I’ve been powering through a lot of books of late, leadership and power are my favoured topics because I have no power in my life and I’m bullied by the man at the laundrette who charges me double for my shirts because he says they are dresses. Anyway, I’m just over halfway through Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog and I stumbled across this line.
‘No matter the sport— no matter the human endeavor, really— total effort will win people’s hearts’
He was referencing Pre Fontaine, a legendary American distance runner, and how he captured the imagination of the crowd with his ‘put it all out there’ there approach to running.
Mikel Arteta has constantly referenced the connection between the fans and the players and how important it is. The hot takers (particular from The Guardian) have lent many paragraphs to the Arsenal fans being a problem for the players on the pitch. I’ve always thought this was a junk POV that totally misses the impact blood-and-guts spilling has on the fans. We’re all pretty basic, if players give it their all on the pitch, generally fans respond favourably. The new trend for citing ‘expectation’ as a problem in football reminds me of the years-long assault on the notion of ‘passion’ in the game. ‘Pashun merchant’ was an insult, generally directed to the sort of fan who didn’t understand the nuances of Mesut Ozil’s body language, and was widely derided as an unsophisticated desire of stupid fans. Skip to 2020 and one of the most perfect teams ever to exist is being managed by a passion merchant. Every Chairman now wants a lunatic on the touchline.
Fan expectations have never been the problem at United, coaching has been. Same was true at Arsenal. Citing fan ‘expectation’ always sounds nice because it sets you apart as a different sort of fan, more elite, thoroughly considered, just attending football so you can rock the flat cap, have a pie, and mix it with the working class. It’s not reality though. Expectations hold clubs accountable, everything should be in the name of a better footballing output, that’s what makes you an appealing club to join… which player, coach, analyst or business person would want to join a club that didn’t think fan expectations were a positive? None that you’d want to give a £180k a week contract to, that’s for sure. I think Mikel Arteta understands that. I don’t think he’d decry fan expectation, I think he desperately wants to meet and surpass them because that’s what ambition is.
I have not sat in an atmosphere like the one the players created at that United game in years. What changed? The players giving a fuck and showing it with their performances.
I think Arteta is using the adulation of the fans as a carrot to provoke an outrageous work ethic. When the fans will the team on, the players want to go harder, it’s a symbiotic relationship that can push them onto greater heights.
Tonight, at Chelsea, we’re going to need something from the fans and the players. Chelsea offers us a very quick opportunity to demonstrate progress. The 7th game under Arteta is a return leg Premier League game that gives us the chance to show the fans that the ideas are sinking in and the players are moving forward. It’s also an away game against a top 6 side that are in the same mess we’re in… chasing top 4 badly.
The game needs to be an all-out assault. It has to be war on the pitch. Tired legs aren’t an excuse in a derby like this. This needs to be retribution.
We didn’t deserve to lose last time around, the outcome really spun on a Cal Chambers injury and the terror of Mustafi on the pitch.
This time, it has to be different. Mustafi looked much better against Sheffield United at the weekend, and generally speaking, the defensive approach of the team looked much better. We really kept Chelsea quiet. That needs to be repeated for the full 90.
The major challenge for Arsenal is going to be how we operate moving forward. We’ve lacked creativity and the goals have tended to come from one place, Auba. He’s out for the second game of his suspension. That means we’re relying on Laca, Martinelli, Pepe and maybe Nkeitiah. I know a few people in the comments have been questioning whether anything has changed at Arsenal, which feels like a weird thing for someone to say that is so obsessed with Arsenal, they comment on a blog… so here’s a video from Statman Dave to explain where the club is going.
It’s going to be a tough evening, but hopefully, the adrenaline of a big game and a huge greasy chip on the player’s shoulders (sitting there because of the rough luck we’ve had) should drive us forward.
The manager wants to go all the way in the table.
“It’s very, very important for us to win this game to fight for [the top four],”
“The game we played at home could have made a big difference and we were very close to it. Tomorrow we need to win.”
“If we are able to win three or four games on the trot, then we are right there. That’s the challenge we have and all the teams have at the moment. When you look at the results from the weekend, all the draws, and how one decision changed the whole game between Burnley and Leicester, the margin is not that big. So it is complicated. You have to dominate every aspect of the game.”
The squad should be motivated to be back in the big time, they make top 4 it means a big fat bonus coming their way, elite status amongst their peers, pride, as well as the excitement of playing the best teams in the world. This game will tell us a lot about their belief, so I’m hoping for a big one.
Right, nice and short today, if you’re heading up to the game, take a listen of yesterday’s podcast I recorded with Alex.