ACCEPTING THE PAIN OF PROGRESS (LONG READ)

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Arsenal internet of 2017 is back and the screamers have been set loose. After 4 years of having to mostly earn scraps after the cratering of ScreamerTube traffic, we’re back with a bang, being lectured on standards by people who make their money appealing to 14-year-olds. Having to listen to people who have never performed at the elite level of anything lecture the world on the mediocrity of Arsenal is painful, painful viewing.

Screaming into a microphone if you don’t have any ideas of your own is not analysis, it’s attention-seeking.

Sack Arteta? You are a deeply unserious person if that’s your view.

The good news is a couple of days after a nightmare, the serious narratives being to shine.

The Athletic ran a piece that basically stated we are doing all the things you want from an elite side, bar putting the ball in the net. The thesis is we don’t need a dazzling number 9 to get to the promised land of free-flowing goals. We just need luck to catch up with us and show a bit more composure.

Our off-the-ball approach to pressing is amongst the best in Europe, only one team creates more shots creating actions by winning possession in the opposition’s final third and that’s Brighton.

The quality of the chances we’re creating is good enough, we just need to sharpen up. Put it this way, it’s no shame to lose to a Liverpool side we battered with 18 shots. No team has done that to Liverpool this season. We haven’t been able to do that against Liverpool in 10 years. The result didn’t go our way, but over the long term, those sorts of games where we are clearly the better team will give us strength. We’re no longer the inferior team of boys that hides. The fear of two seasons ago against big teams has gone. That is progress.

Over the longterm, those sorts of underlying numbers will bear fruit. The catastrophizing during this period is absolutely predictable because no one can handle the idea of luck playing a role in football at the elite level – and that we can measure it.

You could rerun Villa, Liverpool, Newcastle, and West Ham 100 times again and not get to 4 losses with performances like the ones we delivered.

In sport, sometimes you need to lean into the intangible, and that’s faith.

If the system delivers an abundance of chances against top-tier teams, if it constricts those same top-tier teams to very little action in your box… then you have to believe at some point the results will drop.

Arteta cannot do any more than coach a system that delivers what we delivered at Liverpool, West Ham, and Aston Villa.

What factors should we consider?

The team is very young and inexperienced. They have to build out winning IP. They need to find ways when things are clicking and they haven’t found a way to roll the ball into the net. Confidence and endeavor when the chips are down is something you learn. Our players need to learn that. The important thing is they are not letting bad results get in the way of performance; that is half the battle.

We also need to deal with the statistical oddity of every single forward player losing their mojo at the same time. It’s so weird that super-talented players are all going through this together. If they can stop scoring at the same time, there’s no reason to believe it can’t click back at the same time.

The final part of this shit-sandwich equation is the defensive part of the game. It is simply not sustainable for Arsenal to keep restricting sides to under 4 shots on target per game and keep conceding 1+ goals. It won’t last. It is a freakish anomaly that will sort itself out.

The combination of conceding from very little and not scoring from an abundance is the nature of football. Pep Guardiola said, ‘people love this game because a team that has 20 shots can lose to a team that has 2 shots. But I tell you which team I prefer.’

Big clubs around the world look at underlying data before they sack a manager because proper leaders at those clubs know that sport has ‘fuck you’ variables you can’t control. Jurgen Klopp famously ended his Dortmund career on a slump to 7th. People thought he was done. The Liverpool data nerds analyzed his performance and concluded he was the unluckiest manager in Germany that season. They hired him, the rest is history.

Unserious people will blame Arteta for this slump. They will also blame the players. My take? We are doing everything right, keep the confidence high, believe in the approach, and it will deliver big time in the backend of the season when we start bring bodies back into the mixer.

The most important two games now are Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest. Win those two, and we’ll be right back in the mixer.

Are there things that Arteta could be doing better? Absolutely. But one of those is not bringing more academy kids into the starting 11. I wrote about this reality a few years ago. As we get better, it’s going to be harder and harder to blood kids like we did when Arteta took over. If you’ve been reading this post banging the table in fury because I’m letting Arteta off the hook, imagine how you’d feel if Ethan Nwaneri cost us in a Cup game. Fans would be in his DMs abusing him, how do I know? We’ve seen it before. Martin Odegaard had to delete his IG because of the criticism he was getting. Everyone loves an academy kid until they’re not delivering fantastical numbers. Ask the players struggling at the club now that Arteta is begging fans to support.

