Arsenal shoot for realistic, how this changes the game (Long Read)

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Over the weekend, a reporter for the Premier League by the name of Vaishali Bhardwaj, mused on Talksport whether bloggers should be allowed to attend press conferences.

“Journalists are meant to bridge the gap between the fans and the club!”

“I do wonder about the quality of questions we might get.”

Now, just to be clear, there are incredible journos out there that blow my mind with their insightful musings and well thought out arguments. Rory Smith, Rapha Honigstein, Henry Winter, Sid Lowe, Julien Laurens, and Gab Marcotti just to name a few. However, there are also lots of great bloggers that focus on a single-subject topic with laser precision culminating in work that has some of them being snapped up by monied publications like The Athletic. Bloggers don’t have the luxury of MSM backing to gain a huge following. They don’t get the traffic associated with access. The notion that a fancy degree trumps part-time obsession when it comes to being able to ask questions of power really is something. Anyway, skip forward two days, Freddie Ljungberg is being asked about his clothing decisions in the dugout, by a journalist. He was asked two questions about wearing a suit. He had to tell the world about his dry cleaning issues. You couldn’t make it up.

The new manager rifled through a pretty interesting presser regardless, touching on his plan to speak to Arsene and Sven Goran-Eriksson, bemoaning our poor transitional play, and detailing his hopes to improve the defence. No word on whether he’s popping down Kooples for a rock-chic deep navy suit for the weekend.

One thing I’ll never get bored of when it comes to Freddie… clarity. Oh, and data talk. Loved this point.

Other things is that my feeling that we got in behind their midfield and behind their backline a lot, has been backed up by data within the club, which we have been sky rocketed up to be one of the top teams in the league to get into the pockets and behind them. That feels very good that it has been backed up by the data and the feeling I had after the game, and of course we will try to keep on doing that.

It’s exciting to read that we’re improving in an area the manager was coveting. It means he’s paying attention to deficiencies and he’s at least hatching mini-strategems to move the team forward. I also thought he made a very specific call-out when he was asked about Brighton.

‘They look good, they change formations a lot, so we will see what they come with. They try to play out,  defend well, they look very organised but for me we need to concentrate on our own game’

It’ll not be lost on him that the Arsenal players disliked the overly negative focus on the opposition under Unai Emery. We have a good squad of players. Not perfect, but we have a lot of talent. There’s no need to play 3 at the back against Southampton, we have the talent to cause any team problems on our day. Freddie’s focus on our strengths is what Arsenal should be all about. Overall, I love the positive vibes he’s bringing to the club, I also liked that he was borrowing ideas from Sven G-E on how to make players feel good.

The ‘who will it be’ news machine is in full swing. It’s hard to decipher what’s real and what’s not. Raul is so unpredictable and the BODs huge shortlist so lacking in a clear through-thread, it really is a toss of a coin as to where we go next.

Dave Ornstein echoed my commentary yesterday about the lack of money at Arsenal likely being a hindrance on some of the bigger name managers. I really struggle to see us shelling out £8-12m a season on someone like Allegri or Pochettino. I also think it’s highly unlikely we’ll be raiding Leicester to pay £14m to buy out Brendan Rodgers, followed by a £10m investment in his backroom team.

We’ll be looking to folk that won’t cost a lot of money, because as I’ve been telling you all season, we pulled money from next year to make the mad summer of 2019 happen.

Marcelino, the recently fired Valencia coach is rumored to be interesting the Arsenal board. My initial reaction was, ‘fuck, this is round two of Nuno’ that we’ll have to fend off. However, upon further inspection, it appears that Marcelino was the antidote to the Mendes era. He took over a club in a dangerous mess and insisted on technical autonomy with Alemany (Sporting Director). The new recipe worked, Marcelino took Valencia to the CL twice, commanded the love of a very demanding fan base, and was widely revered as the best manager they’d had since Rafa B. Peter Lim didn’t like that he’d been proved wrong so binned him at the first chance. Sad.

When it comes to style, Sid Lowe had a great overview here.

