There has been a lot of talk about strategy and where we’re going as a club. Some can’t see it, other don’t want to, but the wheels of progress turn regardless of the noise.
Some fans struggled with the proposed strategy because it knocked their preconceived notions of what you need to do in 2022 to get back to the top in the Premier League.
There were hard pills to swallow:
- Our squad wasn’t fit for purpose utilizing any style of football. It was old, messily assembled, it had no creative players, and the culture was rotten.
- Arsenal were no longer a big hitters when it came to finances. Any rebuild was going to be slow and painful by the standards of most.
- The Premier League was now the most competitive league on the planet. There are 7 teams with the finances to compete for Champions League. The two top teams weren’t just wealthy, they were extremely strategic and longterm in their thinking. Every team was now rich, there were no givens, bar beating Norwich.
The only way Arsenal could get back to the top was to be honest about the above and concoct a strategy that played to our strengths as a football club.
Those strengths were:
- Our academy, which produces top-tier talent. When you are building, there are bad days, but fans are more forgiving of local boys, so leaning into a point of pride was a key element
- Our coach, who is one of the best developmental coaches in Europe (though inexperienced)
- Our club, which has elite training facilities, unrivaled fans, a massive stadium, in the city of London, and good budgets outside of the nation-state clubs. These ingredients make us perfect for players on the rise because we are an appealing place to ply your trade.
The mission is to get Arsenal competing for the league in 2 years time and to make the Champions League and be competitive.
- Grow talent out of our academy
- Sign highly technical players 21-24, with 2 seasons worth of experience, with BIG character
- Put them with a coach on the rise
Season one was about getting the culture right and bedding our players into a highly technical system. We delivered 69 points, enough for 3rd the two prior seasons. We made it back to Europe. That was a successful season based on the objectives at the start.
This upcoming season, it’s about adding quality to the squad, and making it into the top 4.
Our transfer moves this summer are being built off this brief from Arteta:
“We want to move to a 4-3-3 but for that, you need a lot of specificity in every position but now in five or six positions, we don’t have it.”
This is basically the list of incomings we have this summer
- Lisandro (24)
- Tielemans (25)
- Vieira (22)
- Jesus (25)
- Turner (28)
- Saliba (21)
Say it quietly, but this squad would basically be good enough for Champions League football right now.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the above list alone is probably the best window we’d have had in 20 years. It looks very complete, it nails the fan brief at the start of the summer… but is it complete? Maybe not. The Athletic truly believes there’s a chance we could still try for Raphina this summer. I know the Mikel Arteta will be banging the drum harder than anyone to get all the bits we need, so it wouldn’t shock me.
The ‘Tielemans interest has cooled’ will likely be a negotiation tactic, we saw it with Ramsdale last summer. The player wants Arsenal, the club wants the player, and Leicester management is probably still high off last summer’s LEICESTER ARE BETTER RUN THAN ARSENAL’ chatter propagated by Arsenal fans and want to make the move difficult. The reality is they cannot afford to let him leave for nothing. I think he’ll end the summer in an Arsenal shirt. Honestly, what a top, top signing that would be.
There will obviously be some transfer movement out the door but I don’t have the same faith some do in the money we’ll receive. Hector Bellerin is being chased by a club that think they can get him on a free, there is no way we should be exiting him for nothing, I don’t care how many trees he planted. Bernd Leno is a £20m keeper and we need to be compensated as such. I wouldn’t want to exit Ainsley, but he’s a Premier League player and we need to be doing better than £5m. There’s also a chance Granit could be on the move, though I think it’d be remiss to ship out someone of his experience after another really good season. No one is talking about Bob ‘lush hair’ Holding, but it’s hard to see where he’s getting minutes next season as it stands.
