Arsenal strategy speaks to a club that doesn’t like hard work (long read)

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Well, here we are my darlings, another day of planning our way out of this mess. This will be a joy-scroll, buckle up, it’ll be fun.

So, let’s get the bad news out of the way. It’s not good times on the injury front for Thomas Partey. If he’s fucked the same thing he fucked before, he’s going to be out of contention for maybe 8 weeks. That would be a huge blow to the project. You can understand why Mikel and his team took the chance. A willing player and a shit situation, but the reality is, they took a huge risk on a game we weren’t likely to win. Short term thinking to save a sinking season. Now the ship is sunk, then gamble looks a poor one.

The shame is that Gabriel M will be back early. He safely passed through 45 minutes of football and he’s well on his way to the first team. A huge moment for the team. He is the exact profile of player you want to see Arsenal stock up on going forward. He’s young, he’s hungry, he’s terrifying because he works like a dog, he wants to grow with the team.

As we move into December, Mikel Arteta needs to reshape the way he operates. He needs to bin the players who let him down, even if they’re the good guys behind the scenes. The fragility in this squad is both attitude, and sadly, functional purpose to the system.

Thomas Partey exiting the starting 11 should not be another opportunity for players that have been given countless chances under countless managers. It’s time to try something new.

The most obvious candidate for a run in the side is Ainsley Maitland-Niles. I can not longer tolerate the idea that he isn’t the correct choice for our midfield. I have seen the others fail, I know what the best is with them, it’s time to give someone a career here and coach the bad bits out.

Ainsley has the correct athletic profile. We’ve seen him pocket Traore. We’ve seen him control City attackers. When he is on, he is something we don’t have in the squad at Arsenal. He’s mobile, he’s dynamic, he has an underrated passing range and he should be developed.

The mistakes Arteta has made are clear. He wanted to shortcut to the Champions League and he made bum decisions that should have been rectified by a strong Technical Director. David Luiz, Auba, and Willian were not good decisions. Thinking he could take a squad where the senior players were either dreaming of their retirement or Bosman signings was fanciful.

The first stage of rectifying bad phase in the workplace is to identify the biggest problems you have. I don’t think Mikel has looked at himself, I don’t think he has people in his staff that are correcting him, but if he wants to escape this moment, it’s time to admit where it’s going wrong.

If you put 100 problems up on a wall at Arsenal and found the core patterns, you’d land on:

  • Senior players letting the club down because they don’t give a fuck on and off the pitch. Auba is in the mixer I’m afraid.
  • The wrong talent profile of players to operate a coherrant system so it’s functional
  • Young players not ready to hit the heights of the ambition the club promised in the summer

Now, clearly it’s an oversimplification, but I write a blog, I don’t run corporate workshops of beleaguered football clubs.

But solve those three problems and you steady the fanbase, you show true leadership by admitting your vision wasn’t right, and you give people a taste of where things are going in a lower pressure environment.

The young players aren’t ready.

That’s a major problem if you are kidding the world Arsenal will be more than a midtable side this season. If Arteta starts dealing in truth, namely, the squad he enabled for another season is not fit for purpose, we can move forward.

If he sets out a new plan, one that works to his strengths, the fans might buy it. Arteta is a great coach, he will work better with kids than senior players who don’t care for developing, so focus on the kids.

At this point, most of us would be over the moon if we shifted to a Hale-Enders project. Fuck the players that never change. Give me a kid that sees Arsenal as the biggest opportunity in their world. Fuck the players thinking about their retirement fund and unauthorised weekends away with Salt Bae. Fuck the player that think they are too good for Europa. We are tired of those that think their seniority and past achievements mean they don’t have to hit the required level.

Being honest gives Arteta permission to play the system he wants to play. Will it make top 4? No. Will we get spanked occasionally? Yes. Will there be days when we turn it on and everyone salivates? Absolutely. The mission here is to show the fans where the football could go when we bring in more quality players that can do the things required.

The Hale-Enders aren’t perfect, but they sure as hell give more of a shit than the preferred starting 11 on offer now. You think Balogun is going to fuck his chance to be a big player? You think ESR would be static when a midfielder breaks the lines from deep? You think Reiss Nelson isn’t going to bleed to be a part of Arsenal’s future?

