GOOD MORNING. Guest blog from @jblauphoto this morning. He’s back after finally getting over the Unai Emery period. Enjoy the piece and give him a follow!
I bought some Arsenal merch yesterday.
First time ever.
(Not including the few trinkets I bought for the kids at the Stadium store in London last year.)
For real, I dropped my own money on a sleek Adidas track jacket.
And I’m excited for it to arrive.
(If it ever turns up, as both Fedex and the USPS are delayed, what with America being such a fucking nightmare at the moment.)
I offered to pick up my column again this year, and Pedro said sure, because while I wrote each month in 2018-19, last year, with the shitshow that was the late-Emery era, I wanted no part of it.
I almost gave up.
Sure, I kept watching, but until they appointed Mikel Arteta, I was starting to think the ship was sinking, and I wanted one of those life rafts.
(No Leo DiCaprio, freezing to death next to Kate Winslet for me, thank you very much.)
My final column of 2018-19 said that Emery choked so badly, he should be fired right then, so the rebuild could start before things got worse.
I was right, of course, and took a victory lap in a pandemic-era column last Spring.
But I’m not always right.
After that Man City thumping at the re-start, and then the Brighton capitulation, I almost caved and cancelled my NBC Sports.
I came so close.
I also thought we should cash in on Auba in the Spring, as his lack of resolve against Spurs on that penalty shot, and then in the dying moments of the Olympiakos game, made me think he wasn’t made of the strongest stuff.
I was wrong.
The way he stepped up and almost single-handedly won the FA cup Semi and Final was pure-ice-water-in-the-veins kind of stuff, and layering that on top of his speed, leadership, and finishing skills, the man really is a rare footballer these days.
He’s got it all, and he tracks back so well that he made Arsenal realize Ozil is worthless for today’s game.
(The tortured artist who deserves to be protected from the hard work.)
Here we are, on September 17th, and I just paid money to rep Arsenal when I walk around town.
Except I can’t walk around town, unless I want to wear a mask and dodge the Texan tourists. (This being Northern New Mexico in late #2020.)
I’ll wear my track jacket with pride on my sofa, when I watch my games on NBC Sports, Peacock, ESPN+, and whatever package I have to buy for the Europa League.
And what product will I be watching?
I was always an Arteta believer, and my general agreement with Pedro’s perspective is perhaps why I get to write for you once a month.
(That, and I’d like to think my combination of occasional wit and solid analysis is good enough to earn my high salary. I mean no salary.)
To answer my question, I’ll be watching a team that is built for the modern game, for once, and is on the ascendancy, even if we likely are chasing that 4th spot in the league.
(3rd would be a dream, and we should be expecting to seriously compete for the Europa League title as well.)
We’re not Liverpool, (yet,) but the smart, aggressive pressing, focus on speed, willingness to counterattack when necessary, and collective defending mean we should not get destroyed by anyone, anymore.
I’ve now been a fan for 9 years, and I’ve seen all those awful 6-0 score-lines of the late Wenger era.
And the horrible 5-1 losses that make you feel like you want to eat a shit sandwich, so your stomach feels as bad as your head.
Momentum and belief can’t be bought, and after our run to the FA Cup, and beating Liverpool twice in 6 weeks, this club now believes that Arteta is a Spanish Jesus with slicker hair.
They trust his mind, and his vision.
They trust his gut, and his heart.
For all the comparisons I’ve made to American sports in the past, Arteta is the model for my two favorite US franchises, the NY Giants and the Brooklyn Nets.
Each hired super-smart grinders with vision and great communication skills. (As opposed to head coaching experience.) Each plucked someone who had learned under greatness, one of whom was also an amazing player in his day. (Joe Judge and Steve Nash.)
Mikel Arteta is the future, and that promotion he received was most definitely aimed at Manchester City.
Will it be enough to keep him?
I’d bet on yes, because his honesty and integrity are a big part of why his players love him.
(Plus, I’ve never been to Manchester, but there’s no way it’s as cool as North London.)
Right now, while the midfield needs some reinforcement, and Josh and Stan are partying at a social distance with masks on in Orlando, our front line, goal keeping, back line, and youth group all look the best since I’ve been a fan.
And while Chelsea just spent a shit ton of money, ask the Los Angeles Clippers what super-stars will give you without chemistry, elite coaching, and time to gel.
I believe, for the first time since I became an Arsenal fan.
With late-stage Wenger, I hoped he might have one last run in him, but he simply would not adapt. He thought defense was for chumps, but how many mega-clubs have tried to hire him since he left?
With Emery, I prayed there was more there than met the eye, but deep down, I was dubious.
Now, I’m ready to watch, and pay all those fucking channels to see the games.
Arteta makes players better, and he knows that coaching is teaching.
Watching those few master-class goals where we played out from the back, the one thing that Wenger and Emery teams could NEVER do, is proof of how much he’s taught these guys so far.
(For fucks sake, he taught Mustafi how to stop making so many stupid mistakes.)
Arteta is a stylish genius.
And I hope I look half as good as he does in my new Adidas track jacket.
If it ever arrives.