Most of the focus will be on the money we’re spending. Arteta will be running around with his proposals and spreadsheets. He probably knows as well as anyone – timing is absolutely everything. You want a raise, time it right, don’t ask after a shocking 3rd quarter. You want a yes on a new project, catch your boss early on a Friday when he’s dreaming of lunchtime beers and golf. If you want £50m for a player you didn’t have budgeted, maybe ask when his hockey team is about to play in the Stanley Cup Final. If KSE is a sports organization that is showing signs of extreme competitiveness at the highest level, there is no doubt that the more his other teams win, the more likely it is that Arsenal will win. WINNING IS ADDICTIVE. I don’t know how much of this shift in mindset is down to Josh, but bar their soccer, esports (they sunk £20m into Overwatch and no one watches it), and lacrosse team… all their major clubs are doing the business.
Now think back to the summer when people were spitting feathers about Arsenal not signing a substandard striker. Does anyone have regrets about not punting £75m on Isak to show ambition? Any Weughorst fans still in the building? Did this very website not say that the best thing to do would be to wait until the summer and spend the finite resources wisely? This summer is the reason why. If that list is pulled off, it’s better than anything that could have been done in January for a far more favorable price. Let’s also be real, I love Vlahovic, but he was going for £65m, if we get Jesus for £40m, it’s probably more of a NOW signing, with a higher chance of working out.
Ok, ok, I’m trying to weasel my way out of Tall Boy Summer Propaganda there, so you can shout me down on that… but, once again, we are seeing how different the world looks through a long-term lens. That £25m saving can go towards a Lisandro vs another Nuno-Tavares-like gamble. We will be better long-term because we waited. Remember, we have finite resources and a strategy that is honest about who we are. We cannot spend big money on average players, we are not that club, we have paid a heavy price for attempting that methodology. That is why we resisted in January.
Fans will give patience if there is a reward at the end of the wait. Arsenal didn’t reward in the past, but if this is what a dry January delivers, then maybe we should Trust the Process a little more often.
The job this summer was also to find 10 more points next season.
There were three ways to do that:
1. Add cover to the fullback positions
David Ornstein dropped exciting news about Lisandro, the Ajax defender we’re chasing down for £25m this summer.
The Saliba Ultras, bored, with nothing to shriek about are trying to make this transfer about their movement and how it’s the end of William, but this is more about Tierney. The player has been earmarked since last season as a left back and the club see him as big competition for KT this season. There’s a difference in style, KT is all about power, pace, and the legendary overlap. Lisandro is more viewed as a player you start the build-up from. He’s more comfortable on the ball and a bit more like a Cancelo, if that feels too ambitious, then let’s just say he’s a defender that can do what Granit can do when we put him at left-back but with all the pacey bits as well.
If we make this move happen, there is going to be a war on the left next season, and I’d be fully expecting the player to show us something new in this Arsenal system we haven’t seen before.
- Saliba and Ben White are interchangeable at right back.
- Ainsley could come back into the mixer at right-back cover.
2. Add cover in midfield for Thomas Partey
Youri Tielemans coming into our midfield gives us so much flexibility. The Belgian can play deep as a defensive midfielder, he can go box to box, he can even move into a more advanced position. Long and short: He is top, top quality.
3. Add decisiveness in the final 3rd
Fabio Vieira is being billed as one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe for final ball delivery. He was one of the most productive players in Europe last season despite having the lowest minutes of the big names.
Fábio Vieira in the 2021/22 Primeira Liga:
⌛️ 14.8 nineties
🎯 46 shots
⚽ 6 goals
🔑 34 key passes
🅰️ 14 assists pic.twitter.com/21fBKA1Apw
— Jon Ollington (@jonollington) June 17, 2022
I followed up with Jon and asked if he was overperforming xA. He is, but apparently, there is more than enough underlying data to suggest he is top, top class.
We’re most likely going to add Gabriel Jesus as our main striker next season. Is he short? Yes. Is he Premier-League-winning material that we don’t have? Yes. However you cut, even through the worst-case scenario grinder, he is going to be worth 18 goals and 7 assists next season. The thing I’m looking forward to with Jesus is we’re taking him from a bit-part player to superstar status. We’re making him the big dawg. That is a hell of a way to motivate a player if they are the sort of person that needs that sort of adulation.
