ARSENAL VS MANCHESTER UNITED – IT MATTERS AGAIN

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Arsenal vs Manchester United isn’t the game it used to be, but for once, a game against the two clubs, in April, finally has something riding on it outside nostalgia.

Manchester United, according to 538, has a 1% chance of top4, but they are still a team of very good individuals, and Ronaldo will start and he’s obviously going to pull out a superhuman performance if he’s started after the absolutely horrendous crisis in his personal life. That could spark United so we have to be prepared that there’s a game on our hands.

Arsenal, according to the same 538 analysis now has a 51% chance of making it into the top 4.

Spurs and Arsenal, tracking on the same points, but Arsenal has a problematic goal difference. The reason I’m not concerned about that is the hope we can kick up a head of steam and make the game against them the decider.

Am I dreaming? If rather not speak…

United have had one more day rest than us. I also think it’s worth remembering that a total spanking and humiliation generally doesn’t mean the next game is going to be the same. I don’t know what the data is, but when a team gets hammered, they generally play a much more disciplined game the week after in a bid to rectify it. I’d rather play a team with three 1-0 losses on the bounce than go to a team licking wounds from a humiliation.

I’d also rather go into a home game after pulling off a miracle win no one saw coming with a beaten-up squad.

Arteta has to keep the adrenaline firing. He has to have the top 4 bonus pinned to the wall. If top 4 were a person in an office, we’d be so close, it’d be an HR complaint. Beat United, in front of the home fans, and we’ll be in really sexy form heading into a West Ham game you’d have to imagine David Moyes will not really be interested in.

Lose… and we’ll have to listen to all the whingers again and it’ll be a coin toss of a race until the end of the season.

This is a big game.

If we play the way we did against Chelsea, we’ll win, it’s as simple as that.

Things I’m looking for?

We really need to sharpen at the back. Ben White needs to find his swagger, he’s been in rough form. Aaron Ramsdale needs to get his confidence back, I don’t like seeing him punching balls and pushing shots into dangerous areas, because I have seen him at peak, and peak Aaron is a force of nature. Tomiyasu might be back in the mixer if training goes well today, I’d have him at right-back. I have to be honest, I would rather have Bukayo as a left-wingback against the United forward line, Tavares is still very green, and Bukayo is just a far more accomplished player for a game of this magnitude.

The big thing? We need to be ruthless with our chances. We scored 4 goals from 4 shots on target against Chelsea. If we’re going to beat United, we have to find our finishing boots. An in-form Eddie gives me confidence we have someone who will 1) get into dangerous positions 2) finish a half chance. The great thing about Eddie is he’s played so little, it’s very hard to prepare for him.

The most important people in that ground are the home fans. They’ve been fucking magnificent this season. I’ve been trying to put my finger on what is missing with a certain type of very online fan and I think it’s the lack of understanding around proper fan culture. Someone told me yesterday, on my own site, that they wanted a truce on shitting on Arsenal… if we beat United. This is the day after beating the European Champions.

Firstly, supporting a club can’t be predicated on winning every game. Secondly, that sort of rhetoric is shaken out of you at a young age in England. Criticise the club, have a pop at players, protest, scream in your car on the internet after a loss… but when it comes to winning games, if your first thought is how you can degrade it or minimize its impact… you are doing it wrong. Jurgen Klopp said the after the semi with Benfica, ‘if I can’t be happy after a win, what is the point?’.

Part of it comes from a generation of fans who watch youtube videos from standards merchants. They think that getting excited about a win or the chase for top 4 means you aren’t elite. It’s a badge of honor to put themselves above the above joy of every other Arsenal fan. It’s not. People that behave like that, more often than not, have no standards in their own personal lives and it’s just a projection… the equivalent of a celeb standing next to a private jet, only to get on a Ryanair flight.

The best foreign fans get the culture, they work hard to be a part of it, they are often crazier than the home fans. Pop down to O’Hanolons in New York if you want to see that in action. When I moved away, the thing I missed the most was the shared misery of being in the stadium with 60,000 others that were feeling the same. So when you see people trying to create shared misery after wins, it rankles. The home fans this season get it, they know the squad is young, they see something special is brewing. That atmosphere that has been created this season home and away has been worth 10 points, it’s magic, it’s just a shame that some people are so desperate to seem important, they can’t even enjoy a win. Why bother?

