Mikel Arteta dropped a long and slightly self-reflective press conference ahead of the Palace game.
Key points wrapped:
- He knows he’s made mistakes this season
- There’s a very, very specific plan that is going into action this summer
- Anyone with a contract will likely be here next season
That third point doesn’t really make much sense to me. It’s clear that plenty of players with contracts are going to be ousted, and I’m struggling to see what the hidden meaning is with that sort wording.
The coach was emphatic about all the positives around David Luiz, without detailing the problems.
He was pretty clear Willian hadn’t hit the heights, but he took the blame himself.
He said Arsenal have had Ben Knapper managing the relationship with Saliba and a decision will be made at the end of the season. I suspect he didn’t commit to him replacing Luiz, because Luiz was our best defender and we’ll likely need to buy. Saliba might have to pick up the place of someone else.
The picture I hope we’re getting is that Arsenal FC made some bad decisions last summer based on a time crunch in a pandemic… this season, those same mistakes won’t be made.
Mistakes we made last summer?
The club didn’t communicate who was staying and going early enough or with enough force. William Saliba was always going to need a loan, that we had him in training early and still didn’t find a move for him was a really poor moment for the club. Same for some senior players. Mesut Ozil didn’t know he’d be omitted from the squad. I think a number of problematic senior players weren’t aware quite how left out in the cold they’d be. We need to address that early this summer so there are no illusions that cause deeper cuts when the chips are down.
Arteta and Edu need to make decisions based on reality, not emotion. Last summer, we kept a lot of the players that won us the FA Cup, thinking they’d turned a corner, when the reality is those players and their character had downed Wenger and Emery. Keeping Luiz was a disaster move and clearly not made based on pitch form. AMN should have been sold if we had no intention of playing him. Emi Martinez was clearly the better keeper for our system, but we stuck with the man that felt right.
We need to build out our first team with the future in mind. Oddly, I think Bertrand is a future-facing signing. It means KT is prioritised and we’ll have space for a homegrown player when they break in a couple of years. As for the gaps in the first team? Let’s not lean into 29-year-olds this summer. Instead, build out a team that can grow in value. Camavinga has a high chance of being an £80m player in 3 years time, he’s a gamble, but a sharp one based on what he’s doing at the moment. Martin Odegaard has been a touch flaccid at times, but if we can get him firing, he’s an £80m in 3 years time. Arsenal can’t go to KSE every summer with a begging bowl, at some point, Edu has to fire up the transfer machine and move on players for big sums. That only has a chance if we sign players that have high ceilings in their early twenties.
… and leading off that point. Signing older players to get you to the Champions League is a bum strategy. FIrstly, because we’ve been trying that since Wenger’s last season and it doesn’t work. Secondly, because if it succeeds, you have to replace everyone immediately because they are fading and you’ll not be competitive at the highest level with cast-offs. The best approach, based on what we know this season, is to grow a young group of kids into Champions League players, then when we hit the competition, we are ready to explode because those young players are now 25 with their best years ahead.
Arteta, love him or hate him, is doing what the future of coaching is going to require. That means asking players to learn new things. I don’t think it’s a surprise the kids are reacting better to that than the senior players. That’s a solid insight for team building. There’s no coach that is going to come in that is any good and not ask our senior players to change. So move out the players that don’t have time for growing and replace with profiles that want to advance their game and careers. Arteta is a young coach, he should work with younger players that are going to be receptive to his ideas and the longer-term nature of our project.
The last 3 years have taught us that there is no shortcutting the Champions League. You have to do things the hard way unless you have a spare billion to invest. The closest model to our truth is Leicester City. Good scouting, an elite ecosystem of in and out, with a clear footballing philosophy. There’s no reason we can’t make the Champions League under Arteta. There’s no reason we can’t go a long way to fixing the mess of our squad this summer. It’s just a matter of whether we’re learning our lessons or not.
We have an extremely consequential summer ahead, the lessons are clear, let’s see the Arteta chat is more than just whiteboarding. Arsenal fans need to see action and fast.
See you in the comments. x