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