I have consistently written about Arsenal not being honest about their situation over the years. We have constantly let our ‘rep’ get in the way of the rebuild. In messy business rebuild, you have to go to the bottom to build back up. The foundations need to be set properly. You need good process. Then you build the right talent density to move things up a level. You get some things right, some wrong, but if the mission is clear, your rectify mistakes early and move incrementally forward on a quarterly basis

Arsenal has been unwilling to do the hard work. So many of our decisions are half baked. Ivan goes? Give the job to two unqualified people. Sven Mislintat quits because he was horrified by the antics of a horror show of a Football Director. What do we do? We let that soiled director carry on and replace scouting expertise with a coterie of shite super agents. We then hire a Technical Director that arrived via a super agent. Hire an inexperienced manager, watch him do some great work, then PROMOTE HIM almost immediately to a manager on the same level as the Technical Director people don’t rate.

Wow… the banter of that paragraph was intense.

Arsenal do not like hard work. They do not like a plan. They cannot be honest about the path forward being hard, so they shortcut it over and over. The hardest thing to do in football is to admit to fans that things are going to be shit for a bit, to show patience, and commit to something that makes sense.

We should be re-upping Project Youth. Imagine that team with the spine we have now? We’d be a top 3 side.

Arsenal should move to a Dortmund+ model. Come to Arsenal, give us 3 seasons, we’ll give you game time at the best stadium in London, and we’ll make you famous. Then you can fuck off for £100m.

Sign athletes. Sign players that care more about self-improvement than money (Balogun is agitating for game time, not £90k a week). Sign players with high ceilings. Make Arsenal a destination for progressive football.

I would buy that vision. You would buy that vision. It’d be exciting. It’d allow us to get back to an identity. It’d bring in a new fanbase. It would mean when we do make the Champions League, we’d actually have a squad that could compete for it, not disintegrate because they were injecting themselves with horse placenta to make it to the team bus.

Strong leadership is needed to admit that what is going on right now is not taking us the promised land. We need a new direction. Tough decisions need to be made around staffing, players, and the hard work ahead. The only way Arteta gets back on track is to do something different. He fucked the summer, his ambitions were too big for his belly, his idea has no chance of success, he has to change that now and craft a path forward and save his career.

Time to roll up the sleeves. He can do it. Does he have the cajones to? Jury is out…

LISTEN TO OUR NEW PODCAST. Matt and I talk about the root cause of our issues. Leadership, hard work, and lack of strategy… still. We also talk some positives as well.

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473 Responses to “Arsenal strategy speaks to a club that doesn’t like hard work (long read)”

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  1. bacaryisgod

    Yeah, Maradona was only 21 at the 1982 World Cup and was nowhere near his 1986 version. It was that summer he left local football for Barcelona.

    I think 1982 is still considered to be the greatest World Cup Finals. France, Brazil, Italy, Germany and even England had really strong teams.

    Scotland had Dalglish, Souness, Strachan, Hansen etc and got destroyed by Brazil. Just looked at the Scotland team for that game and for some reason Dalglish was a sub.

  2. Guns of SF

    Maradona was a pure prodigy. I cannot believe the abuse he took on the pitch,…. no wonder he was coked up after!

    I love the last part of this video when he made that Madrid defender impale his testicles on the post… lol

  3. Graham62


    I agree in regards Trump.

    He has to suffer the consequences of his inept leadership and, as you rightly highlight “the serious crimes he committed in office”.

  4. Tom

    “I think 1982 is still considered to be the greatest World Cup Finals. France, Brazil, Italy, Germany and even England had really strong teams.“

    Don’t forget Poland.
    At the tail end of its golden generation but with influx of some new blood, Poland were extremely unlucky to lose their best player , Boniek, to a yellow card accumulation and a suspension for the semis against Italy;

    If you want to see what Boniek did to Belgium (3:0 hot trick), and Peru (5:1) in earlier stages just google it. Peru came in as one of the best South American teams but after the Poland game their manager collapsed with chest pains and had to be taken to a hospital. He was fine.

    Juve bought Boniek just weeks before the WC for $1.5m , but only a month later his price would’ve easily been triple that. They’d been after him for two years ever since he ran them ragged in UEFA cup in 1980 where Juve lost to Boniek’s team on penalties after both legs finished 3:1.

