I spent last week back in England after two years out of the game due to the pandemic. Honestly, it was so good to be back. I knew it had been too long because I was oddly enamoured with people’s accents. I loved the little things, like not being able to get a haircut until after 3pm on a Saturday, or being strong-armed into destruction drinking by nearly everyone. I honestly can’t wait to be back at Christmas and take a few games in. I miss London man, I’m in pieces at my desk this morning stroking a box of PG Tips whispering ‘alright you facking melt’ quietly to myself.
The other nice thing about the trip? I am something of a good luck charm for Arteta’s career. He won his first game with my presence and he just pulled himself partially out of a hole this weekend.
I went back over his interviews. I don’t know what the ground zero situation looked like over the past two weeks, but it felt to me like some people at the club sat down with him and had a proper conversation. I might just be projecting what I’d liked to have happened.
Vibes: His demeanour was very different before the game. He’s back to selling a future we can buy into. There was no moping or feeling sorry for himself. There were no excuses, no disgruntlement at what had gone on, just a laser focus on clearly communicating with the fans what the plan is moving forward.
Content: I think his content has improved over the past couple of weeks. The main message I was getting from his pressers is that he’s happy with the talent, but more than that, he’s happy with the new characteristics of his squad. I’ve found that interesting. When he spoke of his new players, he spoke of their personality traits. Tomi was ‘all smiles with a desire to play’, Sambi Lokonga ‘was desperate to play despite a knock’, and Aaron Ramsdale ‘is a great energy, something different.’
Happy family: I think Arteta also went to great lengths to thank the wider staff for getting him through it. Moving up to manager can cloud your ego, we’ve all been there, you make director and you think you’re a GOD of the internet at first. Arteta is not a god, so throwing his weight around in August in press conferences like peak-Jose wouldn’t have gone down well. It read to me like maybe he’d been force-fed a bit of humble pie because he was very keen to stress that everyone had mucked in.
Have you ever seen those memes on the internet where there’s a bear hugging a dog with a caption like “This bear loves the dog” then an animal expert writes underneath “this is a dog tied to a bowl, the bear is about it eat him.” That could be me with these hack observations. They might not be true, but whatever went on, one thing is for sure: the players didn’t down tools on him. Sure, it wasn’t an A+ performance for the ages, but you could see the specifics of what we were trying to do. I thought we were very aggressive for most of the game, our players pressed far harder than they usually do, and our overall play was far more unpredictable. Ben White creates chances, has great passing, and uses his runs to create overloads. Sambi Lokonga, quite simply, is not Dani Ceballos. Tomiyasu gives us height defending longballs, he gives us an option outwide, and he can actually right back. Ramsdale can pass so playing out the back looks good. It didn’t work as a piece of art, but at the very least, you could see the component parts and how they’ll make us better.
Some of the criticism after the game did make for painful reading. People position themselves as elite analysts of the futbol but fail to understand that we’re putting humans out on the pitch. You put a bunch of people together in a new office and it takes a while to get going, it’s the same with footballers. Arteta gifted 4 players home debuts, only one of our back 5 remained the same from the previous two games, we started a brand new keeper, we ran a midfield pairing that had never played together, and we did that all in the first game after the international break.
I know we’re all dying for a blowout here, but once again, we have to accept that it’s going to take a bit of time to start firing on all cylinders.
The good news?
- We don’t have European football so the players can spend more time on the training ground
- We have specificity in the important positions, so if we can keep players fit, we’ll have a system that works
- We’ve played the two best teams in the country right now
I suspect the club will have a lot of attention on Spurs, who have been shite this season, because that’s an Arteta Cup Final. It’ll be very interesting to see what he does against Wimbledon this week in the league cup. For me, it’s not a rest day, it’s a ‘let’s work each other out’ game. It’s a practice game with a trophy attached to it. Certain players shouldn’t be risked, like Saka, Auba and ESR, but I’d really like to see a strong team out there so we can get some minutes in the legs.
This idea does run into challenges though. We have all these fantastic kids looking for minutes. Folarin Balogun scored for the U23s at the weekend. We’re all watching the Patino hype videos. These players need experience as well. There’s a balance… but the most important thing at the moment is the development of the first team and for the players to get to full match fitness.
I’m weirdly looking forward to the away day at Burnley. It’ll be a roughhouse game and I want to see how this new defence stands up to a thug 90 minutes. I think we have more than enough to dispatch them and I really hope they can be the team we find our edge against.
Right, that’s me done for the day, see you in the comments… and please watch the videos below.