4th place is in our hands

When Leeds scored from a corner, Arsenal’s 2nd goal conceded from a corner this season, I just had a laugh. It was Leeds’ first shot in the game, such was Arsenal’s dominance. Despite the goal I didn’t feel a single nerve jangle, and I know that makes me unusual because a great many people said that they were relieved when the final whistle went, but it just never felt like Arsenal were going to lose that game. And if they had, it would have been a fluke.

The game started off perfectly. Leeds are a high pressure team but they press more individually than other sides, even under Jesse Marsch, and that pressure caused Arsenal a few problems from the start but we managed to play through their pressure and get ourselves forward, getting an early shot off for Eddie Nketiah.

And Arsenal’s pressure is often different. It’s more of a selective pressure with one or two players allowed to press wildly. Eddie did that and closed down on Leeds’ keeper Illan Meslier, nicking the ball off his toe and scoring the opening goal. If you doubt that this is part of the Arteta way, I invite you to remember how often Auba did this exact same thing and also scored.

Arsenal’s second goal came from a dribble by Martinelli. He got past Luke Ayling and Raphael Dias Belloli (Raphinha) and played in a perfect dragback for Eddie, who was waiting on the penalty spot, unmarked, reading his copy of Ivanhoe. Eddie almost made a hash of the shot, but managed to score and fall over at the same time.

Martinelli was electric yesterday, easily the best player on the pitch. His dribbling gave Leeds so many problems that their frustration eventually bubbled over and Luke Ayling tried to break his ankle with a two-footed tackle. The ref needed to look at VAR to see the atrocious tackle which is odd since it was clearly two-footed in live action but that’s a minor complaint because he did eventually get it right. Raphinha was also shown a yellow card at that moment and again, this was all a direct result of Martinelli frustrating them.

Martinelli was also a bit unlucky. He had 4 shots and I counted two of them as really good chances, one when he cut through the entire team and only missed because of the pressure.

The only complaint I have is exactly this: that Arsenal aren’t more ruthless. We have a lot of players who need to go to finishing school. But as I have learned from listening to Ian Wright on his podcast (Wrighty’s House), finishing is a skill, and one that players need to learn. There is some luck to it, of course, but it’s not as capricious as some would have you believe. Finishing takes practice, touch, and creativity. You need to see how the ball spins, how to impart spin, where to place the ball, how hard to hit it, and how to make the ball do unusual things to trick keepers and defenders. Really good finishers, the guys like Messi, have this understanding of the ball and this creativity which they can conjure up in that final instant. And for one or two players that might come naturally, but for the rest, they need to learn it.

And Arsenal also need to be more ruthless in other areas of the pitch as well. Leeds were down to 10 men, we were at home. There was a bit of a handbrake on from the 15th minute to the 60th. We created some chances but they were half-chances at best. And in the final minute of regulation, Leeds sent Meslier up on a corner, and when Arsenal won the ball back, Nicolas Pepe was one-on-one with a defender and tried to nutmeg him on the half-way line. It’s pretty clear that Pepe is a player who is low on confidence but even still, he did the one thing that he shouldn’t have done. Just kick it and run, man!

After the win, Arsenal are now in the driver’s seat for 4th place. And 3rd place is actually in play as well. Others have pointed out to me that 5th place is also in play but that’s just stinkin’ thinkin’! Obviously, I won’t be mad if Arsenal finish 5th. That’s above where I expected them to finish this season. However, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be looking forward to 3rd place. Arteta has the team playing some really good football, finally.

The big test is Thursday. Arsenal play Tottenham on Thursday, at Wet Fart Lane. It’s a huge game. However, given Arsenal’s 4 point lead on Spurs, it won’t be the 4th place decider that everyone’s making it out to be. According to 538, Arsenal have a 77% chance of finishing 4th or higher! I guess it’s a 4th place decider in one way: if Arsenal win, it will decide 4th place. If Arsenal lose or draw then 4th place is still entirely in our own hands because we will still have a 1 to 4 point lead over Spurs. That’s why our odds are so high. In essence we have to lose two of the next three matches to finish 5th. Even two draws and a win gets Arsenal 71 points, which is what 538 have us finishing with. I think we are going to finish with 73 points: a draw and two wins.