MOAN OVER.

Let’s hope there’s a massive response. We’re in the mixer. We need to be after tomorrow. The only way that happens is if the team shows up and the fans do the same.

I CANNOT WAIT.

P.S. Watch our podcast. We had the biggest 24hrs we’ve ever had post-Chelsea game. It is AMAZING that more people tune in after a win.

ACAST | SPOTIFY | AUDIBLE


KING EDDIE LEADS CHELSEA SPANKING

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‘I was SO wrong about Eddie’

Mikel Arteta holding his hands up after the young English striker showed the whole Premier League their ‘League 1 Eddie’ banter was a total nonsense.

Arsenal went to Stamford Bridge after 3 losses on the bounce and scored 4 goals. Everything I said in the build-up to the game still stands.

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GETTING PRAGMATIC ABOUT ARSENAL SITUATION AND THE CHELSEA GAME

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Well hello there, before we get into the Chelsea bits, let’s follow-up on some of the challenges to the culture piece I penned yesterday.

HOW CAN YOU HAVE CULTURE IF YOU MAKE BIG REDUNDANCIES

There are two parts to this point.

  1. A lot of people think culture is roasting marshmallows over a fire talking about feelings at a company retreat. That’s not it. Culture is not about making people feel warm and cosy (though it can be). It’s about orienting behaviors around a business vision.
    1. Pixar films has an epic culture built around technology and elite storytelling. It’s a creative first culture. They wanted to the be the greatest. But that obsessive culture led to extreme burnout of staff at the beginning to the point where people were forgetting to drop their kids off at school, leaving them in the Pixar parking lot.
    2. Steven Cohen ran SAC Capital, one of the most successful hedge funds ever to have existed. His business beat out the competition because his staff were tasked with finding edge in the market (information). He was so ruthless about performance, that his staff eventually pushed into some extremely shady practices that moved into illegality. His culture was not warm or fuzzy, it was the most aggressive on Wall Street (his office was in Connecticut), it was led by fear, but it delivered results.
  2. Business realities are business realities. If you need to lay off 50 people because the world changes, that is what happens. It doesn’t mean you have a bad culture. Quite the opposite for a few reasons.
    1. A business can’t function if it’s not making money. Survival takes precedence over everything. If you have to fire sales staff because there’s nothing to sell, that’s what happens.
    2. Culling people can in fact become part of the culture. Bridgewater has a mad scoring tool for staff. You grade every interaction with your colleagues so people can get continuous feedback on them. If you hit a certain score, you are fired. That is a horrendous environment to work in for most people, but those who thrive in it make more money than me or you.
    3. Culling staff can motivate other staff. GE used to mandate that 10% of underperformers each year were sacked. He’d call it removing the ‘C players.’ I’ve had bosses tell me to do the same in the past. Average performers in high-performance environments bring the level of the top performers down and they encourage those with a penchant for not doing much to slip a level. There are some industries, like elements of public service, where no one ever gets fired. I worked with an Irish Government incubator that was based in London and one of the leads there told me the person above them would go to sleep on their keyboard on a Friday afternoon and snore so loudly, the people below could hear. The culture allowed for that to go on. If you did that in finance, you’d be fired before your head hit the keyboard.

HOW CAN YOU HAVE CULTURE WHEN NUNO IS PULLED AT HALFTIME (more…)


ARSENAL CULTURE WORKSHOP: WHAT IT MIGHT LOOK LIKE

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Arsenal is hiring a corporate culture consultancy to help them with the mess at Arsenal HQ. I’ve been hearing rumblings for about 6 months about some of the things that have been going on, it’s not great, a lot of demotivated people, and some grim people fired and replaced already.

Man like Matt Kandela, a business owner and a corporate operator thinks this is a good thing. I can see the upside, there’s a messy corporate environment, and Arsenal is facing up to it and taking action.

However… the leak is there to damage Vinai. The reaction online today is probably what that person wanted. No one tells David Ornstein things are so messy on the corporate side we need a consultancy if they think that’s a positive story. It means there’s a lack of leadership and worse: the tools to repair it aren’t readily available internally. Ivan Gazidis has been gone since 2018, Don Raul has been gone since 2020, and only now are we getting to the business culture? Not great.