Then add the incredible news that Eddie Nketiah has just signed a new 5 year deal and he’s taking the #14 shirt.
There’s no other way of cutting it, this move is fucking excellent news. If Arteta didn’t believe he could do a good job with Thierry Henry’s famous shirt, he wouldn’t have offered it to him. The number is symbolic to everyone, it’ll be a huge motivation for Eddie, and I think he’ll show us all he can deliver the goods needed.
We’re operating in a market right now where Richarlison, a player that has moped all season in an Everton side far better than its league position would suggest, is potentially going for £55m. A known disruptive quantity, going for mega-money, after a shocking season.
Eddie Kreuger (showing up in defenders’ nightmares) is a better player for starters and he totally fits our system. Just remember, he was our best striker last summer in preseason then Arteta buried him in the reserves. He didn’t let him back in when Auba was stinking out the place, he didn’t let him back in when Lacazette was dead on his feet not scoring, it was only the good luck of a COVID infection (ESR got his chance after the same thing) that Arteta came to his senses. Eddie could have moped like Richarlison, he could have mailed it in and waited for summer riches, but he didn’t… he did the job, scored some goals, showed Arteta what a fool he’d been… so yeah, he deserves this deal.
Just a reminder of how Eddie stacks up against the 4 top European leagues as a striker for the folk saying he lacks the qualities for the league:
Just a reminder of what his profile maps to in terms of rival talent.
To replace Eddie we would be taking a massive risk on a £35m striker if we were lucky. This is a huge deal for Arsenal and again, another reminder to the best kids in Europe, if you are good enough, you will play for The Arsenal.
The bonus part of the summer brief hasn’t been really talked about, but Matt Turner is going to be very interesting, he’s arriving from New England Revolution, the USMNT fans love him and say he’s their best keeper, and most MLS fans say he’s one of the best players in the league.
The player had this to say:
“The project they have going on there, [I want to be] an important part of the locker room, adding some experience – not a ton of Premier League experience – but national team experience, league experience and playing games in pressured environments. I’ll be an older head in the locker room, being 28.”
On his supposed weak passing:
“Definitely, the DNA of this team is possession-based and I believe that’s what they will expect from me when I get on the pitch.
“It’s the area of my game that some call a weakness but one where I’ve improved over the past few months. I’m connecting a few more passes, reading the game better and understanding the way I can hurt teams a lot better.
“We don’t play that [passing] style in New England but when I go with the national team, we do. When I have extended periods with the national team, I read the game better and make more passes.
We have no idea how good he is with the ball at his feet in the same way so many Arsenal fans called Ramsdale a hoof-merchant after Chris Wilder left Sheffield United. The most important thing here is we need a player that can push Aaron who has had a shaky 2022. One week he’s keeping a clean sheet against Italy, the next he’s conceding a bunch to Hungary. The focus of competition at Arsenal might help, especially if Arteta shows early on that he is prepared to drop Aaron if his form dips.
So, in conclusion… is there a single Arsenal fan out there that doesn’t understand what the strategy is going into this season?
I don’t think so.
If you can’t see it now, you are just not meant to understand things at a higher level, or you are trying to be an edgelord on Youtube to appease your teenage fans.
If you can see it, you’ll agree, that this is the best way for Arsenal to get to the top, because it’s sustainable, it’s exciting, and you can imagine where these players will be in two years time.
Say this quietly because I don’t want pelters, but I’d rather be bedding in these players in a Europa League environment, than a Champions League one. We’ll get practice against weaker teams, the young kids will get more minutes, and the first 3 months of the season won’t be played with young players wrestling with the physical and mental aspects of fatigue.
What I love the most about the way Arsenal are operating is they are opening the window on the fans that want to behave in a toxic way. Good news is oxygen for the fans that support the club the right way and it makes everything better. If you aren’t onboard with where we’re going, you do have to ask, what is the fu*cking point?
This is going to be a good season if all these deals can land, we can all feel it, right?