Balogun couldn’t make it at Arsenal, Patino might do but the jury is still out, Smith Rowe, Eddie, and Reiss will all likely be chopped. The idea that players that are closer to 16 than 21 are going to waltz into a team that is fighting for CL and PL is fanciful. We’ll be lucky of one of our current crop makes it with us.

That might sting, but it’s the reality of football at this level. A lot of our great academy prospects will have to boomerang out and back if we want to see them. It happens at City (Sancho, Palmer, Lavia), it happens at Liverpool (Antony Gordon), and it happened to Chelsea during the winning years of Mourinho (Salah, KDB, and Lukaku).

The biggest focus for Arteta in the backend of this season is to take his foot off the gas with his players. He is a control freak and I don’t think that always plays well with a squad of players. Taking all the boys to PSV in a dead game is just one example of over-enthusiasm for ‘the culture’ that eventually costs you in physical and mental fatigue. You saw it in the Fulham game, the players were dead.

The manager also needs to get serious about protecting players from themselves. Thomas Partey picked up two injuries at the training ground. That is on the club. You cannot be breaking players like him in training sessions. He never reads the tea leaves when it comes to Tomiyasu, he overplayed him, we all knew he’d break, and he did. The same issue with Zinchenko, we know he’s breakable, and Arteta will always find a way to break him. God knows how Ben White hasn’t had a serious injury yet, but he’s next.

Then you have the starboy, Bukayo Saka. He looks cooked right now and with good reason… he never gets a rest. How many more games in a row before he breaks and we all act surprised?

The only way we exit the season with objectives met is if we keep our best players fit. That means more voluntary rotation in games we can control.  If we’re blaming injuries again, that is on the coach.

The final thing the club could do is add players, but I’m just not sure we’re going to get what we need. Amadou Diarra has been hard-linked again today and I’m not a fan of the link. Though it does seem to make sense in the context of Paulinha. Two defence minded midfielders that are mobile, press resistant, and aggressive. That must be a profile they like. It would come at a cost, because I think what we’ve missed is the dynamic passing of Thomas Partey. Moving to more rock and roll midfielders feels like a step back, but it is what it is.

My hope is we keep Partey at the club, but with the team going out to Dubai, you can’t help but imagine the PIF Fund will be in the lobby awaiting Partey’s people to negotiate a big-money exit. If we sell, we buy, if we buy, all the hot ITK talk is Onana.

That we’d solve our striking problems with a midfielder more limited than Thomas Partey does feel like peak-banter days when he’d hoover up #10 like players for fun.

The summer is where the best deals are done. Bringing in players now doesn’t give them time to integrate into the system. Those deals rarely offer value in the short term. But the summer is interesting. Ivan Toney taking up the striking spot is exciting, this Hato fella only has a year on his deal and I can’t imagine he’s not exciting the club, then we have a slew of pace monster wingers we’re looking to bring to the table.

This summer will see the squad finalised. We have to make the next 5 months work and not give up. But I have faith in the manager, the system, and a group of players that are progressing even if you can’t see it right now.

Football is hard. Pain is part of the process. We are on the right path.

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raptora

Lol at Chavs.

Un

Are any of you batty creases gomna get laid tonight
That question doesn’t apply to Marko or gd42 obviously
They have to find it first

Guns of SF

Brighton at it again. Plucking a potential gem from Argentina for cheap. SMH
Per Ornstein

@David_Ornstein
🚨 Valentin Barco set to undergo medical in Argentina ahead of joining Brighton from Boca Juniors for $10m. Top-rated 19yo left-back with U23 national team so due to do tests at training base before signing 4.5yr contract + 1yr option @TheAthleticFC
#BHAFC

Un

Eagle
Talk of sacking is premature
I have my doubts about certain elements of his personality but he’s been the best manager in the country for the last year and half bar Pep
It’s 3 games
It’s better that we are out of the cup and we deserved to win 2/3 of our last 3
It’s not as bad as it seems

The Fulham game was infuriating

Mr Serge

We should not be talking about sacking our manager the season is halfway through and I prefer this version of our team to the one Wenger and Unai left us.

