THE FATAL FLAW OF A BIG VISION (LONG READ)

by .

So bees vaccinate their youth? Unreal. Is there anything those guys can’t do? Actually, I was told they can’t count past 5… they use markers to navigate, once they go past 5, they get lost. Regardless, I’m impressed with bees.

What am I NOT impressed with? International break. Idle Arsenal fans festering is never a good blend.

The biggest concern most of us have is the return of Martin Odegaard next season. Honestly, I think the worry is a little bit overblown. Madrid are unlikely to be moved by his performances here. He’s played more minutes with Arsenal than he has in his entire career there. When he was sent to Sociedad, he was the 3rd most creative player in La Liga, Zidane was unmoved.

Madrid are £900m+ in the shit. They have no money. Their brand is built on superstars. It’s not really an option for them to double down on what they have, they have to brand their way back to the top. Martin Odegaard is an opportunity for some hard cash, I suspect we’ll try to buy him this summer, or more likely, we’ll loan him for another year with a purchase clause placed in the deal.

The most important thing is how the player feels at Arsenal. If he feels at home, loved, and sees there is a huge opportunity to be the focal point of a young and exciting team building towards greatness again… he might want to be a part of it.

His agent might also like that route as well. 4 seasons at Arsenal and he could have the pick of clubs to go to if we’re not to his fancy. Arsenal gives him space to grow, but not to the detriment of his brand. Arsenal is a big club. The Premier League is the grandest stage. He’ll do very well to stick it out with us.

I’m not really that worried about competition from the Premier League. Not sure the Carlo vibes are good. Liverpool don’t need him. City puts him in the same position he was in at Madrid. United have a #10. Spurs are shit. Chelsea are brimming with creators. He has a free run at Arsenal. At 22, what more can you hope for? He can be the new Cesc, but hopefully with a bit more success.

What else am I buzzing about today? Emile Smith Rowe. He needs a new deal and I’m already worried he might leave us. CAN YOU IMAGINE? When I was first in love, I struggled with jealousy so badly, I thought the person I was with was cheating on me in the bathroom… IN HER MUMS HOUSE. That’s the sort of panic I’m having over ESR. He’s so, so, so good… he needs the big deal. Someone get him it.

Also, Saka, can we give him a new deal? Just to be sure?

There’s been a lot of debate going off about whether there’s been real improvement at Arsenal this season.

Now, if you frame improvement by simply looking at the table, you could say: no… then bang the table and say, ‘TABLE DOESN’T LIE.’

Of course, this is factually correct, but it’s a bit reductive. There are many better ways to judge progress, the same way businesses are rarely judget simply on profit metrics, especially those in transformative moments.

On the grandest of scales, look at Jeff Bezos. It took 10 years for Amazon to turn a profit. They once went 17 quarters without making positive balance sheet impact. ‘TABLE DOESN’T LIE’ merchants were saying things like, ‘they don’t make profit, this isn’t a viable business, BEZOS is a fraud.’

Now look at them.

Arsenal isn’t Amazon, but currently, they’re asking people to buy into a vision in the same way. We’re closer to Apple before jobs went in the second time around. We had set the highest of standards once upon a time, but eventually lost our mojo, after giving the big job to a bum from Pepsico (Emery).

What did Jobs do? He slimmed down the organisation (Arsenal reorg’d). He streamlined the product line (slimmed the squad of duff products). He brought in his own people (new coaching staff). He set a lofty new vision (TO THE MOON).

Jobs new plans nearly took the company to insolvency, they were 90 days away from death. Michael Dell (Jose) told press Jobs should liquidate Apple and give the money back to the shareholders.

A year later, the company returned to profit. The rest is history.

‘TABLE DOESN’T LIE’ merchants can trumpet a truth and you can’t deny it. But what they can’t factor in is the context of vision. The easiest position is to be a naysayer, because it takes a leap of faith to believe in something better.

On the march to progress, things usually get a lot worse before they get better. That’s the nature of change in any business or team.

You have to accept that Wenger crashed our standards over 10 years. Don Raul crashed our class and our finances. Unai Emery crushed the good bits of the Wenger era and added even more indiscipline and confusion to the neglected areas. He left Arsenal worse than he picked it up, this isn’t up for debate, it’s straight facts.