That speed, stamina and agility goes hand in hand with his style: playing in a 4-4-2, Marcelino wants the ball and, more importantly, wants it back when they lose it. But he is not interested in possession for its own sake. “A team with 80% possession and only three shots on goal bores me,” he said. Instead, it is the pace and precision of counter-attacks that most occupies him, built on defensive solidity. His teams are, as the Spanish word has it, very vertical, but that doesn’t mean a long ball: instead it means compact and coiled, always ready to spring forward and always in numbers, across the turf, players making runs across each other. The mechanism is built on repetition, carefully planned and conducted with intensity, underlining that while quantification matters individual analysis does not mean individualisation of approach: “You start with the idea that football is collective,” he says. Nor, he insists, can you ask a player to do something he is not capable of, although you can hide defects and maximise qualities.

I also think the nightmare of Arsenal would suit a manager that had to run an aggressive cleanup operation post-Jorge Mendes. We’d be a cakewalk in comparison, but this paragraph spoke to me.

Well, now at last they were fuori, on Voro’s well-placed advice. There was a dressing-room clean out, Enzo Pérez, Álvaro Negredo and Diego Alves among them. “Purge” may be an unpleasant word, but there was something in that. Marcelino called the players who went “prescindible” – expendable. He wasn’t naming names but it was, he admitted with a tinge of sadness “necessary … to change a negative run, there are players we had to get rid of”.

The squad had been made manageable; now he had to manage. Although some players say the serious image is exaggerated, that his demanding nature does not make him draconian, that he engages with players, reaches them and knows how to convince them, that he is likeable, his touch light at times, that Marcelino pushes them and it works. Direct and honest, he has talked about his admiration for Arrigo Sacchi and Rafa Benítez, while Diego Simeone says he identifies with him, and Marcelino insists on a building committed, competitive team. The word Gabriel used for him is “pesado”: roughly, a pain, heavy, hard work, tough going. Intelligent and intense, he wanted a squad that he could lead and that would follow him, creating a climate conducive to a change in culture.

The guy is a serious manager, he was the knight in shining armour for a club that was brutally milked for all it was worth, and he looks good in a suit. He’s also likeable, communicative and a disciplinarian. Main watch-out here is one of the deals he was looking for was Denis Suarez and his English might not be elite. Positives… he’s suited to a shit show, and we are a shit show.

Pochettino wants to get back into the game according to The Times, but all indicators point towards him taking a job in Europe. Bayern Munich has a vacancy that’d suit him and I think PSG will come up at the end of the year. He’s the ideal candidate on paper, but I’d be hard pushed to believe his sort of values would allow him to ditch 5 years of history to take the job at Arsenal.

Some of the stats bloggers have had their say. I’ve seen Roger Schmidt mentioned. He has certainly been under the consideration of Arsenal in the past, even before Wenger was fired. The German has built his career on hardcore tenants of Gegenpressing, he’s a trained engineer which bears little relevance to anything, and he had Bayer Leverkusen playing competitively for a while. He failed in China recently, he’s a free agent, and he can speak good English. It’d be an unspectacular hire, but no doubt a ‘safe’ pair of hands.

Fans are starting to warm to the delights of Marco Rose. The exRB Salzburg invincible is making waves at the top of the Bundesliga this season with Monchengladbach. He’s eloquent, he plays very sexy football, and he has the highly-rated Rene Maric by his side. Again, he’d be a risk because his ways have only been proven in Austria for the most well-funded team, and for a German side for just under half a season. As risks go, he’d certainly be a fun one. His organized disciplined brand of football is pleasing on the eye, and his approach to data and the modern arts of footballing warfare would certainly go down well with the fans. Problem with a manager like this is he’ll be hard to move at this stage of the season.

Some in the press have played up the notion that Freddie is a serious contender, I think it’s pretty clear he’s not. The club are just trying to buy themselves time here. It’s an amateur mind-game they’re using to trick the players into believing they are playing for their future. I love Freddie, but it’s too soon for him and I’m not sure he’s far enough removed from Wenger and Emery to feel like the radical change in approach we need.

