Well, yesterday was the most trafficked post of the year, isn’t that weird? Thousands of men and women, sneaking off to the bathroom, Peroni in hand, to land a hit of Le Grove. Lovely stuff. Could also be a weird SEO thing because I put ‘xxx’ at the end of the title.
I was spending Christmas alone yesterday until I found out my dad had also tested positive for COVID. He came into London to collect me, we shared strains in the car on the way home, and had a nice Christmas. I am STILL testing positive. But today is day 9, tomorrow, I’m free whatever the lateral-flow test says.
It was mildly amusing to see the Arsenal.com handle land some shit for not saying ‘Happy Christmas’ until later in the day. I am not a Trumpy ‘THEY STOLE OUR CHRISTMAS’ type of guy, but if you’re out here celebrating every other religious holiday (which Arsenal rightly do), you can’t shy away from saying Happy Christmas when you are a British club. Honestly, who gives a shit if someone is offended by it, that is their problem.
Back to the good stuff…
We’re playing Norwich today, they are bottom of the league, Dean Smith has a good record against us… but today really would be asking something of him. The Canaries have been truly awful this season, they don’t have the equipment to stay up… but when has that ever stopped an upset?
Things going against us today:
- Post-Christmas games are always a bit sluggish
- The game is an away day, and we’ve not been the best away from him this season. We’re 10th for points accrued on the road. We’ve conceded 17 and lost 5 in 9 games.
- We are famous for being a Christmas gift to teams that are having a bad run. It’s been that way for about 15 years.
Arsenal cannot allow Norwich to happen to us. It would ruin a great body of December/November work. We are a form team, everyone has found their level, we need to go to Carrow Road and do a very straightforward job, very well.
The injury news is pretty good. Everyone is available bar Auba and a few second-stringers that wouldn’t have been important anyway.
Arteta is thinking about the January transfer window.
“If you can tweak what you need to in that period, which is not easy, it would be really helpful,”
“We are working on that to see the necessities we can have, and whether we can find the right solutions to that.”
The problem with the January window is it rarely offers up a lot of ‘NOW’ value. The standout move over the past 15 years was Andre Arshavin. He came in, made a HUGE impact, then he got a little overweight and was never the same. Martin Odegaard on loan was also a bit of a saucy move, the player made an impact to the way we played, versus showing big numbers, it was also a trial run for a summer move. Now look at him… don’t we just love him?
Maybe that’s part of the recipe? Find players with a point to prove. Jovic at Madrid needs a move this summer, he has 321 minutes to his name, he’ll come in and play the way we want him to play.
The other challenge you have with a loan move is the reality: It might take minutes from a promising kid. We wasted minutes on Ceballos last season. We wasted even more on the busted flush that was Willian. Are we going to bring someone in that might waste time that could go to a top talent? I thought Arteta had the answers in this following quote:
“I was living at La Masia – it was a bedroom of eight,” he said. “I had Pepe Reina, Víctor Valdés, Andrés Iniesta, Carles Puyol … What I learned was that internally there was competition: we were all at the same age and wanted to be first-team players but could not all get there. But what I learned as well was within that competition you understand that you have to look after each other. That was a big, big lesson in that period for me.
“Some of them are still my best friends because it is tough and you go through important, key moments in your career and it stays for life. Those relationships are unbreakable.”
I’m not sure that quote answered much, but it’s nice that he’s doubling down on Wenger ideals. Our ex-manager dreamed of building a group of young players that had unbreakable bonds on the pitch and a huge love for the club off it. The thing he missed during his Project Youth was the special sauce that could have made them title winners. Cesc needed an experienced destroyer next to him. The team needed more depth. Talented young players will eventually want to win… and get paid.
The manager also spent a lot of time talking about culture. This is meant in the least offensive way, but I think it’s quite hard for journalists to write about culture because the job they do is mostly all about them. Journos are like golfers, they are in control of whether they are good or not. The words flow or they don’t. My guess, having not worked as one, is that there’s not a huge amount of teamwork in sports writing. I know they occasionally write in groups, but I don’t think they experience culture in the same way you or I do (Unless they were footballers at a high level). Which is why some ask questions like ‘are you a dictator for enforcing something that feels quite trivial.’
Well, the questions in the presser again fell on ‘what is culture and how do you do it.’ I quite liked that Arteta said firstly, the culture is not his. The second part I liked is that he makes it work because he asked the players ‘do you think it has been good in the past?.’ If they agree no, then fixing it becomes everyone’s duty. That is ultimately the key to a great culture. When it’s working, everyone understands what you are working towards, and everyone in it knows what they have to do.
A big part of it is also knowing what gets rewarded in the system and what is punished. It’s super basic, but you probably know that in a Jose Mourinho system, pretending to have a head injury in the 92nd minute is going to be rewarded in the dressing room. If everyone understands that is part of the culture, players know how to behave on the pitch, and you grow a team of shit-housers that will do anything to win. What does Arteta reward? He probably likes to see players focusing on being defensively resolute the whole game, so what are we seeing now? Martin Odegaard closing down like a lunatic late in the game, Martinelli tracking runners after a gruelling game, and players celebrating defensive actions like goals. How do you know that sort of stuff is part of the rewards in our culture? Fans recognize that Arsenal are more George Graham than Arsene Wenger. We can see it. The rules of your culture are important because they allow you to weed out the people that aren’t going to work.
Anyway, I find culture fascinating because it’s a living being in an organization. When people call it management talk, it’s usually because they’ve never experienced a good one. This is controversial, but quite often people label truly elite cultures toxic because they can’t handle the pressures that come with hitting a standard. You see it all over the world, companies that create incredible often have workers that complain. A good culture doesn’t always mean it’s pleasant. A good culture is hard. It means you are constantly reminded that there are standards. It means you are called out if you fall below it. A good culture is exhausting. Just listen to Klopp talk about his players at Dortmund getting bored of him after a while. Conte never lasts long because he takes the standards too far and it breaks people. Those are the extremes of elite anything. Some people can handle it, some people are prepared to suffer, most can’t and melt.
Losing a player like Auba just means he’s not built for where we’re heading. Look at the players moved on? Most couldn’t hit the standard, weren’t prepared to stay at the standard they once attained or were too old to give a shit.
I like where we’re heading. It’s exciting. It makes sense. Games like today show us where we are.
Right, have a great Boxing Day, I’ll see you in the comments. xx
P.S. We’ll be in the whistle after the game
P.P.S. If you’ve seen Ian Wright wearing the awesome jumper below and you want it… head to Art of Football to buy it.