If Arsenal should get a draw or win on Thursday, I hope the fans start singing “we won 4th place, at White Hart Lane, we won 4th place at White Hart Lane!” And I hope that they make little tinfoil covered trophies that say “4th place” just for all those folks out there who’ve long said that “4th place isn’t like a trophy”.

The fuck it isn’t.



  1. I disagree with you on both Eddie and Pepe. Nketiah finished well as the ball was behind him and he had to pivot. He was always in control of that shot. As for Pepe, he was going to lose that foot race and knew it. Maybe a more confident player would have taken it on, but I don’t think that moment deserves the sort of negative attention it’s been getting for him.

    If we get 4th place and 73 points, it would have been a good season. My expectations were 4th and/or 71 points. Arteta has exceeded my expectations by not being a drag on the team, despite some decisions I don’t agree with.

    But back in the CL is where we belong, and to do it at Spurs’ ground heralding St totts’ appearance as well…well, that’s just extra special. Open top bus parade back to the Arsenal ground, and Cedric Celebration pics all week.

    1. I think I agree on the micro points (Eddie and Pepe), but disagree on the macro (4th/71 pts expectation).

      I want us to win at Spurs, but mostly because my heart can’t take much more of this and strangely, I’m much more confident of beating Spurs than Everton/Newcastle. Newcastle are flying, Everton are pumped. And anyway, Spurs play well against a team that comes to play – City, Pool, and New-Newcastle. Being 4 pts ahead means we have the luxury of not having to force a result, and can learn from teams like Brighton and Brentford. Sit tight, don’t let Kane or Son have the ball, pick our moments to break.

    2. Agree on the Eddie bit, I thought the cross arrived a tad behind where he had expected it to be, his gait was leaning forward – he had to adjust in order to generate enough power while still being where he was, thereby falling over in the process.

  2. But Pepe should know he just has to knock it past and run, James cannot risk any contact which might bring him down, and Pepe can keep angling his run across the defender until either that thing happens, or he’s near enough goal to shoot. Unfortunately, his decision-making and confidence are not exactly super sky-high currently. Still, all’s well etc.

  3. Sounds like you were less nervous than I during that last 30 mins. We should have been well out of sight.
    Feeling reasonably good about where we are. Spurs will have to come at us, which is not their strength. And a tie would suit us just fine.
    Hopefully Newcastle will be on the beach already. Everton may well be needing a result though, and relegation would be a HUGE deal for them.

  4. No nerves at all?!?! You’re an odd duck, Maestro. Or, as Doc Holliday might put it, “You, sir, are an oak.”

    I was sweating harder than a pig at a picnic.

    Win the next match.

  5. The last 20 minutes of the last game, Arsenal almost snatched a draw from the jaws of victory. The first 20 minutes were exactly how we should play, after the 2 goals and sending off the sqaud vacillated between actually looking like a blowout win, to damn, another way to be Arsenal in this last decade.

    What about 2 draws and a loss?
    5th place from no Europa, Cups or other distractions.
    Goals scored about average and goals conceded worse than the two previous years and 7 more points.

    Just going to give your optimism a healthy dose of pessimism which equates hopeful pessism or the middle path.

    It would be enough for Arteta to earn another year, I know he got 3, but that is just to tie him up if things go well, not a bad strategy either.

    However lose to spuds, crater the last 3 games, along with $h*tTy getting Haaland, Newcastle spending big, manure righting the ship, Conte possibly getting some $, chavs getting more experience and pool just being pool under Klopp and co, things sure as hell ain’t going to be easier. Arteta and company have some heavy lifting to do this last three games and into the summer, or we are going to go backwards.

    1. How about we win all our remaining 3 matches and buy the players we need this summer and push on for the EPLnext season. Man you are a barrel of laughs.. not

      1. Look, there’s the right way (what you’re saying) the wrong way (what Aaron said) and then there’s the Arsenal way. If I know my Arsenal (and I’d like to think I do) we will get 4th and then only buy Youri Tielemans.

        1. I know it was the wrong way:-) that was the point.
          There is no one way to Arsenal it up.
          All this talk of other teams, this and that, just win the damn games and that will be that!
          Would take care of the spuds debate too.

          However, if AFC get’s 4th and does not deepen our squad, score more goals next year, AFC will fall right back down into, gasp, the Europa league or conference, our new level?

          Looking forward to taking to the spuds, if we have the courage.