We are on the right path just need a couple more key players imo

Luteo Guenreira

Toney scores a hat trick in a closed doors match against Saints as he prepares for a return. Sign him up!

Mr Serge

Luteo yes please but he will be expensive and Brentford are in a perilous position in the league

They won’t sell now

Guns of SF

Toney wants to repay their patience with him. Will be sold in summer tho, especially if he keeps them up

Luteo Guenreira

Plus side is, if Toney comes GOH says he’ll go away. Otherwise he stays forever. Ivan Toney is like a cure for herpes.

Un

Pedro this is incredibly glass half full
The views are more credible if they are honest or at least mot laced with so much I told you so agenda
Arteta is absolutely tanking value
He’s absolutely too rigid
He’s absolutely poor with rotation and trying new things
I also think he’s got average talent I’d and how to apply it to a fluid attacking system
So far I see more moyes than vintage wenger
He’s done very well considering it’s his first job but soon it’s not going to be enough

Luteo Guenreira

Before GOH quips that I would know a lot about herpes…yes sadly it’s true. I know a lot about herpes. I got it from his dead mother.

The Brady bunch

Long live dissenter,guns Ernest, Graham 62, Ur in denial Peter,the season is over, we’re in a dog fight for 4th

Un

Lutes just admitted he has herpes from having sec with a dead old lady
You stay classy

Un

Sex

Mr Serge

Necrophilia is not ok people

Mr Serge

There are things I do not like about Mikel

He seems to lack empathy which for me is important for players to buy into you

He also rotates terribly.

Plus he is very transactional with players he rosses them aside if he feels they have lost usefulness.
Look at Ramsdale and the Smith both have been treated appallingly.

He needs to learn these skills
I can see klopp and Pep have these traits

If we were to let him go at the end of the season it has to be de zerbi or Alonso,

Matt B

First part was very funny though

Guns of SF

Mike cannot work with non choir boys. See a pattern here?
Many names so far…

Big personalities avoid this team. Unlike Wenger, who could work with a diverse group, Mike cannot. He is like a beginning teacher, always strict and wants full control of the classroom, rules etc. Cannot stand to be questioned. You do that, and its straight to the principals office or in this case, the bench.

Wreaks of insecurities.

Get me a coach who bonds and connects well with all his players. That is step 1 for any succesful coach. Relationships

Rich

Arteta has convinced Saka, Saliba, Martinelli, Ødegaard all to recommit.

He’s also convinced Declan Rice to join Arsenal ahead of City + Bayern Munich.

We’ve also managed to keep Nwaneri + Lewis-Skelly, when there was a line around the block for their signatures, offering them endless riches.

Arteta also convinced Patino to take another loan last summer, when he wanted a permanent exit.

The best managers do have a ruthless streak, most players speak positively of Arteta and his coaching methods.

David Smith

Nice one Pedro, progress isn’t always linear, especially in a league where teams subsidised by states / oligarchs / sovereign wealth funds have been allowed the platform of building over considerable time without worrying about FFP. There are clear shortcomings in the team at the moment, but a long list injuries to key players , adjusting to playing in Europe, and the international calendar won’t have helped anyone, though some teams have experienced more resistant squads and a little more luck. Then, there is the likes of Saka, given zero protection from refs happy to allow constant fouling in his… Read more »

Un

Mr serge

What did I say last night? Some here just never get any Fanny

Guns of SF

Rich you wont hear anyone saying anything that is under contract. However, its plain to see his treatment of certain individuals he does not fancy.

Clear as day.

Sad part is that he can thank some of them for saving his bacon after his first 2 seasons.
Auba- FA cup run, Willock, Saka, ESR, Emi etc

Big players are not clamoring to play for Arteta outside of EPL. Arsenal is the draw first and foremost.