The rebirth of Arsenal was never, ever going to be sorted in a year. Especially when at the same time you’re rebuilding the football you are reorging youth football, starting afresh with a sporting director, rebuilding our football transfer ecosystem, adapting to Europa… all while navigating the biggest shock to elite level sport since World War II (pandemic not being a mitigating circumstance for some is so, so beyond the pale).

So how should you be analysing our shitty season? Look for green shoots that the vision is coming to life. PreChristmas, it was hard to see that. The football was slow, we had no attacking flow, the results were absolutely miserable. At best, you could say we didn’t have the right players, at worse, you could say the taste in players of Arteta and Edu was shocking and we deserved what happened.

But it happened. The club didn’t sack anyone. They priced in the blip like Amazon and Apple shareholder priced in the short-term losses. As fans, we have to move forward from that moment in time.

Now where are we?

The linear progress is showing up if you rejigger where you look from.

PreChristmas, was shite.

PostChristmas, here is where we are.

We’ve played 15 games. We have 28 points. We are 4th. If we beat Liverpool, our game in hand over United, we are joint second.

We have scored 28 goals in one less game than United. We have scored the second-most goals.

Defensively, we’ve slacked off a bit. We’ve conceded 14 goals. The West Ham game took us from joint 2nd best defence, to 3rd best.

Those are hard numbers over a decent sample set.

Let’s get into eye test theory.

The football has a clear identity. We consistently dominate possession. We play good football. Sexy football. This has been a consistent theme since introducing modern numbers 10s. Pep said this explicitly about Arsenal.

The system is defensively stable, bore out by the numbers. Teams don’t walk through Arsenal these days. Our biggest weakness is unforced errors. Without those, we’d be 10 points better off right now. No team inflicts wounds on itself more than Arsenal. You could blame that on coaching, sure. But this is an issue we’ve suffered with for over 10 years. Most of our errors come from players we can lose this summer, or names that are Wenger signings. This is a very focused issue that will be addressed. Liverpool addressed similar flaws with VVD and Allison.

Our attacking system has moved to a new level in terms of production. We create a volume of high-quality chances in each game. We still haven’t landed the sauce needed to take those chances, but the point is, at some point, that begins to happen. Last season, we created few chances and took them at a higher rate, you’d much rather be creating more and scoring less… because great players take those chances in the end. Again, we’re bemoaning our efficiency in front of goal, when we’ve got the second best goalscoring record since Christmas. There’s a whole new level to reach and we’re doing well anyway.

We’re also tactically innovative. Bielsa, one of the greats, explicitly called out that he couldn’t deal with what Arteta had instructed Ceballos and Xhaka to do. Also, tell me the last time you were confident as an Arsenal fan that we’d compete in every game?

Again, these aren’t feelings… we’re dealing with facts here. Arteta has won 3 times as many games against Big 6 sides. We’ve conceded 19 less goals. Arsenal are a competitive outfit. We have beaten every major manager in the league.

Are there things that need to be fixed this summer? Absolutely.

The biggest chink in the armour of the coaching staff is their deference to older players that are never taking you back to promised land. Arteta seems to have quickly forgotten what saved his Arsenal career back in December. It wasn’t Auba and David Luiz, it was ESR, Martinelli, and Saka.

Hunger wins football games. Auba has not looked hungry for a while and he’s given a hall pass every time. David Luiz, throughout his career, has shown that he can’t be trusted over long stretches. When it’s West Ham, he’s not mentally there. That’s a massive blind spot. Hunger over talent, every single time…

Overall though, we’re getting to a good place when the best argument against the momentum is playing with data to show the worst possible outcome to appease the weird Emery Fan Club that exists.

Getting back to the top in the hardest league in the world requires vision, faith and time. You have to accept the choppy waters because it’s never plain sailing. Arsenal finally look like they’re taking the hard route. They’re doing the work, accepting the process, and delivering on a sustainable football future.

So in short, what is the fatal flaw of a big vision? Short termism. There are enough green shoots to show the direction Arsenal have taken is working… if you choose not to see it, you’re as bad as the table bangers that said Amazon would never succeed because the profit table doesn’t lie.