  6. Im with Shard on 4th; though not on points. I never look at points. United won the league with 75 points in 96/97. Points are in the context of how competitive a league is. Bottom line, if we wanted to qualify for CL, we had to finish among the top 4. And as Tim correctly says, it’s in our hands and 3rd is in play. That said, we may be on course for as many as +9 in points compared to last season (if we win all of our remaining matches), even if we’re worse off on goals scored, conceded and GD

    I watched West Ham against Frankfurt in the Europa last Thursday. The Hammers were dead on their feet after an hour. They couldn’t chase a game they needed to chase, because their legs couldn’t respond. Playing us had taken a lot out of them.

    The reason I never wavered on 4th is because Arsenal did not have to consider resting Saka and Martinelli for the weekend game, because they had played on Thursday and or/picked up a knock. Martinelli couldnt run as hard as he did if he played 3 matches in 8 days (or even a week, as Wenger’s teams sometimes had to). The thing that killed us off in our late winter wobbles was a thin squad and the European grind.

    I felt we were letting Arteta off lightly. After failing to qualify for Europe, not having the midweek grind plus spending the most on transfers, a push for Top 4 seemed/seems a not unreasonable return. That we’re doing it with Eddie leading the line is a minor miracle, but I cant feel anything but happy for the lad. You time does come if youre patient.

    Plus side. we’re playing some sumptuous stuff. And better yet, Mikel is demonstrating great tactical flexibility. Remember when all the talk was about Laca hold up play at the start of the year? Well, we’ve resorted to the Aubameyang model of speed, chasing and harrying by the striker. That’s on the manager. Tomi LB was also a great tactical switchup.

    Pepe. Had to hit it first time, didnt he? That’s a first time hit, or the chance is gone.

    Spurs are going to come hard at us because their CL lives depend on it, and theyre at home. They beat City and nearly beat Liverpoo. I think we’ll get 4th, but I dont think we’ll clinch it on Thursday. I want to be wrong, though.

    Oh, and can I tell you guys how much I love Ode? Still not convinced, Shard?

  7. Claude

    “ Mikel is demonstrating great tactical flexibility. Remember when all the talk was about Laca hold up play at the start of the year? Well, we’ve resorted to the Aubameyang model of speed, chasing and harrying by the striker. That’s on the manager “
    Then why did we give away Auba if his playing style was the winning way ?
    OK, Mikel hated him 😏

    1. Auba is going through one of his trademark slumps at Barcelona as we speak. It’ll be interesting to see if he can deliver 20 goals next season. If not, then I would concede selling him was astute. Hindsight and all.

  8. Hey Claude. Glad we’re on the same page about this. this was the first season I looked at points, mainly because I was looking to give Arteta every benefit. Normally I’d just say make 4th. Here was me just saying a 10 point improvement may not be straightforward but ought to be possible. We only went and spent the most money in the world on transfers after that. I don’t really care about the so called youth thing either, so it didn’t change anything for me.

    On Odegaard I have to confess I still don’t see it. I’m not set in a stance against him, mind you. I figure I’m most likely wrong and you’re right. I’m waiting to be wowed though. Hoping it will happen sooner rathe than later.

    1. Way I look at it, we underachieved last season with 8th. So my starting benchmark is 6th. And 6th to 4th is a reasonable expectation. Those are hard yards, mind you, but I dont think it was an unreasonable expectation. Especially given the reasons I’ve already outlined. Mikel was given the tools and conditions for that progression. So Im going to give him props and “well dones” for getting Top 4, but Im not going to recognise it as some kind of extraordinary achievement.

      We are the Arsenal; he was given the tools, he’s going into his 3rd year in the job, and the expectation that the club and he himself set is that this is where he’d be/ we’d be at this time. Remember what Willian said about being sold by Arteta on winning the Champions League during the term of his contract? Well guess what? He’d be entering the last year of it now.

      I read the spin that someone at Arsenal gave to its PR consultants (aka The Athletic) that we’re ahead of schedule. It made me smile. They forgot that Google doesn’t forget. Delighted (touch wood) to be back in Europe, though. Except for the ritual thrashings by Bayern, I’ve missed it and felt a bit jealous of Chelsea et al.

      I like the young vibe of this team, actually; but kind of wish that we’d done better at integrating some other good young players with high ceilings. But hey, Im loving the direction of travel of this bunch. I cant wait to see what we do in the summer, and to see Ode return to the Bernabeau. And show ’em.