Rich

Guns

Those players choose to join Arsenal or recommit to Arsenal, they wouldn’t have done that if they had a problem with Arteta.

As per usual, we’ve hit a rocky patch of form, and the usual drama queens have lost all grasp of reality.

I’ve got concerns around 2 areas of our squad, alongside injury prone players putting a strain on the rest… But other than 2nd half against Fulham, there’s nothing overly concerning as of yet

Un

Rich
What areas

jwl

I thought it was sad that our execs hired Arteta in first place because only lesser clubs take punts on new coaches and top teams want experienced pros so the Kroenkes don’t perceive us a big club. Top teams don’t give new coaches four years and still talk about projects, they expect their new manager to hit ground running like with de zerbi or ange have achieved. Klopp lost a few important midfielders six months ago and here are the bindippers with new midfield and more points than us.

Mr Serge

Un I agree there are defo peeps on here that have not seen any Danny for a decade or more

Rich

Un

Right side of defence + central midfield.

Un

Serge
Names
We need to out the incels
Let me begin
Marko
Rap
Sid

McBright is Wright

My Cheksea friend said to me earlier today: ‘ The form Arsenal has from last season until recently, not even Chelsea had such form on their way to winning both of our UCL trophies’. Even with Chelsea’s poorest form in years, they are in the league Cup semi-final and progressed in the FA Cup. Same with United. If Arteta ends this season trophy less, then it’s really not just Arteta. The club has being embedded with relativity, rather than winnertivity. No one says sack the manager, we are saying whats in it for us for backing you? I have supported… Read more »

David Smith

Jwl, hit the ground running, Arteta won a trophy very early in his Arsenal managerial career , let’s see if Di Zerbi / Ange ( “he’s a breath of fresh air”) do the same ?
What exactly have Di Zerbi and Ange achieved?
The Kronkes have been rewarded in other sports in the US for sticking with managers/coaches, only a matter of time before Arteta pays the same dividends..
Don’t fall for the Ange media hype, because that is what a lot of it is,

Luteo Guenreira

Relax kids. Unlike all you uptight pansies I don’t mind making fun of myself once in awhile. Anything for the sake of GOH’s mother.

And poor Un so eager to retort with something he though was witty that he fell all over his own fingers. You being a critic over classiness is like someone with no arms criticizing a golf swing.

And yes necrophilia is not okay, obviously she was alive when the sex was had.

David Smith

Mcbright, did you see Chelsea tonite?
Utd are imploding, will take them years to catch up. if they progress in a cup, it will be because their usual favourable draws, I see they have Eastleigh or Newport in the next round of the FA Cup , after their standout win against Wigan that really made the world sit up and take note..Must be nice getting draws like that all the time
You mention the league cup, but Arteta has already gone better than that since he arrived

jwl

Arsenal bought right back from America this week but unfortunately it was the ladies and not men’s team, Rich.

Tom

“Arteta has convinced Saka, Saliba, Martinelli, Ødegaard all to recommit He’s also convinced Declan Rice to join Arsenal ahead of City + Bayern Munich” Saka, Saliba, Martinelli and Ode committing to Arsenal for the next three years or so was the most logical move for these players from pretty much every angle bar the guaranteed trophies , and the only clubs that do guarantee trophies are City, Bayern, and Real. None of the aforementioned players start for these three clubs (Saliba might), nor would they necessarily earn more there either assuming there even was a hint of interest. Rice wanted… Read more »

Jonathan Rosin

Great post Pedro. An excellent read and super helpful perspective from “up on the balcony”.

allezkev

20 odd more days of transfer garbage and fantasy to go and nobody is pushing the boat out and risking sanctions with the Everton points deduction fresh in everyone’s memory.

Omozuafo Frank

A nice write up but one thing is sure, no one asks of the team with the higher XG after a match but the team that won the match. The coach and the team has to do better.

Canadian Gooner

I can’t believe we have to deal with the negativity all the way until the 20th. We could do with a game this weekend. We desperately need a big win.

I’m not sure I can handle 10 more days of slagging Arteta, fantasizing about transfers that aren’t going to happen, and comparing us to other clubs.

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