I’ve been in America too long, it’s true. I love nothing more than a rags to riches story. Or, more in the American tradition, I damn well love a riches to riches story. It was Robert Downey Jnr and Bieber a few years ago, now, the Netflix doco I need in my life is Mustafi: Falsch Verstanden, what a hero. He’s playing so well, I think I want him to stay.
Shkodran Mustafi v Everton pic.twitter.com/nBAYhcaUH3
— J (@J41917556) February 24, 2020
Have I gone mad? Maybe, but performances don’t lie, and if he keeps this up, why wouldn’t you hang onto him, then give him a £350k p/w 3 year deal?
I’ve written for years that it’s been tough to judge the true quality of some of the players that have passed through the club. Arsene Wenger’s coaching skills dipped badly after 2010, but his eye for fantastic young players did not. Some flourished, others never hit the heights. You wonder what a smarter approach could have done with some of that raw material. One thing I’m sure of, our biggest sale would have been higher than £40m. Serge Gnabry, Chezzer, Nasri, Malen, and Yaya Sanogo… all deserved better.
Anyway, my rambling point is that after Wenger, we upgraded the thinking to a piece of soggy single-ply cardboard. Literally no one improved. Under the second average coach, as fans, instead of saying, ‘shit, these players have had a bad run of coaches how can we judge?’, we fucking massacred the lot of them. Do I feel bad about that? Absolutely not. We are the rabble, that’s what we do.
How times have changed, we’re now seeing what a great coach can do for confidence, team camaraderie, and performances. David Luiz and Mesut Ozil are back to playing like senior players that have won things. Granit Xhaka, a player I could not stand, looks really good wherever he’s played in the new setup. He seems fairly happy as well. He had this to say to The Standard.
“Of course, I don’t lie. There was a moment [when I thought I wouldn’t play for Arsenal again], because it was not easy for me and my family. I hope people understand this,”
“But I think I showed my character. I am not a guy who runs away. I always say to the club: ‘When I [am] here, I am ready to give everything.’
‘It was like this always. I train very hard and that things turned around is the key. This [has given me] the most happiness.”
We do forget that these players are human, then we remember, so we dehumanise them because they are more wealthy than we will ever be… also, players forget that they are icons. His behaviour against Palace was terrible, his performances were really poor, it was a match made in mid-table hell. But hey, let’s moved onto something more productive, like ways the clubs could fix the issues. This from Xhaka.
“I think this is the biggest difference [between] Germany and England, because [here] we don’t have the [close] connection with the fans. In Germany, for example, you have open training sessions, the fans come and [talk to you], ask you why.
“Here, everything is closed. So, for me, it would be good this time to explain to the people what is not going good or bad. But it doesn’t matter now. Now we have to enjoy, that’s the most important.”
Imagine popping down to London Colney to ask Xhaka what the fuck he was thinking leaving the front post unmarked. Not sure how it would go down, but I’m willing to give it a go.
Regardless of who makes it or not, the truth is this: Arteta is making the deadwood better. If they maintain the form and some stay, great news. If we pump their value and land bigger fees this summer, absolutely incredible. One narrative we can’t let take grip is the ridiculous notion that Arteta might find himself hoodwinked by cunning squad members who are hiding their bad performances with… errr… good performances (yes, this is a real concern). This new stick to beat the regime with is about as insightful as the idea that Arteta was soft because he played under Wenger or that he’d implement boring football because he was a boring player.
Arteta was most impactful coach at the most technical footballing outfit the Premier League has ever seen. City won the league back to back with record points, their football was disgustingly good, their consistency was machine-like. You don’t make it at that level if you can’t assess talent. If he keeps players, it’s because they are good enough.
It’s going to be a big summer regardless. I think we’ll see at least 6 players leave. There will be an influx of talent in a lower age profile, and certainly, with a different athletic make-up. How big we go is very much dependent on the Champions League, which feels like a longshot right now. I also think qualification for the big trophy will determine who stays. Auba might get his £300k a week if we’re playing Barca in the group stages next year. We might hold onto Ozil if we’re with the elite. If we’re not, then the club has to work out where the priorities lie, adding, or keeping… one thing is for sure, we can’t maintain a £200m wage bill if we’re out of the big one another year.
One player that really would thrill me is the excellent Thomas Partey, he has a £43m release clause, but he’s in talks with Atleti to sign a new deal. I love the idea of this signing, he’s the perfect profile for our midfield, but I can’t help but think Arsenal are a great club to be linked to if you’re looking to edge up your offer. If you’re trying to make your girlfriend jealous, you don’t tell her Kerri Russel (Barca) was breaching your personal space at Blue Bottle Coffee, you tell her Loose Sandra (Arsenal) in accounts keeps liking your posts on Instagram… you gotta keep things realistic.
I also think there might be a big super-agent signing in the offing. I mean, there should be. The agent fees we racked up in January must surely be worth something. We’ll see though.
Right, that’s about all I have time for today, please jump into the podcast I recorded with Alex, it’s a great listen, I think it might be the best podcast in the world right now? Or not. You decide by listening right now.