  9. We shouldn’t forget Arsenal exited domestic cup competitions at the earliest date this season as well, so you couldn’t ask for more advantageous scenario for the league play vis a vis the top four competition.
    Placing 8th in the table two seasons running did the job of lowering expectations for most, myself included, but had you asked anyone three seasons ago if top four was a stretch expectation for Arsenal manager in his third season having spent the money we did, and they would’ve told you unequivocally you were crazy.

  10. Great game review, though it was for me personally, a very nervy finish, as I had zero confidence that we could see our the game and get all three points on offer after they scored.

    Lack of ruthlessness? 100%. They should have been put to the sword, 4-5 NiltotheArsenal. Not because I harbour any particular dislike of the opponent, but because that’s what top teams do. Eviscerate a relegation zone team with 10 men. Not allow them a goal and get back into it.

    But this was huge, because there is very little chance of a result on Thursday. In recent history visiting teams in the NLD have done poorly. S#&@s are playing very well. Son is a beast.

    We need a bit of anti-football this one time. Sit deep, low block (hello Mo Elneny), park the bus, and take our chances when they come. We are pretty good at counter-attacking football. We have the speed and youth to punish teams on the break. A draw would be huge.

    1. I want to see a heavy defense out there. White and Holding and Tomiyasu and get Tony Adams out of retirement to put in a shift.

  11. A good match review Tim but you are a very cool customer if our loss of game management in the last ten minutes after 65 minutes of total dominance and silky ball movement didn’t cause you some concern!

    Looking to Thursday, the Marshdwellers have gained astonishingly good results against top teams this season by playing a low block and relying on Kane and Son to strike on the break which they achieve with sickening regularity. Against teams that require them to break down a low block, they have always struggled. They currently lack the creativity of a Modric or Eriksson to unlock tight, well drilled defences.

    In the Wenger era we fell into Mourinho’s ‘rope a dope’ strategy regularly. Hopefully Arteta has learnt from playing in some of those games and watching those tapes. I would keep Holding alongside Gabriel, start White at RB/RCB with Tomi at LB/LWB with Saka dropping back when necessary to RWB to allow us to play 3 at the back when necessary, with Elneny and Xhaka screening the CBs. Son’s pace must be neutralised and we should aim to keep a tight ship and strike them on the break using the pace of Ødegaard, Martinelli, Nketiah and Saka to hit them hard and regularly.

    1. I’ll be honest, I may just be at the point where I no longer care as much as I used to. Wenger once said that every loss is like a scar on the heart, well I wear my heart on my sleeve and frankly after the last 5 years of Arsenal football, it’s got as lot of scar tissue on it.

  12. People talk about expectations and where we finished last year vs this as if things happen in a vacuum. I genuinely think the league has been pretty tough this year, not just in terms of the top teams but mid table teams too. Palace, Villa, Brighton, Brentford, all capable of taking points off anyone. Newcastle from Jan. And then you have Spurs and West Ham, both of whom have improved. West Ham would be doing even better without the Euro distraction.

    To say 4th is a reasonable expectation because we were good enough for 6th last year is like saying we should be expected to be the best of the rest. That’s a big statement to make.

    1. Depending on which browser I use, one or other of Tim’s old stories shows at the bottom of his page. This one — as fate would have it — sat there on a recent visit to 7am. Something made me check it out. Im glad that I did.


      How far we’ve traveled. We give, to Arteta (a coach given all of the tools to meet expectations we used to consider minimum ones) the kind of leeway that we never did to Wenger. And it’s remarkable to watch. He’s done an excellent job selling us, the fanbase, on lowered expectations. And too many have substituted support for the club for support for the manager. I make no allowances for the fact that he’s a rookie (rookie-ish by now) manager. That’s Josh and Stan’s prerogative. I don’t have to build that into my expectations.

      I’m totally with Tom on this.

      But all that said — to stress and repeat — as a gooner, I want him to succeed. If he does, Arsenal does. Im definitely moving in his direction, because he’s meeting my expectations — footballistically, and results-wise.

