TOP OF THE TABLE CLASHES ARE BACK

by .

It’s BIG game eve. Are you nervous?  Yeah, me too. But good nervous. These consequential games at the top of the table are the type I never thought we’d be around again.

Arsenal vs Liverpool. Home advantage to us. No one has any idea how the game is going to shake out because we’re both world-class sides.

There was a little bit of disappointment pre-game. Thomas Partey’s issue he picked up in training has extended out to him missing the game. It’s not serious, so he’ll be about for the run-in. You just have to remind yourself you can NEVER rely on Thomas Partey for anything. The man is Abou Diaby part II. It’s a sad way for a professional to go, especially one with no injuries during his time at Atleti. There is no doubt that we need to find a player who can do the things he can PLUS stay fit all season. I really hope we’re plucking from the Premier League this summer.

Still, that doesn’t stop us doing bad things to Liverpool. One of the most productive teams in the league has been largely controlled by Arsenal in the last two games despite the big W not coming out way. The luck has to change at some point, so if we go out tomorrow and play like we did in the cup, anything is possible.

We had Jorginho in the side and we battered them for an house. We also had Kai Havertz as a number 9 and he played really well. I’d be shocked if we don’t see Kai in the starting 11, his power, speed, and aggression could be really additive to the game. He should also be in great shape because he had a little rest last week.

This is a game that we’ll get big chances, Liverpool will offer us space at times, the only thing we have to deal with is their exceptional keeper.

Big games need heroes, they need magic, and they need a bit of luck. Our front three needs to deliver some xG monstering.  I can’t be watching Gabriel Jesus falling over chances, Bukayo and Martinelli to play at their peak, and the whole team needs to take more responsibility for being killers.

The consequences are massive for the league. Lose, it’s over. Win, it’s on. Draw, it’s back to doubt. I think the mathematicians in the fan base would disagree, but from a feelings perspective, and a general narrative, it’ll be really hard to bounce back from a loss.

I’m still maintaining that Manchester City are the big dogs in this race, I think Liverpool will run out of steam, and at some point, doing it for the boss will wear thin. We just need to keep pace.

I want Arsenal to be in that mixer because I want Arteta to show the world the rebuild people thought was OTT was necessary and that it’ll work. I want the underlying performance metrics to be recognized by real world results. I want to see Arsenal have the first breakout performance of 2024.

I am fine with a Manchester City-like slow start… but we have to finish with a bang. Win this game, we have a lovely run of matches up until the Manchester City away day at the end of the month.

Winning here makes everything better.

Let’s see what the boys have.

There are TWO podcasts waiting for our Patreon listeners. Johnny went solo for a Before the Whistle and I dropped an interview with one of the most interesting people one Arsenal: Tim Payton of The AST. Take a listen, it’s excellent content, and I learned a lot.


HE’S STAYING

by .

The major news about Cedric Soares leaked out into the ether.

He’s not leaving. I’m sorry guys, I know you really put a lot of hope in those Turkish ‘dream move’ rumors. But it’s not to be.

The man Don Raul put on £90k a week for 4.5 years will be staying on to see out his deal

This particular transfer was probably high on the audit list of company leadership when they did a review of his transfer dealings the following summer. It made no sense. We paid a fee for an unwanted Southampton player who had 5 months left on his deal… and put him on mega money. The output of overpaying people that don’t have the talent to match is they tend to want every penny of that deal.

That deal was a lesson. It was a wake-up call. It never would have happened under current leadership. I’m glad we’re now a mature club and we don’t make decisions like that these days.

Subscribe to continue reading

Subscribe to get access to the rest of this post and other subscriber-only content.


JUST ACCEPT THE WIN

by .

The most important thing we needed from our evening in Nottingham was 3 points.

Not a performance.

Not a warm and fuzzy feeling for the fans.

Not a hat trick for Emile Smith Rowe

We just needed to rob from the overspenders to feed our title challenge.

(more…)


ARTETA CALLS ‘FAKE NEWS’ ON SPANISH PAPERS

by .

It’s been 10 days since we last laid eyes upon the grass of an elite-level football pitch… doesn’t it feel like this season has had less football to you? International breaks every other week and massive gaps in football. Even December felt light.

