Welcome to 2021 my darlings! I hope you had a lot of fun and didn’t sleep through it like I did. Fuck 2020.
Onto better things, I hope.
So, what have we to talk about today?
Saed Kolasinac has left the building. He’s taken a loan move to Schalke. He’ll still earn pretty decent money, but nowhere near what he’s picking up with us. Most importantly, he’s gauranteed game time, and a promotion to club captain. Really, he should have left in the summer and taken the move to Leverkusen, but here we are, now he’s in a relegation battle. The thing to note here… when you are in your mid-twenties, it’s hard to ignore that your job is football and if you want the full 10 years as a player, you have to actually earn minutes on the pitch.
There’s a story doing the rounds from Liam Brady where he basically says, ‘Mesut needs to go, it’s not good, Mikel is right to bin him.’ That’s what you’ll hear from people that work at the club. ‘If only the fans knew.’ Now, you can say, ‘well Bernd Leno said a nice thing’, or, you could look at the facts.
Arsene Wenger let him have away days off. Aaron Ramsey said he was teachers pet who sought special privileges like days off, that he was given. That was on Arsenal.com.
Unai Emery bombed him out of the first team very quickly, things went downhill for the Spaniard, then he brought him back in, soiling his standing as a leader in the process.
Freddie Ljungberg dropped him. He was also pissed at the coat throwing incident after he subbed him.
Mikel Arteta gave him, what, 13 games in a row? Then summer came. The usual shennanigans flared up, now he doesn’t have a squad number.
This isn’t a hard puzzle to solve. Someone said to me on the Twitter.com ‘it’s one side of the story.’ No, there’s 4 sides there, 5 if you include Ramsey, 6 if you include the German national team. Then there’s the playing side of this, if you really loved football, why wouldn’t you want to play? Take your game to another club and prove that we’re bastards. He doesn’t do that because he’s more interested in the petty fight at Arsenal than the football.
People ask why Arsenal don’t flay him in public. Outside being unprofessional, I’d heard rumblings that the club has to be very careful around him because he’s basically a bit of an HR redflag. Employment laws count when you’re a footballer and this whole episode has the potential to be a bit of a flashpoint if handled badly. Anyway, we only have 5 more months of this, then we can move on.
On the exit side of things, there are probably two big focuses, with two minors. The two big players we need to find homes for are Sokraits, who is attracting interest from Fenerbache, and Mustafi, who I refuse to beleive can’t find a loan move this window. Both are solid. Both would do a job for a club over 6 months. Both need to raise their profiles because they aren’t raking in retirement money on their current deals.
I suspect there might be loan moves for some of the kids as well. Joe Willock should really find a club to go to. He has talent, no doubt, but he’s not found consistency or a real role in this squad. Reiss Nelson managed to dodge a loan in Jan and the summer. He needs to go to a club like Crystal Palace or Leeds and find his game. I really like his mindset, but at the moment, he’s not confident enough to hit the ground running.
William Saliba needs to find a place to go. This one really gets me. He’s 19 years old, he played against big teams, he’s looked the part, but Arteta doesn’t rate him. He should have played Europa and the Cup games. Mikel really lacks PR chops, he sees his job alone, without realising there’s a bigger eco-system you have to think about when you are at a big club. Let the fans see he’s not good enough in these games. Right now, we’re just remembering comp videos. The situation was poorly managed, now we need to make it right. Move him to a Premier League club or one in the Championship. We need him playing at a furious tempo, we need him to pick up UK power muscles. His value needs to rise, not plummet. Hopefully, there’s a plan.
If we move out that level of wages, then it’s time to look at incoming players. Areas that are absolute musts are #8s with power and dynamic passing, a back-up keeper, and probably a left-back if we want to preserve our new front 4. There’s talk of a right-sided centre back right now, but that feels like a move you make in the summer after you’ve exhausted all the options you currently have.
Clubs I would avoid buying from: Chelsea Alumni, Sevilla, China, Kia.com, Barca Loans Department, Keeping Coach Black Book.
Places that might be interesting. PSG has a lot of attacking options and Arteta is friendly with Pochettino. Real Madrid, Atleti, and Barca first team are all gagging for cash after a terrible year. The Championship often has untapped value. I would also suspect there might be some opportunties to bring in some experienced heads the might already be in the league. We’re not a threat to anyone in H2 of the league next year, maybe the sympathy vote helps us out?
There are also some resolutions the club should be sticking to this year:
- No more big deals to older players. Lacazette has found his mojo, he’s talking about how the new system works for him, he sounds… happy. Don’t fall for it. He has to go if he starts playing well. We made too many emotional decisions in the summer. 3 months of form cannot cloud out 18 months of nothingness. We must, must, must make the tough decisions this year, even if fans hate them.
- Set the profile of player we want. We aren’t top 4 contenders. We need to stop buying finished articles that aren’t of the level. Time for Arteta to become a coach, which means it’s time for us to age down the profile and start hunting for the next big thing.
- Work out the strategy. It’s clear there isn’t one. Vinai might be able to tell you what he ‘thinks’ strategy is, but I suspect his strategy is an objective: make top 4. We need to nail down a plan that is clear, concise, and actionable. Then we need to filter every decision through that strategy. PROJECT YOUTH ++ as a line tells you how you need to plan. It gives you rules to follow. It tells you how to staff, scout, and recruit. It sets the tone with fans that have high expectations. We don’t have a pithy name or a coherrant vision, so it’s hard to tell if we’re failing until you’re sitting 13th in the league Jan 1.
- Become disciplined. It’s all fancy and cute to have principles and rules, but no good if you don’t follow them. As a club, we lack discipline. A basic example of this: ‘We will sell players with 2 years or less on their deals.’ Errrr, how did that work out? We’ve either let players run down their deals and panic re-signed them (Auba/Ozil) or we’ve just let them walk (Ramsey/Welbz). If you set rules, you have to hold yourself to them, otherwise you make shitty decisions. We should also be looking at mistakes we’ve made so far to set new rules. No more longterm deals for over 30s, ever. It worked for Wenger when he started, it should work for Arsenal now. We cannot afford to be a retirement fund for players that don’t need to care.
- Don’t waste a crisis. The biggest mistake you can make when you’ve gone through a horrible patch is to assume that moment was a blip. A great leader looks at the mess, why it happened, and plans out a way to rectify it. Topline: Making Arteta manager was a poor move. Letting the keeping coach dictate transfer strategy was costly process. Giving deals to over 30s was bad. Each of these problems should be listed on a wall, categorised, and the root problem identified. From there, someone should be engineering solves, even if they are extremely painful to implement. 80% of our problems can probably attributed to 3 or 4 clear issues. We need to find those.
2020 was a year to forget, but at the same time, it was 1000 potential lessons learned in a very small space of time. That’s the key though… it’s only a lesson if you have the guts to learn from it. Otherwise, it’s just 1000 problems you ignored. My worry at Arsenal is we’re a club built on self-preservation. The easiest route is always the most likely. Does Vinai have the guts to make the necessary moves to ensure we’re not bemoaning a second coming of this? Or is he just praying Arteta can be the rockstar he thought the footballing gods bestowed on him? 2021 is about addressing the problems against a clear football strategy.
This is a chance for a new chapter. We’ve tasted rock bottom. Let’s never go back.