I’m feeling a little bit numb. The football results have been miserable. Spurs play a cup final later today. The Super League stuff feels like a massive hangover right now.
Our entire week now rests on us beating a manager I beasted for 2 years.
The football gods have been brutal this season, will their final act of vengeance be drubbing from a man that let the bus driver give a team talk against Palace?
Who knows… but we have to pick ourselves up and look for the breaks of light on the horizon.
There’s no better manager in the league at saving his bacon when the chips have been blown off the table by a tornado.
Thursday night is going to be difficult, Spanish teams are fast, technical, and not afraid of the Premier League. We exited to Atleti in a semi-final in Wenger’s last season, so we have tasted the bad times, but we’ve also beaten Valencia in Emery’s first season. An away day my dad got so drunk in, he left his expensive watch in the Mestalla. Imagine your drunk thing was resting your watch on things to protect it?
Here’s what works for Arteta on Thursday night: He has all the chess pieces at his disposal to win the game.
The question, as always, is which will he use.
With his career in the balance again, which path will he take?
Eddie Nkeitiah didn’t have a horrible performance, but there really was no punch with him as our striker. He’ll likely be out next season, so is it worth trying that game again? Do you really try and make a point to the fans with a risk like that? There’s a reason the fans don’t care much for Eddie… Arteta has benched him all season and shown zero interest.
To my mind, his forward line should be the live wires. Gabriel Martinelli should be the #9, then we should surround him with Saka, Odegaard and Smith Rowe… or Nicolas Pepe who I suspect might have been pulled on Friday to rest him.
Arteta’s obsession with players that can control doesn’t rub at this stage. Eddie offered 94% pass completion, you’re not getting that with Martinelli, but which striker did more in 10 minutes than the other did in 90 in front of goal? The kid that is a high-risk BANG BANG striker.
I don’t want us to do go to Estadio de la Cerámica to control a 0-0… because we know there’s a mistake in the tank. The away leg should be treated like the Slavia Prague game. Go for an early destruction. Take the away goals. Emery teams concede a goal a game, make it count, take advantage of the things we know.
There’s no point in control if it doesn’t lead to anything.
Willian is control, but we lose with him in the side.
Eddie is control, but we barely registered a shot on target.
Look at what works in the side. Power, pace, directness. Think about what we need: goals.
The Everton game stung on paper, but if you watch it back, there was plenty of good work on show. We were just toothless in attack. That can be fixed with the right line-up on Thursday. More bang bang, more risk in the system… a better strategy than ‘keep it tight.’
The keeper question is a big one. Bernd Leno has been tanking. Interesting to note that Arsenal moved on Sal Bibbo, a much-loved character that made Emi a top 3 keeper in the league, and replaced him with someone that, let’s just say, is not loved to the same degree by many. Does the form of our keeper speak to elite coaching? A person bold enough to make a ‘contacts’ recommendation for a backup keeper so bad, Arsenal staff were leaking the disaster signing story after 3 days. Are shocking taste levels indicative of talent? Proof is in the pudding, are our keepers getting better? No. Just throwing it out there people. A horribly mismanaged situation that has paid out when we need it least.
Arteta’s career doesn’t depend on Europa. We’re not binning him this summer. But football isn’t always about the execs. It’s about the fans. Arteta misses this, he forgets who his real masters are. The Europa League is for the fans. The memory of this season will be erased if he brings us European glory, he’ll be a two trophy winner, he’ll have taken us back to the top organically, he’ll be the guy that gave us a monied summer.
The weight of winning this trophy goes further than that, it allows him to lose 3 games on the bounce without a protest next season. It’ll lighten the mood this summer. It’ll make everything better.
… right now, it feels like it’s too much to ask for.
The only positive I have about the shit league form is that there’s a correlation to last season. This team thinks they are better than they are. They want to win things. They want the adulation, the bonuses, and the big cup comp in the world. I had my doubts about the league as soon as top 4 was over, this team always switches off… but when there’s a trophy brewing, they can do magical things. Our FA Cup final run last season saw us down City and Cheslea. We have enough to beat Villareal if we’re on it… and it’s Arteta’s job to make sure we are. Everyone will be watching.
We need a big Thursday. Back door entry to the Champions League against a back door expert who we sacked… tasty. Let’s see where this goes.
P.S. Listen to our podcast if you haven’t. This week, it’s Johnny, Matt, and Jay. It’s a spicy one. We cover socialism, Gary Neville, the future of football… and views of the future.