Well, it won’t feel light this evening. Arsenal is on the charge towards the extremely consequential Liverpool game on Sunday. 3 points is the only answer. If we drop 2 today, we start to find ourselves adrift and we put unnecessary pressure on the game at the weekend.

The main point of weakness in this Forest side is its defence. Matt Turner has been on the struggle bus all season. His passing out of the back is reckless and doesn’t need much pressure to go off the rails in a massive way. I’m also not sure his rock-solid shot-stopping has been up to much this season. Arsenal know him well, I really hope we don’t take 35 minutes to let him know we have his number this evening.

Their centre backs haven’t been great either, they have a lot of injuries, and they have had massive representation at AFCON.

In short: We need to be direct and aggressive this evening.

Moving forward, they play some nice football. They’ve spent so much money they’re probably getting docked points, so it’s not a surprise. Away from home, the key is clearly not to concede something stupid early. This is the sort of game we should be eating up. They aren’t capable of a deep block and Nuno hasn’t had enough time to get his ideas into the players.

Arteta is playing games with the injury news as per. He seemed pretty emphatic that Thomas Partey wouldn’t be ready. Are we shocked? Arsenal going with the ‘like a new signing’ treatment on the main feed only to see him emphatically ruled out. The more worrying concern was the late fitness tests for Big Gabi and Declan Rice. The Evening Standard seemingly indicating that they have passed them.

It’s a big afternoon, these are evenings City don’t miss, and let’s be clear, City is who we need to be keeping pace with.

The big story of the press conference was more focused Arteta’s future. He was emphatic about a few things:

  1. He’s not going anywhere
  2. Arsenal is the best club for his career
  3. He hasn’t begun talking about a new deal
  4. He’s calm about his future

This Barca exercise might not have pleased him, but it sure did a lot for his reputation around Europe and maybe silenced a few of the weirdos online who think we should fire him.

Ok, short post today because I am werrrrrking.

On The Whistle is Johnny, Matt and Jacob. Sign up to Patreon for FREE below to see it.


WHY ARTETA WON’T GO TO BARCELONA (NOW)

by .

Let’s start with Liverpool watch. They smashed Norwich. Not sure there was much doubt that was going to happen, but it was interesting listening to the ESPN commentators say the atmosphere around the stadium was very odd. Fans weren’t quite sure how they were supposed to be behaving. Their next game is Chelsea at home, not sure I hold out much hope for Poch, but it’ll be interesting to see how the performance looks.

I’d heard some rumblings on Friday that Fabio Vieira might be back in the mixer for the U21s, it wasn’t to be, apparently there’s been a minor set back, but he will partake in the next few weeks. It’s interesting that the player has dropped off the radar and we’ve barely noticed. If anyone looked like he needed a loan, it was him. He’s been out since November, there’s always the hope that he’ll come back and give us a ‘like a new signing’ bounce. There’s something there, he just struggles to pull it together consistently, and he’s not quite the end product king we’d hoped for. Regardless, it’ll be good to at least have an additional attacking option to draw on for the rest of the season.

(more…)


‘LEGENDARY MANAGER QUITTING’ BOUNCE. IS IT A THING?

by .

Bit of a low interest weekend for Arsenal fans. We’re out of the FA Cup, so all we can do is watch on, hope that every game our rivals play is a slogfest, and wait out the season to see if fatigue hits their players.

Aston Villa vs Chelsea was interesting because it went to a draw which means a replay. Two hard running teams fighting it out in the 4th round. Perfection.

Spurs vs City was beautiful because the media darlings of 2023 were absolutely controlled by Manchester City. It was embarrassing how little Spurs offered. They managed 1 attempt at the City goal in an entire 95 minutes of football. It was a masterclass from Pep and a total shock that the score was only 1-0. What does this mean? It means there’s a long way to go before we can start considering Spurs as a future contender. They’re going to be sussed in the back half of the season, and I think the way they play might continue to impact their injury list. Not good from Big Ange. Also, MORE GAMES FOR CITY is a good thing at this point.

(more…)


CHANGE OF THE GUARD BEGINS

by .

I’ve penned many words about the Arsenal strategy of building towards a world where Manchester City aren’t where they are now. We know they have a least two swords of damocles hanging over their head. One is Pep exiting. The second is the charges. What we maybe didn’t expect was Klopp’s rebuild to have impact as fast as it has. The hope was that when City aren’t about, it’s a fairer fight with Liverpool.

