So after a rough start to the season, we’re now 3 wins on the bounce and we have an FA Cup semi-final against City to dread. The big smiles are out in force; now we get down to the real business end of the race for the top 8.
Wolves, Leicester, Spurs, then Liverpool.
That’s a beastly run, but for me, it’s perfect. Being able to smash Norwich 4-0 doesn’t tell you much about the coaching or the progression of the team, extracting any sort of points out of the next 4 games will.
Nuno has done a terrific job at Wolves. He’s made them a feared outfit, he’s built a squad using the dark arts of super-agent love, and it looks like it’s working out very nicely at a club that is just happy to be back at the top.
Arteta was very complimentary of the squad they’ve built and how they play.
I think they have shown in the past few years how consistent they have been with their performances. They are a group of players, and a club with a manager that have been doing exactly the same thing for many years and you can see their style of play, and a very clear identity of what they want to do,. They have been recruiting exactly the players they need in the positions to do what they want to do. They are a really difficult side to beat.
He’s obsessed with identity, probably because he inherited a club that was severely lacking one. I think in this case, it’s absolutely clear what Nuno is doing with his team. They defend very well, they have a lot of intensity, they are extremely disciplined and they are outrageous on the counter.
They also have a lot of good players, Jorge Mendes is clearly a better super-agent than the two clowns we have making reccos at Arsenal. Jota, Mendes, Jimenez, and Traore would all walk into our squad. They will all be problematic for us tomorrow.
We have some very good players ourselves, but arguably, none better than Auba. Arteta talks about him like he has the deepest football crush of his life on the players.
I don’t know, it is the way that I feel, the way that I communicate with him, the conversations that I have with him and the people around him. It is the energy I sense. It is just my opinion, things change in football very quickly but when you ask me in that moment how I feel about Auba’s future, in this moment I feel that he wants to continue with us and keep developing and help us to become a better team.
He’s also doubling down on him staying.
I think so, he needs to feel he belongs somewhere that he believes we can achieve the goals that he has individually and collectively for a long time. He is very settled in the city, his family are really happy here as well I think, and he is loved, respected and admired nay his team-mates, which is a huge thing to have at any football club. So that’s what gives me positivity, as well because I see the enjoyment he is having, the work-rate that he puts in all the time, and the decisions that he makes every time. So that is where my feelings are coming from.
James Olley at ESPN reckons the player wants £250k a week for 3 years. It’s expensive, but as a few pals in the Whatsapp Groups have said, players go on for longer now, Auba wasn’t brutalised as a young player, making his mark later in his career, he’s also very, very fit.
From a player perspective, he seems bought in. He looked very happy in the stands the other day. Arteta says he thinks the player can match Thierry for goals and trophies, I think he’s being serious-ish. He’s not here to be a top 8 manager, he wants to challenge. Whether you think that is jokes or not doesn’t matter, that’s the way he’s thinking about the project. He’s looking at Liverpool, not Wolves, as the benchmark for success.
Why the fuck not? Give me that over someone who has a Europa League comfort blanket. Ambition has strange ways of infecting people and convincing them they can do more than they can.
That sort of chat isn’t for now though, in this moment, we’ve just got to work out a way of moving through this section of the season unscathed with more than zero points.
The two things we have to deal with tomorrow are fairly obvious. How do you create a team that gives you zero space? How do you stop powerhouse players like Traore eating you up on the break?
It’ll be interesting to see whether he’s tempted to bring Torreira back into the mixer. Full back decisions will also be important. If you are going to be low on chances, you have to make sure the people in those positions can make the most of any space they create. You also have to be sure they have the right mobility against the power and pace. Could we see a start for Soares? Will he bring AMN into midfield? Would he risk starting Dani against a team that won’t afford him the luxury of space and time like Norwich?
I’m sure whatever we offer up tactically will be close enough, the big question is whether this squad is ready to deliver a 90-minute performance. There’s always a dip. There’s always a moment where the gameplan drops off the radar. If that happens tomorrow, we’ll be lucky to survive it.
So fingers crossed we see big response.
I was sent a press release from RunRepeat about the bias in football commentary. Alfred, my woke Swedish pal from The Arsenal Opinion podcast has been pulling me on the subject for 2 years, it’s now in a study format so you can read. The numbers are miserable.
- When commentators talk about intelligence:
- 62.60% of praise was aimed at players with lighter skin tone
- 63.33% of criticism was aimed at players with darker skin tone
- When commentators are talking about power they are 6.59 times more likely to be talking about a player with darker skin tone
- When commentators are talking about speed they are 3.38 times more likely to be talking about a player with darker skin tone
- When commentators talk about work ethic, 60.40% of praise is aimed at players with lighter skin tone
When you first hear about this, you think it’s just another woke agenda item, but then you start paying attention, and you hear it all the time.
This sort of study is important on two levels. Firstly, it shows that football commentary is too simplistic in its categorisations of players. I’ve said this many times before, the level of commentary and punditry is often not where the game is. It’s actually embarrassing if I’m honest. Compare Roy Keane analysing a game to someone that is actually working in the Premier League for a club. It’s chalk and cheese.
‘Bang his head against the wall if you can’t get a response’
‘They need a big man in the middle to make more tackles’
‘Not enough heart’
That’s before you get into the bias. So the learning for the TV stations for me is to first upgrade the level of the talent describing the game so it can better reflect what is actually going in the game or around the club.
It can be a bit of a grey area on describing physicality. This is a game that is built on power and pace, you have to be able to call it out, but you have to be equal. The fastest player in Germany a few weeks ago was a white guy call Lewandowski, but your rarely hear him described as a beast or a brute. Sterling, one of the higher-profile cases of bias, was vilified in the press for pushing his way out of Liverpool, or having a tattoo, or driving a nice car. Matteo G, lighter skinned, is genuinely a bit of a shit and fans are running to sympathise because he’s misunderstood and he just cares too much. I’m not sure Moise Kean was given that same benefit of the doubt.
The most important part about the bias in the commentary is the intelligence piece. Why? Because it filters down into coaching. How, in 2020, can there only be 5 bame managers in English football? There have been so many incredible black players, how are none of them coach material? It is a travesty. Work rate? Please. Intelligence? My word, look at the collective of dim white coaches that do the rounds over and over again. It is a collective blindness that needs addressing. There is no excuse, there is a huge talent pool, there are plenty of capable black players, and there is clearly a massive desire for them the breakthrough. Clubs need to be better about it.
Also, before I go, make sure you read these two articles if you’re bored. I write these with a lot of inputs, so the narratives are pretty sound. Share with your pals as well. Force your dog to read it, he’ll thank you later.
P.S. Jose Mourinho claiming he knew his fully fit Champions League Finalist squad wasn’t good enough to beat Sheffield United away from him. You hate to see it.
Also, I’ll just leave this here.
Small sample size but small signs of improvement under Arteta pic.twitter.com/i7471BH59v
— #TouchlineFracas (@TouchyGooners) July 3, 2020
The table since Arteta joined the club.
— Le Grove (@LeGrove) July 2, 2020