  13. Adjusting expectations is a very tricky game. There are many who say we should have higher expectations since we didn’t challenge for the Cups. If that’s so, then shouldn’t we have lower expectations if Thomas Partey gets injured? Or Tomiyasu? Or Tierney? If we raise expectations when the team spend 160mm in Summer, do they go down if we spend 0 in January? Just as we shouldn’t reassess the entire season based on any one game, we shouldn’t reassess because of whether we’re in the Cups, or whether a player got injured, or what was spent. The body of work is the fair measure, and the direction of travel. 5th or 4th won’t drastically change my assessment of the manager. I would be disappointed with 5th, but I like the idea that I will be disappointed with 5th rather than yearning for 5th, which is how it felt before the season.

    For me, it’s hard and soft factors. Points in the table, XG and XGA are the hard factors. We are delivering CL quality numbers there. We could clearly be better, but we have improved.

    Soft factors mean a lot to me. The eye test for our style of play. Much better. Getting the most out of players – having Xhaka and Elneny stabilizing our midfield. Finding ways to win without Tomi and Tierney.

    But like Claude, I took a stroll down Arsenal memory lane this week. I had a little PTSD when I happened on some old highlights. This image reminds me of where we have been: https://1drv.ms/u/s!Al2vKs4MEsHYgeNuHnB7gqNMh_YImw?e=tCbPjH

    This was the state of the club. Errors that were followed by finger-pointing and discord. Players that were not on board, unwilling to play away games, lots of drama off the field. Fans that were disgruntled, disillusioned and pessimistic. A team headed in the wrong direction, with so much needing to be fixed.

    Now, there’s an optimism and confidence that’s palpable. Even when mistakes are made, we don’t have that same dour outlook. Fans singing the coach’s praises again. You may not have liked or agreed with the decisions along the way, but that’s a big change for the better. We are moving in the right direction. We have a platform for the future. For me, that’s bigger than 5th or 4th.

    1. Apart from the excellent points above about numerical expectations, I really struggle to see how Arteta has improved our style of play. The moments of quality are generally individual rather than team-based. Which is fine, as long as results follow.

      Also, when you’re relying heavily on individual quality (which he really really wants in the striking department) you have to deal with individual egos. If there’s a striker out there who converts one in two chances while also conducting themselves like the Dalai Lama… I really hope they’re an Arsenal player come June. (but realistically, there probably isn’t. Or the transfer fee would give Stan a fit.)

      1. Interesting how we perceive the differences, THW14. I felt like Arteta got some criticism about relying on cutbacks too much, which to me feels like trying to rely on tap-ins vs. individual brilliance. But yes, I do see a reliance on the wingers to make attacking work – so a lot of guys cutting in and shooting. Still, isn’t Odegaard near the top of the league in chances created? That’s team-based in my book, but maybe you’re thinking more about the 5 or 6 quick one touches around the box that result in a goal? Agree we don’t see that as much. Would love to get a sense of what you perceive is missing.

        I’d say the biggest team play improvement is our ability to overcome pressure and work the ball up the field. I see that as hugely improved, especially with Partey playing and healthy. I used to want to curl up in a ball watching us work our way out of our own third. Now I’m generally confident we will manage it, especially against mid and lower table teams, where we had struggled for a while. We seem calmer and more capable in build-up than I’ve seen in a long time.

        Second would be our ability to maintain pressure and win back the ball in the attackiing third. In several games, we’ve been able to just suffocate opponents, which I really enjoy. That’s definitely a team effort vs. individual.

        1. It’s very subjective but aesthetically, I prefer when we play through the centre of the pitch, relying on winning technical battles (passing or dribbling through tight spaces to reach dangerous areas) in midfield. Overlapping fullbacks stretch the opposition defense but are not a primary attacking outlet.

          That preference for attacking through the centre can devolve into horseshoe passing, unless you invest in the right talent (yes to Odegaard, Partey, more Smith Rowe, and please replace Xhaka).

          But the wide-and-in approach that Arteta favours very quickly devolves into chipped crosses intended for god-knows-who. It feels like trying to put a fedora on AllarDyche-ball.

          Passing out the back is a very important part of trying to play through the centre. However, Arteta’s interpretation of it for a good while was to outsource playmaking duties to David Luiz (!) and bypass the midfield altogether (including by hiding Xhaka, illustrated by one of Tim’s best analyses imho*).

          Mercifully we’ve seen less of that travesty this season, but I can’t shake the feeling that he thinks midfield is for structure rather than innovation. That approach has to live and die on results – aesthetically, it does very little for me.