It was quite clear this past summer that Arsenal didn’t have eyes on the prize this season, they were thinking about what’s to come in the next 5 years. Instead of adding more experience to an inexperienced squad, they aged down, and moved on players that we’d have to change up. The thinking, I believe, was to wait until those above us declined so we could move in on their lofty position as top dogs.

Well, today, Jurgen Klopp was the first shoe to drop. He announced his retirement from Liverpool early, presumably so he could do a victory lap for the next 5 months, knowing he has a pretty decent chance of at least one trophy.

But there’s a bigger picture here people aren’t seeing.

Klopp is being very strategic about his exit. Why? Because he knows what’s coming and amongst all the ONE LAST DANCE romanticism, he’s a realist.

THE REBUILD

Liverpool are a Europa League team at the moment and had to engage in a mini-rebuild last summer. People seem to think that’s the job complete. Ignoring the fact that their best centre-back ever, their best keeper and their best winger are all in their 30s now and need upgrading. Those guys are the game winners, and they’re the reason Liverpool are who they are this season.

To replace them is a near-impossible job. Even armed with £300m, you’re probably looking at a 1 in 3 hit rate at best. I’m not even sure the players are available to replace those three right now. They were generational. Klopp doesn’t have another 5 years in him to go through the process of getting Liverpool back up to City levels.

THE OWNERS

It’s well-publicised that the American ownership group want to sell out to a nation-state that can fund the rebuild. I wrote a couple of seasons ago that selling a club as massive as Liverpool would take a long time. Well, we’re in 2024 and there are still no concrete buyers. What does that mean for Liverpool? Well, it means there will not be the money needed to rebuild to the levels Klopp would demand.

PEAK PEFORMANCE

I’m already reading people saying that Klopp has left the next manager in a great position to challenge for years ahead and I’m just not sure about that. As I said above, they have 3 worldies leaving very soon, and they are also having one of those slightly deceptive seasons where everything is going right for them. Ferguson left United in good shape, until he didn’t. I think Liverpool might be living in that world post-Klopp, and I think he knows that. The foundations aren’t as strong as many like to believe.

So what does this mean for the rest of this season?

If you are an old romantic, you’d imagine the players are going to have a private meeting and demand that everyone puts it in for the gaffer. One last chance for the boys. A royal send-off for a legend!

Except, that rarely happens in real life. 

Alex Ferguson, one of the most dominant managers of the last 50 years, announced he was leaving United early, and the response was so bad that he had to postpone the date.

Arsene Wenger announced early. Fans were saying things like ‘I think this will bring the squad and fans together.’ It did not. It was a flatulent end to the season. It had all the romance of a fart in an Uber.

There are very few cases of nice send-offs because the nature of leadership in sports is delicate.

Players that don’t like the coach don’t need to put effort in.

Players that have been with the coach 7 years now don’t feel as committed. Their agents get in their ears. They are thinking about retirement moves.

Coaches that bow down to Lord Klopp now find themselves in uncertain times. Who stays? Who goes? Who has to work the politics game? The unease at people who have known for 5+ years they can rely on their job, now have to start thinking about the next move.

Now every bad result will be threaded through the lens of the coach leaving. Every press conference will have questions about Xabi Alonso. The club that has boasted ruthless stability now has none. The owners want out, the manager has quit, and the future of the great institution has a question mark against it.

Net / Net: This is probably a fairly decent thing for Arsenal.

Liverpool has to get so many things right in a very different environment to be a threat over the next 3 years.

Then you have City. I’m not sure Pep G will telegraph his exit. But it is highly unlikely he’ll still be there in 2 years time.

When the two beasts of an era are out at their clubs, a changing of the guard can happen, and I can’t see past Arsenal to be right in the mix for that.

We have a young squad that is still a way off peak, we’ll hopefully have a manager who has committed, and we’ll have a lot more experience as a squad. Namely, we’ll be able to manage Champions League and League runs together.

The key to a bright future is getting the summer right. The striker needs to be able to get 20 goals. The wingers need to be respectable back-up. The full backs are going to need to be able to last a season. Get this summer right, and anything is possible.

Ok, short post today. Let me know what you think in the comments! x