Right, listen to the podcast. Agree with me in the comments. See you later. x

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352 Responses to “THE FATAL FLAW OF A BIG VISION (LONG READ)”

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  1. LoveSausage

    AFC Forever,

    Agreed re: Wenger. As much as the man frustrated me from 2010 onwards, he transformed us and English football. That said, I wish I hadn’t read his book. I was expecting a glimpse of that greatness from the good old days but it was the opposite. He came across as a supremely stubborn and entitled man with zero interest in how football has changed, why certain things played out the way they did etc. Sad, really.

  2. Na me ooo

    Nelson

    I would put ESR and Saka as the first 2 of 4 forwards. I might play Ode next to Partey put Xhaka on the bench.

    ESR is the reason we have improved since Christmas not ODE.

  3. Na me ooo

    Is it me or is ESR starting to be marginalize by all the hoopla about ODE. Odegaard has been really good for us but ESR and Saka is why we improved in the first place.

    What I love about ESR’s game is that he has the ability to be unpredictable and make decisions that the opponents didnt see coming. Whether that’s his runs, his one touch pass that takes out players and formations etc.

  4. Na me ooo

    That unpredictability is why we suddenly improved and I feel with Odegaard starting every game now we ve become predictable again, lacking the runs behind, and wanting to play in front of the opposition as opposed to through them or behind them.

  5. MAXCAT

    @Rich Mar 24..
    Agree about Willock, but it takes the proper manager..one who is genuinely interested in improving the team and players, not just his future career.
    About Chambers..I have a wonder about converting him to striker…maybe too late at 26, but I think that he is fundamentally a good footballer, just maybe a bit slow.

  6. Sid

    Another diversion tactic, bread and circus, the main subcontractor for the Qatar world cup, Eversendai banks with HSBC
    Most of the money flows through London

    Im telling you for free!

  7. Kroenkephobe

    The comments about Qatar are revealing. The general consensus on here suggests that Norwegian players were miguided/wrong to wear t-shirts, and that they should just go straight to a complete boycott. Nuances schmuances.

    Moreover, that by expressing solidarity with people who have been poorly treated and in some cases killed by an undemocratic regime, they are guilty of doing it for reasons of personal vanity and self agrandisement. How did we get so cynical?

    Virtue signallers… One of the most heinous crimes known to modern culture warriors. It used to be called empathy, solidarity and basic human goodness. Fuck me.

    Closer to home of course, and on a less important level, we’re all doing a bit of virtue signalling when we’re on here aren’t we? It just seems too cosy to me to call out the people doing the protesting while not doing much about the perpetrators of these horrors. I might be pissing up a rope but if this Norwegian thing gathers a bit of a pace, it could lead to other FAs saying “fuck it, we need to clean up our own house by boycotting this shitshow”. That won’t stop violence anywhere in the world but it starts to draw a line.

    Modern politicians who crap on about the evil of virtue signalling are the same ones who’d like to eliminate all forms of protest. Rich’s friend Bojo is doing exactly that at the moment.

  8. The Bard

    Wenger was a control freak and couldn’t evolve. The secret of Ferguson’s longevity was his capacity to change coaches and assistants and adapt the Untd game. Post 2010 Wenger atrophied, same old same old. The coaching was non existant. In fact he was on the slide once Chelsea appeared with all their money and made it a 3 horse race. Remember all the seasons we were crying out for a proper Keeper and all he did was tell us Almunia was world class.

  9. Dissenter

    Kroenkephobe
    “Virtue signalers… One of the most heinous crimes known to modern culture warriors. It used to be called empathy, solidarity and basic human goodness. Fuck me.”

    Exactly, it’s dichotomous thinking, either all or none…no middle ground
    It’s easy to say people should pull out of engagement s that don’t affect you directly.
    The Norwegian players did something courageous yet all they are getting is slime tossed their way. I don’t even expect Norway to qualify for the WC in any case, at least they have helped to shed light on a issue that’s not talked about enough.

  10. Rich

    Kroenkephobe

    Why are you obsessed with me?

    Already today you’ve decided what I think about the World Cup it Qatar, without me ever passing comment on it

    Now you’re assuming what my opinion is on something else, which you’re also completely wrong about….

    The words “Rent Free” spring to mind….