          * https://7amkickoff.com/index.php/2020/07/22/what-arteta-has-done-to-xhaka/

  14. Relived about the win against Leeds, it would be great to finish the job at Wet Fa#t Lane (nice name!).

    I hope the reason we spared Leeds, is not to smash their confidence and have a good go at Chelsea. It obviously would be great if we can go past the Chavs. It’s been so long but I assume, as a bonus, it would save us some early CL qualifiers.

    Also, I hope West Ham get 6th. ManU are a bigger threat traditionally, so it would good to keep them down. Despite being a misfit, Ronaldo has been scoring a lot of goals. They might get their act together, this transfer window. However, big players wouldn’t want to play in the Conference League.

  15. This lower expectations thing.

    Our last top 4 finish was 6 years ago. Six. 2 seasons ago Pool won the league 43 points in front of us.

    Mikel didn’t sell me on lowered expectations, and I haven’t been duped into accepting less. My expectations are based on the last 6 years of football and the reality of what it takes to change.

    If some people’s expectation this season was top 4 then that’s great, I like the ambition, but there should be a way of saying that without saying that everyone else is falling for club PR, while you’re the smart one with the high standards.

    It’s a little bit insulting. To the other supporters, and also to everyone at the club, including manager and players, who are trying to deliver change, trying to instill higher standards, and trying to bring the supporters with them.

    For a long time there was no expectation or credible plan for putting Arsenal back together and getting us back to the top. It looked like we were going to be behind City, Pool and Chelsea (and United) basically forever, except maybe for the odd lucky season where we break in.

    Now there is an expectation, from me anyway, that we are on a pathway to reclaim a sustained place in the top 4, in an ever more competitive league, and even to challenge the dominance of the top 2.

    This means that my expectations are now higher. If anything Mikel has in fact started to sell me on higher expectations. It’s pretty ironic.

    1. My expectations are based on the club’s own past statements, including the infamous one about competing with Bayern.

      Of course that can be dismissed as the over-promises of an ex CEO. But I choose to hold them to it because it’s a London club with a billionaire owner, highest ticket prices in the world, huge international following paying for TV subscriptions, best online engagement in the world aiming for… sixth? That looks like revenue-motivated expectation management.

      I’m guilty of suggesting Arteta defenders are falling for spin. But despite my perennial scepticism, I was and have always been willing him to succeed, not least because he wore our colours. It’s when we start pretending that he’s overachieving/ahead of schedule etc that I get bothered. He’s doing enough at the moment to keep his job. That’s a compliment – it’s a tough job and he’s a first time manager!

      But there is a lot of spin around his performance, much of it coming from the club, and I don’t think it’s unfair to observe that it’s having the Kroenkes’ desired effect. Unfortunately, what’s good for the Kroenkes and what’s good for the fans have historically been different things. Spend seriously on the right positions (striker and central midfield) this summer, and I will happily change my mind.

      1. Fair comment, thanks. I get how comments about being ahead of schedule could be frustrating.

        I have no love for the Kroenkes, but I assume they are investing because Arsenal is their one true global brand, potentially immensely lucrative, and they will totally rake it in if we get back to regular, deep CL runs and competing for the title. I have assumed all season, based on the work that’s already been done, that the striker and midfielder (and more) are coming. If investment dries up, after all the pain we’ve gone through to get lean, I’ll be very confused by what the Kroenkes are thinking and I’ll also be straight on the barricades.

        I don’t dismiss the Bayern comment, and I agree that it’s relevant. But for me that’s because it’s an example of the complete absence of serious planning and responsibility that’s dogged Arsenal for years, and it provides a useful contrast with the situation now.

        That was a promise made 10 years ago by Gadzidis, in an interview in which he was talking about how with the new stadium behind us and FFP coming in, we would be soon be competitive with the biggest self-sustaining clubs in the world like Bayern.

        In other words, Arsenal’s entire strategy at that time was to hope that FFP would negate the oil money. That’s basically a public admission that there was no strategy. There was a vacuum in leadership at the heart of the club, our whole “plan” was to hope for FIFA to implement rules in our favour.

        Contrast with today, where the talk is no longer about money or FFP, and the strategy is all about what happens inside the club, what we can do in the dressing room and on the pitch and throughout the club to win. It’s about taking our destiny into our own hands. It’s about having a plan, with steps and phases that you work through, on how you’re going to get from where you are now to where you plan to be.

