Today, it is my birthday, I am now at the age where I’d be getting a one year deal and everyone would be clapping like it was some sort of a major achievement, or worse, I’d be landing that deal because I’d done well for the club. A sympathy contract. I’m basically Dennis Bergkamp right now, slow, but I’ll still pick out the top corner if you let me.
The real birthday story is… I am sad. Yep. Really sad. Arsenal is not joy at the moment.
… but, I am ready to bury that sadness deep within, because I can’t be miserable any longer… metaphorically, I’m one walk to the fridge away from my career being over, so today, we hunt for a bit of positivity, because honestly, the lunatics were out in force yesterday after the game and we have to right some of the wrongs that are being spewed into the Goonerverse.
The surrounding noise
I had the view that the covid-disaster was going to take us places with this group of players. Turns out, I was totally wrong.
My hypothesis was that the uncertainty in the market would push players to find another level on the pitch as they fought for a contract, or, they fought for a future in the game.
This really was naive… no, it was stupid.
When you take people’s money away and they see that no one else in the league really took a pay cut, that has a negative affect. I know personally what pay cuts can do to people and their thinking. At first, it’s like, oh, ok, I’m saving the world out here… then, the dark clouds settle in and you start thinking… fuck you.
Some other factors that aren’t helping.
When Arsenal players are flogged in the press as potential exits or swaps, that has an affect. Lacazette, I am looking at you. He had to come out and call a random Twitter account a liar. Mentally, he’s been affected by uncertainty.
When four players don’t know their futures 2 weeks before they might be cut loose, that can be problematic. Firstly, it can have direct consequences on the pitch, and we saw that. Secondly, people who are at risk can spread misery in the squad. You’ve all had a Karen in the work kitchen telling you that the company is going to collapse, that happens in football.
There will also be a collection of players that know they are leaving in the summer. Do you think they are going to put their bodies on the line? Absolutely not.
Those above issues, at a club with a stronger culture for winning, might have been ok. But this is Arsenal. A place that has allowed our best player to take away days off for the last two years. Each one of those problems takes you further away from an elite culture, where perfection is what you strive for.
I don’t think this season will be a total disaster, but it’s apparent that we have a more complicated set of mitigating circumstances than most and it literally played out in a red card in our first game, and it certainly looked like there was a lack of effort in some quarters for the second.
Arteta has been in the job 6 months, but he’s 13 games into his tenure, with a squad he’s spent zero money on. Why are so many fans jumping down his throat after every bad result? It is quite incredible. He’s picked up a squad of players that are on their 4th coach in 2 years at a club that is at its lowest ebb in about half a century. Freddie hated the senior players so much he fucked them off and played the kids. This is far from an ideal situation.
Picking up clubs midseason is very, very difficult.
Jurgen Klopp took Liverpool from 10th to 8th and he started in October. He had a far better squad to work with.
Jose Mourinho picked up Spurs from Pochettino, a club that was in the Champions League final last season and he has them sitting a whopping 2 points ahead of Arsenal.
OGS at United. A great start going 12 undefeated to… losing 5 of his final 9, notably losing to Cardiff in the last game of the season.
The mighty Carlo is 3 points behind us and barring a miracle today, will likely stay there.
That’s four pretty relevant comparisons. Picking up someone else’s players midseason when they’ve been utterly shit is not an easy job, so when all the new high-standards-bros are chirping away, put a little perspective on things. There is no manager in the world that was solving our issues in 13 games. Also, we have bought into a manager that wants to play like Pep, do we have players to do that right now? No. But we will at some point.
New managers are going to make them. Guess what, experienced managers also make them, especially at new clubs when they’re trying to work out what’s what. Arteta’s in-game management was not at its best at the weekend, but he’ll learn from the experience. Overall though, it’s hard not to watch that Brighton game back and think that we should have come away with three points. Our defending was just criminal, as it has been for years. We’ll hopefully fix that this summer with more suitable players.
Also, I say this in a hushed tone, for fear of waking the Gooners with the heavy set tattoos on the table behind me, but… we missed Granit Xhaka in our side. Our two best players at moving the ball between the lines are out. Mesut Ozil is on an effort holiday and Granit is injured. Say what you will about the Swiss, but the good parts of his game are sorely lacking at the moment. Dani Ceballos is not the full ticket, he’s been a huge disappointment. I like Matteo G, but he’s still a bit of a head-scratcher… I can’t work out what his thing is. That is not the sort of midfield that’s winning you games consistently. We need a Thomas Partey desperately.
This is my favourite debate at the moment. Every time we have a bad result, every man and his dog knows the exact reason. This week, ‘WHERE WAS MARTINELLI’, which is fine, we’re fans, we’re allowed to have opinions… but come on people, do you really think we’re a Martinelli away from cracking the code?
Last week it was Nic Pepe, who, outside an outrageous goal, was largely anonymous.
If the Brazilian isn’t playing, I suspect there’s a reason. At the moment, it’s because Saka is ahead of him in the pecking order, and I have to say, that’s absolutely fair. We all have this quick win solves that the entire coaching staff are missing, but we need to be real, there’s not a silver bullet in this squad. If there were, they’d be playing.
I know there are a lot of wounded Emeryista out there. They go into hiding during the good times, then as soon as we drop a few points, they’re out in the street, ringing a bell, messing their pants in public. We have to move beyond this. I could absolutely tolerate the AKB pining after their leader, because he was more than just a manager, he was… a father figure to a lost generation of fans. Yep, I know that’s weird, but it’s true.
Unai Emery? That’s a whole bag of weird. He was an abusive stepfather who didn’t even take time out to work out how to pronounce your mum’s name. How anyone can still be trying to litigate his passing is beyond me, but it has to stop, and I have to weed the poison out of the comments section here.
It’s time to move on.
On the Arsene piece, there’s also a collection of muppets that think the Wenger Out fans are getting what they deserve. No my friends, the sycophants that supported Wenger’s prolonged tenure are getting what they deserve. Wenger held onto power too long, he crashed the culture, he didn’t innovate, he held on to average staff, he spent bad money after bad money, he didn’t get contracts right… and then we doubled down on a terrible succession plan.
Wenger is not to be blamed for Arteta’s mistakes, but it is disingenuous in the extreme to say his exit was the problem. The problem is we didn’t move him on soon enough. We should have hired Klopp before Liverpool. We should have snapped at Pep when he was interested. We should have moved on a whole host of managers that could have moved good squads forward. Remember, Wenger blew the league to Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester.
Also, you don’t have to look at me for clarification on whether Wenger was finished. Just look at where he works now. That’s not because he was the magic wand keeping Arsenal together, it’s because his slow-motion crash over 10 years made it very clear that his idea of what the game should be was for 2004.
Onwards and upwards, we have to pick ourselves up the same way the players will be expected to. We have to get out the end of this season with a few wins. We have to hope the kids can pick up their game. Then we have to look forward to fast-forwarding 3 years transfer windows and reshape Arsenal into a lean, mean, battle machine.
The real focus for us should be on Stan Kroenke. He’s a real estate mogul, the market has crashed, he should move in on the weak clubs this summer and bring the squad up to standard in one quick hit. There will be SO much value to be had, but I fear we’re going to have wheel and deal with zero funds.
Josh and Stan need to step up, Raul needs rip the emergency cord and do something special this summer, Arteta needs to make sure he’s heard so there are no excuses next season.
Right, next up, a team we always have a good time against… Southampton.