love him, but again, is the work he’s doing at Nice getting anyone moist? I don’t think so. For me, if you’re going to hire him, you might as well give the job to Per and Freddie. I think the football will be about the same level when all is said and done.
The shame of this process is we can’t consider names like Ten Haag, Marco Rose, and Paulo Fonseca. Oddly, not even Gio Van Bronckhorst because City are eyeing him for New York or to replace Pep. We leave a lot of good names on the table by shooting for a manager now, but as you saw today, if we don’t move in the next 30 days, Champions League qualification is lost.
Anyway… point about the above, the shortlist is starting to shrink. The frontrunners to me look like Brendan, Carlo and Arteta. All solid, all very different, all an improvement.
Still, early days, plenty of time for the club to fuck this up.
Right, see you in the comments.