        I don’t dismiss this as spin or promising the future, I welcome it as a completely necessary change in approach.

      2. Last comment – I recognise as well that of course there is PR from the club, and there always has been and always will be.

        There is PR from every club, and complaining about it is like complaining about the existence of PR, period. Which I do, often.

        But in terms of getting annoyed by the content – it doesn’t usually bother me unless it’s egregious. It’s PR, it’s always a bit cynical, it’s there to attempt to keep you engaged and keep you spending.

        I see interviews with the manager, but I never forget that he’s doing PR, fulfilling a media obligation, not giving us the unvarnished truth. Beyond that I rarely go on the .com, I don’t follow Arsenal or any of the players on social media, I don’t follow supporters on social media. Maybe my exposure to it is less, so it bothers me less.

      3. Of course there’s spin coming from the club, just as there’s lowering of expectations, and pointing this out doesn’t make me smarter, or someone with higher standards who’s looking down on others.

        C’mon, when Edu was asked about the club’s goals for this season, he said he just wanted to see the new players gel together and stay fit lol.
        And completely dodged the top four or top six question.

  16. Greg

    On the PR thing, I’m actually jealous that you believe in the club’s plan. I wish I could. But personally, I find it manipulative and aimed at protecting Arteta (as the face of the project) And in this, everything is deemed fair game.

    Just before this Leeds game he spoke of our legends hopefully realising that they will be welcome if they want to contribute, but anyone poisoning the club will be kept far away. this is not new either since he spoke before of people inside harming the club. He even pulled this on the fans by creating a distinction between fans and supporters.

    If this is the new direction of the club, I can’t say I’m loving it. Honestly, I don’t think anyone is falling for anything as such, but as far as I’m concerned his whole PR schtick is based on the assumption that we were a broken mess before him. If you believe that, you find it a lot easier to believe in this project and by default, in him. So everything that is done, no matter how contentious, how disappointing, how potentially harmful, it is all in service of the greater good, and if you say otherwise you are poisoning the club.

    Yes, we’re not talking about money or FFP now because we’re spending from the reserves we built up by worrying about them. Can you honestly tell me Arteta has spent that money judiciously? I don’t believe he has, and again, if you believe it was all rotten before and thereby necessary now, you won’t think this is an issue and it is just him fixing issues. We’ll see, but I have real doubts about this project being all about getting to the top consistently. Results certainly haven’t borne this out as much as the talk. When the rubber meets the road in Europe we’ll see whether Mikel has improved from when he was complaining about European trips taking away from time to train.

    He may believe the club is synonymous with him, the way he acts, but what we’re doing, and whether anyone else could do better, are questions his PR tries to delegitimise. Claude referred to meeting expectations footballistically and results wise. I’d add culturally into that, and here is where Mikel is failing abjectly for me, which can seem annoying, or just looking for an excuse to be angry, or even *gulp* poisonous, but there it is.

    1. That “poison” comment from Mikel showed who he is. Someone intolerant of dissent or even mild criticism. He has no power over what ex players who have contributed far more to the club than he has can say, but he has power over the players now in the squad. It is very easy to see to how someone who, for example, questions a tactical approach can be frozen out.

      That comment reeked of insecurity, and begged the question, “WTH does he think he is?” Infuriating and unnecessary.

      But we should thank him for so clearly distilling one of the main criticisms of him.

      And btw, Shard, balance and ambivalence are good. Necessary, even. You can warm to someone for rational reasons, and still deplore their bad tics.

    2. I agree with a lot of this and you do a good job of distilling why he makes me uncomfortable and why I’ll probably never be fully behind him. He is very much an autocrat and anyone who even remotely questions him is shut down and excluded. Like you say though, if you thought the club were an utter shambles for the last 10 years then you’re probably on board with these changes. For me, the only thing that’s been the shambles is the very top and once again, having Arteta out there basically taking the hits for them is very beneficial. If Arsenal fail once again they can say “well we gave him money” and “we did everything he wanted” but if you look at the root causes of all of these problems they lie directly with Stan and Josh.

  17. Come on, boys. You heard Tim Todd. “Fourth place is in our hands”. Let’s storm the ramparts, and seize the prize. When we’ve achieved landmarks on enemy territory, we talk about it for decades after.

    Head says Spurs; heart says someone makes himself a hero this afternoon; pragmatic self says Spurs win or draw. I hope the heart wins. COYG!

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