This is a huge week for the Arsenal project because there are two very different games that are both very, very important.
Firstly, the kids have to put on a good show in the League Cup. There’s a huge reason for them to show up and make a show of it. This is the main opportunity Patino, Omari, Balogun, and Hein will get to impress the coaching staff. Win this and they are rolling like a peak-Wenger team, lose and they’ll be banking on an injury crisis or a late loan.
Arteta has to find a balance. We need to give minutes to periphery players that will be needed. Managing a squad requires that you make everyone feel included so if there’s an injury, they are motivated to jump in. So that means we’ll probably see Tavares, Holding, and Chambers. We’ll also need to see the kids, especially without the Europa League. The next generation needs a taste. It’s also a massive game because you want to go into the Spurs game on a high.
The North London Derby always has extra sauce on it. Nuno started well on paper, but the performances were never there. Now the results are matching the performances. Still, he’s a very, very capable manager as we’ve felt in years gone by. I still have no idea how he beat us with Wolves last season. The squad he has is very good, Harry Kane and Son LOVE playing against Arsenal, form absolutely means nothing in these games.
What do we want? An answer to their weaknesses. A plan to nullify their strengths. A powerhouse performance and some points.
Arsenal are upping their PR game. Better late than never. This week, they’ve rolled the MIGHTY Per Mertesacker out to the fans and they’ve done it in the shape of new media, allowing The Beautiful Game Podcast chaps to spend some time with the Academy Manager.
The interview is absolutely superb. It’ll do more to shape Arsenal fan expectations for the season than anything they could put on the dot com or via Sky Sports. TV runs a 10 minute segment and the expectation is a soundbite that can power a viral tweet or article. The Arsenal situation is complex. Complex ideas need time. An hour podcast is the perfect place to talk things over. Good intentioned hosts work well for this sort of thing.
Per comes across as relaxed, honest, and inspirational. I love his German/Hale-Ender accent.
- He’s quite brutal about our reality: this is still a transition. Instant success is what everyone wants, but that’s not reality and people need to temper their rage
- He backs the vision the club is undertaking and trusts Arteta to deliver it
- He thinks he’s making a difference to the kids he’s bringing through
This is the sort of thing Arsenal should do more of. Tell it to the fans straight, let us digest it, and we’ll come around to it if the idea is good.
We can’t compete with mega signings the way City, Chelsea, and United operate. If you can’t outspend your rivals, you have to take a different strategy that works with your means (we are still a very rich club). The one we’ve adopted now is the best way for us to get back to the top. It’s basically the Dortmund model on steroids.
- Put strong emphasis on having an elite academy, because fans love their own, and it’s good for the story of the club
- Hoover up top youth talent from around Europe by offering them a path to the first team that is more rapid than our rivals
- Spend your big dollars on elite sub 23 years old players that know the league
- Build consistency of style top to bottom with your football by bringing through a future proof style of play
You can have all the above process, vision and ideas in place, but you work for Arsenal, so you have to win and show that the project has signs of life. I personally think we’re seeing that already, but the communications around the project are still extremely helpful because…
If fans don’t know what is going on, they fill the void themselves which leads to people getting angry we’re not in for Jack Grealish. There’s a weird subculture that is very vocal online that have clearly been influenced by FUT and Football Manager who get absolutely irate if the signings that are made don’t match exactly to what they think is elite. Look at the rage at Tomiyasu over Emerson Royal. Look at the behaviour around Aaron Ramsdale. Still, look at the lusting for Aouar over Odegaard. Every club in Europe passed on him, but still, people bang his drum after Odegaard wins the game at the weekend.
You can’t stop that, but you can tell fans what the thinking behind signings is and how you came to those decisions. Ramsdale made zero sense until Arsenal fans started speaking to rival fans about him. Then it became clear he’s an elite communicator, has outrageous energy, is superb at distribution, and he’s a towering figure in the box. Couldn’t Arsenal have been a bit more explicit about this?
If fans are brought into the mixer, mostly, they will shape the way they behave around what they hear. Prime example of this is how the fans home and away have reacted to the team this season. The fans know that they are dealing with a Project Youth of sorts, they know that young players need their support in the bad times, they know if the kids feel confident, they will give more on the pitch.
These types of comms humanise the project. When you work with talent in advertising, the normal folk see them as gods, and create ideas of what they are like, and they can be vicious when things go wrong. Arsenal do a poor job humanising what is going on at Arsenal, but it’s getting better. A fan Q&A on the Youtube made Mikel look less robotic. This Per Mertesacker podcast really brought you into the club and it felt personal and warm. Transition is painful, always, but communications can soften it.
So anyway, I loved the podcast. Arsenal are slowly getting their shit together and letting the vision architects talk about what they are doing. It’s a good thing, even if the message isn’t TOP 4 TODAY.
Right, on that note, take a watch of my video with Matt and maybe listen to the podcast.