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LET’S GET PHILOSOPHICAL

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Steve Rowley, our Chief Scout through some of our most successful periods passed after a short battle with illness at 63. That is no age. My thoughts are with his family and friends right now. Truly awful on every level. The only positive you can take on occasions like this is that he was part of something extremely special that left and imprint on the history of a football club that’ll be around forever. Legacy, it’s a beautiful thing to leave behind. Big love from all at Le Grove x

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Maybe that sort of thing has shaped how I’m going to be thinking about the rest of the season. Because at the end of the day, there are more important things to waste time being angry about than football.

Let’s open today with a tweet from Man Like Matt Kandela. Watch the video then rejoin the post.

Are you back?

Are you pumped?

Good stuff. Let’s proceed.

I’m going to go all Trainspotting on your right now: You choose what Arsenal you see. You choose your emotions, how to look at then game, what sort of fan you want to be, and right now, I’m choosing to be a philosophical one that sips from a jug of half-full rosé.

Arsenal have made a pigs ear of the last three games, we should have taken at least 7 points from them, and if we had delivered… we’d be choke-slamming top 4 off the top rope right now.

We didn’t.

There are lots of reasons you can highlight.

My GroupChat and podcast team think January was a miss.

I think Arteta mismanaged the players he had at his disposal.

There’s also a pretty strong case for luck not going out way. The only team with a worse xG differential in the league than us this season is Brighton now. Remember the doom-mongers about our December xG? Where are they with the defence of us now?

The Palace game was a bad start by us and we gifted them goals from our own mistakes, but we had enough good chances to beat them.

The Brighton game was bad tactics from Arteta, if he’d given minutes to certain players earlier in the season, we’d have won that game. We lost off two very, very lucky goals from a team that doesn’t score.

Then the Southampton game was a flukey hooked pass from the second phase of a corner. Saka buries that chance on a normal day, ESR gets a better connection when he’s firing, normally a team scores when they have 23 shots in a game. Chelsea scored 6 from 24 shots the week before.

55 shots over 3 games. 1 goal.

Paint the Arteta comeuppance however you like, but this moment isn’t an Emery collapse when you dig a little deeper, ours is underpinned by the luck going against us, not the ramifications of the luck running out because we are shit.

Here’s where you need to helicopter out and get philosophical.

Arsenal aren’t shit.

If you think Arteta is a dreadful manager that should be fired, then you are going to have to explain to me how he has us in contention for top 4 with 7 games to go with the youngest squad in the league without a striker that can score goals.

Something is going right somewhere. We’ve already established that we are unlucky. You don’t need xG to tell you that, just look at the decisions that have gone against us this season.

My hope for this season was to be in contention for the top 4 come the end of the season. I wanted us to be competitive.

Well, that’s exactly where we are. In fact, we’ve been so much better than expected, people now think Arteta should be sacked because we haven’t cleared up top 4 seven games before the end of the season. Silly commentary, don’t you think? It has to be noted, most of the people I know that think that way were calling for Arteta to be sacked after the first three games, and had him down as exiting the club in December.

Philosophically, look at where we are.

Competing for top 4 with a group of players that have mostly never won a trophy. They are extremely green. Most are kids. These young players haven’t had the experience or the pressure of competing at this level. None of them have had to deal with form dips. They haven’t felt fan expectation like this, none of them have had the weight of a clubs history on their shoulders.

People also seem to miss that we had 4 of our first team players out yesterday. 3 in the previous game. 3 by the end of the Palace game. Take the full backs out of the Liverpool and City teams, what do you have? Problems. Take out 4 of Spurs best players, you think Conte is carrying a 10 game winning run? He can’t even manage that with Kane and Son at their peak.

The fans in the ground get it 100%, online, not so much.

Where do you want to be coaching wise? Antonio Conte? I hear so much about how incredible he is, but my good friend David, a season ticket holder at Spurs, told me the Brighton game was the worst performance of the season, including Nuno games. Ralf Rangnick? David Moyes? Mourinho? Carlo? Where is the silverbullet?

I’d rather be with the coach on the rise competing with the silverbullet managers everyone pointed to as missed opportunities for Arsenal.