    The yellow that got him suspended for the semis against the Italians was for being the first man in the wall that wasn’t moving back quickly enough at a free kick against the Russians. Talk about a trivial card.

    Poland beat France for bronze but hardly anyone celebrated.

    Boniek suspension in 1982 , but especially the 1974 “water battle of frankfurt “ ,where arguably the best team of the tournament (even according to some of the German players) lost by a goal to Germany in the semis on a water logged pitch suitable more for rock skipping than playing football, are the two biggest what might’ve beens for fans of polish football.

    We’ve been shit since.

  5. Tom

    They weren’t.
    Poland had the super fast golden boot winner , two of the best wingers , a playmaker only inferior to Cruyff , and a gritty supporting cast.

    Germany’s Paul Breitner: “ They had a better team at that World Cup than Germany, Netherlands, Brazil, or anyone else for that matter. The poles had the best team in 1974”

    Poland beat Brazil for bronze.

  6. Tom

    Poland had the quickest players in that World Cup and playing on the waterlogged pitch against the Germans completely nullified their strengths.

  7. Tom

    Why would a World Cup winner say the team that lost to them in the semis was better that anyone ? Makes no sense.
    If he wanted to put down the Dutch he didn’t have to do same to his own team,.

    Anywho, water under the bridge.

  8. Calypso

    Rinus Michels’ Holland side was built on the principles that had allowed Dutch teams to win four straight European Cups. It was dubbed Total Football and while historians traced its roots right back to the legendary Jimmy Hogan a hundred years ago, it was Michels’ Ajax team and, later, Holland that came to define it.

    Germany 1974 was their coming out party at World Cup level and the globe was mesmerized. Players seemed to glide elegantly across the pitch, freely switching positions in a kind of choreographed footballing ballet. Opponents were stunned. Centre backs didn’t know what to do when the striker they were marking suddenly disappeared to right back. Midfielders were befuddled by the use of space, the pitch constantly stretched to its maximum dimensions. And all of it, seemingly, effortless.

    It wasn’t, of course. Some of them may have been chain-smokers, but this was one of the fittest, most hard-working teams out there.

    Equally, it was one of the most talented. Johan Cruyff, still perhaps the greatest European-born player, stole the show, perfectly in tune with the synchronized movements, dispensing assists and shots on goal. Wim Suurbier and Ruud Krol, theoretically fullbacks, in reality all-rounders who could operate anywhere, stretched opposition, while the powerhouse Johan Neeskens popped up all over the pitch, the classic joker in the pack.

  9. Tom

    I think you’re confusing mine saying Poland had better players that year with Poland played the best football, they didn’t.
    It was a purpose built, very talented side put together behind the iron curtain that consisted of players with a fraction of international and European exposure the Dutch stars of the era had.

    No,one is question the brilliance of Dutch total football but I suppose this might come as news to you that even the most eye pleasing system can be beat by another.

    Also, if your gonna use someone else’s work to buttress your own opinions maybe try giving them credit.
    Who wrote that , some guy on ESPN who never watched Poland play in 1974?

  10. Thorough

    Yesterday’s player of the day had got to be Shakthar’s goalkeeper – Anatoli Trubin. It was basically Inter vs Trubin. And he’s barely 19 years old. Those are the kind of players we should be keeping an eye on.

  11. Tom

    Also, no Polish player under 30 was allowed to be sold abroad in those days and the quality of coaching at a club level in the communist Poland was far inferior to anything in Western Europe let alone in Holland.
    This alone makes their achievements even more remarkable.

  12. Gonsterous

    Arteta needs to win the next 3 games. We are 9 points from top 4 and 7 from relegation, so it’s make or break time. If we fail to win the next 3 games, I think the club will start looking for a new manager. Maybe get in Ted Lasso, at least he can fix the inter relationship between players and board even if he doesn’t get results, he leaves the club at a better place mentally.

  13. Moray

    “Also, no Polish player under 30 was allowed to be sold abroad in those days”

    I thought England had this in place during the last couple of the decades, but it’s turns out it was just because the players were so shit no foreign club wanted them.

  14. Moray

    I created a Twitter account to vote for your Oreos, Pedro.
    Still only 43%, which suggests to me either they are better or else one of the creatives has an Arsenal blog which was anti Arteta joining the club.