  11. Leedsgunner

    Dissenter

    “The Norwegian players did something courageous yet all they are getting is slime tossed their way. I don’t even expect Norway to qualify for the WC in any case, at least they have helped to shed light on a issue that’s not talked about enough.“

    This is a fair comment… but if Norway DOES qualify I would expect these same players to make good on their stance and not go.

    If they did so, I think it would be a even more of a courageous stand…

  12. Kroenkephobe

    Rich

    Don’t flatter yourself. When you pretend to be upset about getting attention – any attention – on here, everyone’s bullshit detector will start to flicker. You’re a prime example of someone in a glass house with a fucking big trebuchet on standing by.

  13. Nelson

    I don’t like England U21’s 3-5-3 system. The two wing backs are quite useless. There is no chemistry between, ESR, Eddie and Hudson-Odoi. They haven’t created any scoring chance. Hudson-Odoi has good individual skill.

  14. Kroenkephobe

    Graham

    I promised myself I’d have a dip into his book when it made the pulp section on ebay. Currently available for 8 quid but given your less than glowing review, I think I’ll hold off for a few more months til it falls to about 10 bob.

  15. LoveSausage

    Na me ooo,

    At least it made me respect him less. Maybe you’re a bigger person than I am.

    It was absolutely terrible. He came across as an innovator and a genuinely curious person in the early years of his career. But it seems like he became stubborn around the time he joined Arsenal. Probably because the general state of British football at the time served as confirmation of his own excellence. Every story from that point onward had the structure:
    – The problem/challenge AW was facing
    – What AW thought was the right thing to do
    – What he did
    – Self congratulatory “I was right all along” wrap up.

    What really rubbed me the wrong way was his passive aggressive way of implying that the club let him down and treated him unfairly after everything he’d done for us. As if he did it from pure benevolence. Conveniently ignoring the fact that he was paid a massive amount of money, had dictatorial powers and very little accountability. Which is funny because he even says at one point, and I’m paraphrasing here, that he didn’t get another management job after Arsenal because no other club would give him the sort of power and influence he had with us. No irony.

    Anyhow, sorry for the rant. But that book brought up all the trauma I suffered during the AKB years…

  16. Uwot?

    Wouldn’t touch his book with a barge pole.Which if I’d said that ten years ago would have been a sacrilege.But knowing what we do now thanks to hindsight I couldn’t stomach his excuses for the fall of his empire.Does he take any responsibility at all? Are their regrets other than the old “we could have signed “ him mantra .Shame.

  17. Uwot?

    I would add that he has his rightful place in our History,as arguably our greatest manager (after chapman) for me & George deserves more credit than he gets.But he for one reason or another tarnished his legacy by outstaying his welcome.

  18. LoveSausage

    Uwot,

    He didn’t take any responsibility that I could see. Probably because he genuinely didn’t feel he’d made mistakes. He had his own definitions of success. It’s on the owners that he was allowed to use the club as his personal experiment for so long.

    The few regrets he had were in the category “I was a victim of circumstances”. Like with Dein leaving. Or player culture changing to the point where everyone was quicker to jump ship for more money or titles.

  19. LoveSausage

    But I agree with you, he has a place in our history. It’s just sad how it ended. And a case study in what happens when someone gets all the power and no accountability.

  20. AFC Forever

    It was a good thing what the Norwegian players, of course, nobody else is bothered are they? Oh but they would be if it was news worthy and an opportunity for a it of publicity. That was the point.

    Wengers book wasn’t a great read, the stadium stuff was interesting, so too the Van Persie transfer. I just think people have to find a way to move on and stop all the revisionist stuff. Wenger gave us multiple doubles, an unbeaten season, various unbeaten records, Champions Clean sheet record, League title won at WHL, attacking footbvall, great goals and some of the greatest players to grace the Premier League. He did it in an era when Fergie controlled football and Manchester United was untouchable, financially. It is disingenuous to put more weight on the times we didn’t win things and the mistakes he made than it is the great things he achieved. Times change, you have to move on it’s only football, he didn’t kill anyone.

