So what’s this… the Patron Saint of Positivity is… me?
It appears so. My role in the community is clear, I am here to make you feel better, to guide you toward the light, to set you on the path of righteousness.
Today, we’re talking about Arsenal.
Some of the commentary post-Burnley has been fucking hysterical. Pull yourselves together comrades. Burnley beat Brendan Rodgers Leicester and took down Manchester United at Old Trafford. Beating them away from home would have been lovely, but it was a tough game and it didn’t end in a pleasing fashion.
These games will happen. The club is being dragged into the future after years in the darkness. That isn’t going to happen in 6 weeks I’m afraid, if you thought it would, that’s on you.
Let’s just remind ourselves of what was going on.
The team stopped running.
Our captain had told the fans to fuck off
Mesut Özil was ostracized, then brought back
We had the worst start in 38 years
We couldn’t defend
We couldn’t attack
Where are we now?
We’re competing in every game. You might not have liked what you saw at Burnley, but we didn’t stop fighting. We dominated the opening 30 minutes, it swung back to Burnley, then we took back control of the last 20 minutes. That’s battling spirit, something we’ve lacked.
The team is working harder than ever. The effort is impacting our second-half performances, but we’ve seen a sustained work rate in games. We press in a structured manner and it’s paying dividends.
We are hard to beat. Yes, we’re not winning games we’d like to be, but we’re also not losing. Pep-ball wasn’t built in a day. The manager has had to make tough decisions, and he seems to have put his first batch of chips on making us more solid defensively. It’s working, we’re far more solid than we’ve been in years. If Allegri had come in, what do you think he’d have done? Arsenal fans have literally begged for someone to pay attention to defensive structure, now it’s happening.
The most pointed criticism has been that our attacking flair has taken a hit. I can’t argue that, but logic would say that strikers that had an outrageous conversion rate last season would help us nick games by a goal. It hasn’t happened. Confidence is very, very low. Mesut hasn’t been using the new space he’s been given and players like Lacazette are living in hell. We have to be realistic, you can’t fix everything at the same time, it’s a process, phase one has been to make us tougher to beat, it’s working, now the manager has to work on phase two.
I think that’ll become far easier when we get a full set of players to choose from. Our defensive options have been bleak, get some pace an power back in the side and things will start to look up.
Another criticism leveled at the manager has centered around him not selling the entire squad in January. Again, this sounds great when you’re thumping the table, but when you think about it, it’s beyond dim.
Clubs don’t do the bulk of their business in January because the only deals to be had are generally quite grim unless you have £100m kicking around. We don’t. Ripping out all of our experience, bringing in 5 players, and hoping it’d work under a new manager would have been a ridiculous ploy.
Edu and Raul, I suspect, are banking on a few things.
1. That Arteta can study the squad and make an assessment of the talent available at the club. Which senior players can be saved, which kids are good enough, and where the gaps are.
2. That Arteta can coach like he did at Manchester City. Arsenal are only as good as the money they spend this summer. If we have no one to sell, we are going to be painfully limited in who we can buy. I think the reliance on senior players is to pump the value of names we’d have struggled to move on in January. If Mustafi plays the rest of the season like he did yesterday, he’ll get a big move this summer. Xhaka is already worth more than the £24m that was offered. Mesut Ozil might show he’s worth a move. Auba will command big money, so could Lacazette and Matteo. How much more do you think Lucas Torreira is worth now? If you bump your sales from £50m to £100m, that gives you a lot more options. So, as much as you hate it, there’s clearly a rationale as to why we’re reviving careers… it’s the long game. So stop getting so irate at the lack of public executions.
3. The good coaching will act as a calling card. The best players want to improve. If there’s someone at Arsenal that can elevate players talents, that makes you a viable option for more names. I think these turnaround projects show that Mikel is more than just the backroom guy at City who put out the cones. If the backend of this season sees better results and more consistency, that will act as a calling card in the same way the Dortmund project does.
We still have to hope that Edu and his scouting machine is a little more attuned to the market than some of these drab names that are being floated our way by agents like Kia, but at the end of the day, if Raul blows another summer, his job will start to look precarious. Fans won’t tolerate another steady drip of average players with pumped fees. Nor will the Kroenke’s.
Right, that’s me done for today, I’ll be recording a podcast tomorrow when I’m back in New York. xx