Allegri is available right now. He’s an odd one. From what I understand, the club don’t rate him as a person or as a coach. I think the vibe is that the squad isn’t very suited to the game he plays when he’s at his best, nor do they think he has a character suited to the massive challenge ahead. On the face it, he’s hard to ignore. He’s won trophies, outperformed his spend in Europe regularly, and he’s been raised as a manager at club that do things with class and dignity (Milan and Juve). He is prestige, no doubt, I just doubt he’s for us… he’s literally too big for where Arsenal are right now and I think he’s been too successful to build from a very rubbish spot. Could be wrong though. As wrong as the time I told the world Eboue moving into the midfield was the future.

Whatever the decision, one thing is for sure, Don Raul is not looking like much of Don at the moment. The big voices on Arsenal are rounding on him, the papers are questioning his aptitude, and the fans are starting to wonder whether we’ve hired in a snake oil salesman just here for the payday. He has to make a decision that’s good for Arsenal, that’s backed by something smarter than ‘gut feel’… he has to shake the horrendous mistake he made when he shoehorned Emery in the door when Ivan G shit his pants at the thought of hiring Emery.

As a club, Arsenal is finely balanced on a precipice, but the fans won’t be fooled again. This next move has more than one job on the line, and so it should.

Right, see you in the comments. x

P.S. A lot of people jumping on that video of the players ignoring the mascot. Glad to see Big Cal Chambers put then right.

628 Responses to “Arsenal shoot for realistic, how this changes the game (Long Read)”

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  1. Freddie Ljungberg


    Doubt we’re going to buy 3 new midfielders and block both paths to the starting XI. If they have someone that is top quality and mobile with good positional sense next to them it shouldn’t be a problem to have 1 of them start at a time.

    Sangare – Guen/Willock – Szobozlai (this is why I usually write Dominick, can’t be bothered to check the spelling)

    Maybe not absolute top notch but has the potential to be.

  2. Leftsidesanch

    Not much to say that hasn’t been said Distant.

    Hopefully we can get a win and begin to build some good vibes around the club ahead of a tough run of games later this month

  3. Un na naai


    Yeah I agree regarding willock and Guendouzi, my point is that I can see them working with Torreira long term, a guy who performed very well in that role in Italy and for his National side and even for us until Emery decided to fuck it up and push him forward.

    At the back we’ve got Saliba coming and I still rate Holding very highly but we do need an experienced player there. Yes we’ve got Luiz and Sokratis but I don’t feel there’s an awful lot to lead there. It’s just a shame Emery drove Koscielney away as I think he would have been a perfect mentor. Still, we have Per there.

    I’m all for signing another cm to play alongside Torreira and offer physicality or a cesc, Santi type to dominate the game through technical excellence a

  4. Spanishdave

    Everyone is getting nervous which is understandable as we have gone winless for 8 games, for the first time since the Romans left.
    Confidence in the team and fans at a very low ebb.
    Must win tonight it’s a cup game mentality, go for it.
    No one has a clue as to what is our best line up.

  5. Valentin


    I don’t watch Italian football, some German and very few Spanish football games so the future Messi could play for some lowly club there and I would not be aware of him. Hence why I tend to favour players in the French League.

    There is lots of players not playing in the French League that I actually rate.
    However most of them are either already in top clubs and Arsenal can’t afford them. Others are on the radar of the clubs with specialist analysts scouts but Arsenal has decided to forgo the analytic scouting road. Our only chance is to buy them just before they explode on the market. Saliba for example is future France Captain.

    Outside of the French market, I have been strongly advocating that Arsenal looks at the Championship and the English lower leagues because there is some cheap gems there who with proper coaching could become top players.

  6. Distant legrover


    I didn’t know Arteta played at Rangers. Even captained them too ?

    Rangers are the second best club in Scotland anyway ? It can’t be that hard to do well there and Celtic. But I do admit that he has started well there.

    But I feel just because these guys are perennial captains , that doesn’t mean Freddie can’t be a leader of men in his own right. I mean you can only pick one captain in a team, doesnt mean there aren’t other leaders of men in the team.