Arteta has some work to do on his player management, he has to learn to listen to the experts at the club that manage player health, he has to understand that young players that aren’t given minutes are going to be able to slip right into the team. Instead of giving minutes to 12 players that needed developing, he should have been sharing the minutes with 16 of them, so they understand what is expected of them. We opted for a young manager, he’s learning on the job with Arsenal, but let’s again reiterate… all managers make mistakes and most of the ‘HE’S THE ONE’ coaches that have far more experience than Arteta had failed.

We have some clear problems with clear solutions. You couldn’t say that at the end of last season. The path forward has never had more clarity.

The difference between goals and expected goals in -10 this season.

That is a solvable issue however you cut it. 10 more goals and we are cruising into the top 4.

How do we get there?

Young players get better in front of goal. They get more experienced, better under pressure, and they grow in confidence.

You recruit more players that can step up with goals.

Arteta wanted a striker this January, they went down many avenues, agents fees were the difference for Vlahovic. We’re just not going to give £13m to them after the Raul tenure. We will sign a big name striker like Darwin Nunez this summer. That gives you a runner that we don’t have right now. That gives you a target in the box. That gives you a total fucking bully that asks questions of defenders all game. That gives you pedigree in front of goal at a Champions League level.

We don’t have that right now… and we are still in the mixer for 4th with 7 games to go.

Arsenal don’t need a squad overhaul this summer, we have a foundation that is really good, that will get better. We don’t need to fill the squad with more back-up players. What we need is 3-4 players that are ready-made for the first team. That’s why signing a ‘back-up’ striker in the summer was a waste of time. That’s why signing bodies would have been pointless. We need 2 midfielders of pedigree that can bench Granit Xhaka. Neves, Tielemans, or Renato Sanches do that job for you. We need forwards that are going to add goals like Rashford, Dybala, Neves, or Oshimen.

Add proper players to the squad this summer, with pedigree, experience, and hunger and we are cooking next season.

Champions League qual this season was always a big ask.

Europe was the goal.

Arsenal are thinking with the longterm in mind these days because we aren’t rich enough to waste money on drossy short-term ideas.

No team is better placed to move forward than Arsenal.

Drastic changes are not needed.

Bold strategic moves is the only way we kick on.

But that doesn’t start next season, it starts now.

Why can’t we get a point or more from Chelsea this week? When are Arsenal going to get a properly grim result where the luck rolls out way? What can Arteta do to rally his troops and get them back on the right track?

1 point against Chelsea. 3 points against United this weekend. Well, we’re back in the mixer.

Success right now would be making that Spurs away day a Cup Final of consequence.

We have the talent to do it. Do we have the luck? Let’s hope so.

You can be angry about our last 3 games, that’s up to you, but I tell you what… I can see online that most are keener to rally around the squad and look at the club with rose tinted glasses because that’s what being a football fan is all about.

So fuck the misery, time to get our big boy boots on and slide two footed into Wednesday like your name was Granit Xhaka against a top 2 side.

That’s the spirit.

See you in the comments. Watch our podcast. Tell Matt Kandela his tweet was awesome.


FOOTBALLING GODS SLAP ARTETA FOR POOR PLAYER MANAGEMENT

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Well, the footballing gods work in mysterious ways, and no doubt, right now, they are teaching Mikel Arteta a thing or two about how you treat people.

We’ve lost 3 games we should have done better in. 7 points, which would have ben par the course for us this season, would have us choking out top 4 right now. Instead, we’ve exited with 0 points. A really, really poor haul.

There’s obviously a lot of vitriol in the system right now, that is the way of the world, it’s a results business and Arteta has bottled this run as hard as Unai Emery did in his first season. The difference in this run is that the luck really hasn’t worked in our favor.

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ARTETA DOUBLES DOWN ON XHAKA

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The presser is IN and there are some bits that I did NOT like.

Mikel Arteta is digging his heels in over Granit Xhaka.

‘If you see the statistics’

Yes, we know that Granit is a capable left-back, we know that Mikel does not like Nuno, but Xhaka at left-back isn’t about being left-back, it’s about the midfield.

Sambi and Odegaard is not a natural pairing. Odegaard deeper reduces our chance creation. Moving Granit into left-back upsets the entire team.

It’s also not a great way to treat Nuno.

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