  21. Sid

    Don’t come back
    Gwan, go
    Don’t come back
    I won’t cry
    I’ll be fine
    Don’t come back
    (Anytime you’re ready, when you’re ready, you’re free to go)
    Don’t come back
    And do no make the door reach you where the good Lord split you
    Don’t come back

    @Odegaard

  22. AFC Forever

    Sorry about the gobbledegook:

    It was a good thing what the Norwegian players did, of course, nobody else is bothered though are they? Oh, but they would be if it was news worthy and an opportunity for a bit of publicity. That was the point. The World Cup in Qatar should be boycotted if they want to send a message.

  23. AFC Forever

    Sid

    “According to Marca, Real want Ode back”

    They would say that though, wouldn’t they. Hopefully, Odegaard makes it clear he doesn’t fancy staying there, nobody wants to keep an unhappy player. Players have the power nowadays. They’re broke anyway.

  24. Nelson

    Both ESR and Eddie’s weakness are clear to see in today’s England U21 match. Eddie is not big enough. He was overpowered by a defender much bigger than him. Unlike Odegaard, ESR can’t lead a game. He can play a good supporting role. In the national team, it is difficult for him to link up with his teammates. Both players were subbed out in the 2nd half.

  25. Sid

    Wishful thinking, Ode is putting in a shift to impress los blancos, the narrative that he opted out is false, he just wasnt impresding them

  26. Wiglaf

    He can play a good supporting role. In the national team, it is difficult for him to link up with his teammates. Both players were subbed out in the 2nd half.

    Nelson
    Bit premature there aren’t you? Don’t remember Stevie G or Paul Scholes dominating under21 games do you?

  27. Graham62

    Leedsgunner

    After 22 years at the club, I expected far more.

    It was a cop out in so many ways. A damp squib.

    A total letdown.

  28. Wiglaf

    We need to hope zidane stays at Madrid this summer
    It seems Odegaard isn’t fond of him. If a new guy comes in and sees what Odegaard can be then it’s curtains for us, unless Odegaard falls in love with arsenal and London that he demands to leave

    We will find out
    I’d be surprised if he’s not with us next season in one capacity or another

  29. Wiglaf

    Nelson

    Doesn’t look like it
    You said their weaknesses are exposed in the u21 and for ESR that (unlike Odegaard) he can’t lead a team.
    A team.
    Not the england u21 team who Odegaard has never led by the way

  30. Dream10

    Real Madrid are interested in Mbappé.
    Odegaard is available.
    Wonder if Pochettino will be interested if Real want to keep the cash side of the deal reasonable.

  31. chris

    I applaud anyone who wants to take any kind of stand against the Qatar WC. I already boycott all international football in a way in never paying attention to it because it’s my opinion that it is outmoded and less significant by the year. It bores me to tears and it is obviously an incredible irritant to the club game in many ways.

    However all power and good luck to the Norwegians, if they are the first to speak out hopefully others will follow. Nobody should have to die helping build a football stadium but the fact they are ripping most of them down after the tournament ends only adds to the disgrace. There was nothing ever sustainable about awarding Qatar this tournament, only blood money.

  32. chris

    Rio Ferdinand believes Mike Ashley is doing “what he thinks is right” for Newcastle and says if the fans are unhappy they should “round up money” to buy the club.

    Newcastle have a fight on their hands to remain in the Premier League with both Ashley and Steve Bruce receiving regular stick from the Toon fans.

    But Ferdinand suggests if they’re not happy with the current situation they should put their hands in their pockets…

    “He don’t care what people think,” Ferdinand said on his YouTube channel.

    “It’s his club and he’s doing what he wants to do.

    “Whether you like it or not, he’s the one that’s put the money up and he’s doing what he thinks is right for the club.

    “Whether the Geordies don’t like it… a lot of them hate him and don’t like him but… round your money up and take over the club then.”

    This from Ferdinand ranks right up there with his “hope you lot going out on the booze think of me when I’m forced to stay in cos I have a match tomorrow” tweet on New Years Eve. A perhaps flippant but classless comment, expecting genuine fans to cough up £400 million between them, he’s an absolute tool at times, and a shit pundit to boot.

  33. Sid

    Theres that little chance that Zidane wasnt impressed by Odegaard effort, now that he has one year remaining on his contract, theres also that little chance again that he is motivated by something similar to what we have seen with players at Arsenal over the years