    Chelsea for example had John Terry as captain, but they had other legitimate leaders in Lampard, Drogba, Cech etc

  7. Un na naai

    Sangare – Guen/Willock – Szobozlai (this is why I usually write Dominick, can’t be bothered to check the spelling)

    That kid could be a monster
    He’s got it all

  8. Distant legrover


    Don’t get me wrong I like both, but I think Guen starting most of our games is a crime. He has promising attributes but in my opinion he has mostly flattered to deceive. He’s not really impacting the midfield, at least not positively. It’s a big reason why our midfield is so terrible.

    Of course we can’t do much about it now in December but I just feel we are very light in midfield.

  9. Pierre

    Distant legrover

    “Soooo quiet!I always seem to come in here when everyone is having a siesta.”

    I normally find that if you say something positive about a player , manager , the clubs recent successes ,it is enough to get them riled and out of the woodwork.

    They hate positivity.

  10. Tenerife Gooner,

    Just thinking of my favourite Freddie goal.2002 V West Ham.Nigel playing out of his skin.B____.We were getting stressed,Dennis ,who else,slips Freddie in 1_0 .Kana gets another,we are mental in the North Stand.

  11. Valentin

    Un na naii,

    I have never really watched Celtic games, and the few time I saw him with Celtic I must admit Tierney never really stood up for me.
    Hopefully I am underestimating the negative impact of his injuries and Emery on the quality of Tierney.

  12. DaleDaGooner

    Don’t get me wrong I like both, but I think Guen starting most of our games is a crime. He has promising attributes but in my opinion he has mostly flattered to deceive. He’s not really impacting the midfield, at least not positively. It’s a big reason why our midfield is so terrible.Of course we can’t do much about it now in December but I just feel we are very light in midfield.

    I have to say i agree with this. Guendouzi, as excitable we all are for having him in the squad, is probably one of the reasons we are terrible at the moment. He should not be starting so many games. He should be benched and brought on as needed ….at least for now.

  13. DaleDaGooner

    To add some colour, Is David Luiz not on par or even better than Koscielny? Who is to say Kos stays and we still won’t be as shit as we are now? Something funky about the whole set up and Emery being as confusing as he was stirred the pot hard

  14. Graham62


    Just to reitorate to you and a few of your friends, I started sulking in my shed from the end of 2008-09 season.

    Well after the Freddie period.

    What’s your take on tonight’s game?

  15. Pierre

    Guendouzi is a bit of conundrum.

    I think he sort flatters to deceive…he has a great attitude and work ethic but it is not always channelled for the good of the team.

    He may be a bit of a liability at this present time as he lacks discipline in his play ..could be time to give him a break for a couple of weeks.

  16. Distant legrover

    Dale & Pierre

    He’s a good player, maybe even potentially a great one but at the moment there is a sort of chaos about his game, holding on to the ball too long, passing too late, jumping into tackles and missing them leading to huge space behind him, not targeting and passing to our wide forwards and forwards etc which makes it hard for him to effectively impact the team. Plus he doesnt seem to be a specialist in anything, not a creator and assister like Fabregas, not a defensive midfielder like Silva, Song, not an orchestrator just a jack of all trades.

    Nothing wrong with been a jack of all trades if you are effective like Milner, Ramsey etc but he’s really not .

  17. Valentin


    Koscielny is a better defender than David Luiz, but David Luiz is a better player. As we don’t have a proper midfield, we are more in need of a proper defender than a footballer. So for Arsenal, Koscielny would have been the better option.
    However Even if Koscielny had stayed with us, we would have still be short of a left footed CB.
    Reading his latest interview it was clear that his body could not handle a full EPL season.
    With Mavrapanos never fully fit, we could not have relied on him as understudy.

  18. CG


    “””What’s your take on tonight’s game?”””

    Watch it behind the sofa, and hope Fred ( in a suit and not looking like Val Doonican) does not select Luiz.

    I have bought Dunk to be MOTM.

    Dont think we will get too much change out this player.

    We have to win.
    So I reckon 2-1.
    It wont be pretty methinks though.

  19. Pedro

    Rambo, they will talk about what Pep did, because it was exceptional.

    They’ll also talk about the Klopp story because he’s been a phenom.

    No one cares where the money came from when all is said and done. Just the football.