The games are coming thick and fast. The dust has barely settled on the Chelsea win and I’m already panicking over two teams lower than us in the league.
It’s worth talking about some things before we power onto what’s next.
The league is still very tight. I made a point about 4 weeks ago that February is when you’ll truly know how good or bad Arsenal will be this season. Well, we found out way earlier than February that Arteta’s 1.0 vision of Arsenal was utterly shite.
However, what you missed when you were floating in a bath of misery vomit was that everyone else has been shite as well. Liverpool drew to West Brom. Spurs dropped points to Wolves. Chelsea lost to a team having its worst season since the plague was the pandemic people were most concerned about.
We are 9 points shy of 5th. Now, I’m not ramping up the top 4 challenge banter, that’s well and truly over, but we are more than capable of climbing the table over the next 5 games. We have to. Arteta needs breathing room and the fans need some joy.
- West Brom
Bag 15 points from those games and we’ll be feeling a lot better about life.
Generally, the mood has lightened after the game yesterday. Mikel found something we haven’t seen since last season. The players flew out the traps and kept up the intensity for the whole game. The Arsenal Column had a great tactical analysis of the game here. I liked this point.
The other noticeable thing about the change in shape – or rather formation – was the relaxing somewhat, of the positional play philosophy that Arteta has attempted to implement since be took over. There were still specific instructions given to players about which areas of the pitch to occupy – for example, as mentioned, Saka was asked to move inside from the right flank, which in turn allowed Hector Bellerin to hug the touchline; whilst Emile Smith-Rowe was mainly told to gravitate towards the left as Gabriel Martinelli joined the centre forward, to create a certain symmetry in the build up – but overall, the positioning seemed less restrictive.
Arteta took the handbrake off in a number of ways. He put trust in hunger and suitability, binning off the view that only older hacks can do what he needs. It also looked like he reined in some of the over-coaching. We looked less mechanical. The team played with more freedom. There was more joy. It didn’t always work, but the freedom of ideas led to faster passing, more creativity, and a little bit more spontaneity.
Mikel needs to bottle whatever the magic was and work out how he delivers it against teams that won’t dominate the ball. I hate playing Brighton because they are a very well-coached team, combined with having a very unsexy name, which can and has lead to complacent performances.
A great way to combat complacency? Continue to give responsibility to players that need it to have a career. Don’t let Luiz and Willian back into the squad yet. If the defence needs to change, don’t put Mustafi in there, he doesn’t care, he’s thinking about Barcelona. If our front three needs to change, don’t give Nicolas Pepe another chance, it is clear he’s not good enough and doesn’t suit what we’re trying to do at Arsenal. If you’re going to swap Mo Elneny out, don’t automatically give it to Dani Ceballos, give it to AMN. He runs harder, he’s a better defender, he’ll give us the legs we’ve lacked.
The magic we found against Chelsea, outside lady luck, was energy and desire. Is that enough to take Arsenal to top four? No. The quality isn’t there at the moment. But it is enough to earn us enough points to push up the table. We gave up half a season to ‘experience’ and it fucked us. It downed tools. It grassed the new manager to the Technical Director. It planted a story in the papers to bury the club in a sea of weirdo hate after a loss they were sure was coming. Sickening.
Time to move on from toxic bitches, 2021 is gonna be different, yas qweeeeen.
Arsenal has to live with the Auba deal. I think we can rescue that. He’s the best finisher in the league. His game is not necessarily built on pace. If we surround him with powerful runners that create space for him, he’ll start scoring goals again. Auba is a mood guy. When the chips are up, he’s flying. When they are down, he’s crying in the corner posting sad emoji’s on Instagram Stories for attention. He’ll be back I suspect, I think he likes to be adored, no way he signed to down tools.
Willian? I don’t know what we do there. I thought at the very least we were getting a Rolls Royce professional, but that appears to be a generous assessment of what he offers. He can’t run, he doesn’t create, and he doesn’t score… but we’re lumped with him. That’s on Mikel. What I don’t want to see is Arsenal go out of their way to rehab a player that is deeply into the back 9 of their career, especially if he can’t do the basics like stay away from Salt Bae. We might be taking the Mesut Bogarde L again.
I hope there are some big moves out of Arsenal in January. We have too many players exiting deals within half a year / are not in the squad to have a focused training camp. 5 of them will be out in January. There’s no resale value. Why don’t we bomb them out of their deals early? What is their purpose? They’re causing problems, they aren’t putting in performances, they’re barely making the squad. Send them home for 5 months.
There is no value in keeping people at the company who are on notice. If it’s Dennis Bergkamp playing for another year, it works, he has skin in the game. Imagine you have been put on a year’s worth of gardening leave like Mesut or Sokratis, but you have to go to the office 5 days a week? Imagine you know you are leaving at the end of the season and you’ve been unceremoniously benched? Senior players dealing with embarrassing rejection dealt to them by a young coach some of them played with. Senior players knowing their next contract value is plummetting every week they don’t play. Are we surprised they want to burn the place down on their slow walk to freedom?
If the environment is toxic, cut out the poison. But here’s the thing, make sure you analyse why this happened: We paid average players MASSIVELY above market rate, so there was never an incentive to leave. We did that again last summer with Willian. It is absolutely shocking we don’t have a tool that evaluates a player’s worth before we dish out contracts no other club in the world would offer.
I’d heard the club was looking at a Dortmund player a couple of weeks ago, apparently, it’s Julian Brandt. Obviously, he’s a top player. Jurgen Klopp wanted to sign him before Michael Edwards convinced him to move on Mo Salah. We need a creative player that floats like him. My worry is that we’re not grounding ourselves in reality again. The club is fucked from a money perspective. Our wage bill is atrocious, it’s very likely we’ll have no European football, and our own manager has gone on record saying we’re 6 players away. Why would we drop minimum £50m on a single player? Should we not be getting back to basics here. Address the whole squad versus dumping out a huge fee on one superstar while the rest of the team burns? We need a David Luiz replacement. We’ll need to replace our midfield because Dani, Xhaka, and Mo lack future proof credentials. We need a backup keeper. A back-up right back. Probably a new #9. At least one new winger if we can bin Nicolas Pepe.
Our summer rebuild needs to be extensive… blowing our money on a big name seems, well, like a weird plan? I’m also wondering why he’d want to leave that set up right now, because it’s probably going to be pretty good for him next season. Bigger thing for me is Brandt feels like the sort of player I’d throw up if you asked me to name creative players I’d be quite interested in. Who is the Gabriel Magalhães of creatives? Can we not find that profile in a player that costs £20m and £45k p/w? Mike McDonald finds more interesting targets than Edu.
I have no clue what the club is going to do in January, but I suspect it’ll be loan moves. There’s no Champions League to chase now, so there’s no need to premature ejaculate cash at a short term goal. KSE should be holding the exec team to a higher standard of rationale for the players they choose. If we need a creative player and a keeper this January, let’s make sure they make sense, even if they are loans. Those loan deals need to speak to the future profile of players we need, because Arteta needs to show people what he’s trying to do, so it makes sense when we buy players for real.
Let’s not see Christian Eriksen at the club, he has the same issues as Ozil, and he can’t cut it in the slowest league in Europe. Isco could be interesting for us, he’s mobile, has played at the highest level, and no one is interested in him… he still has a lot to offer if you can unlock him and help him lose some weight.
Clubs around the world are struggling badly with the weight of fat wage bills, there must be players we can bring in that can match the profile of the squad. No more bums. We should keep the powder dry if we can’t do something smart.
Right, listen to the podcast and I’ll see you in the comments.