Wrong way

I took Avie to his mom’s house on Saturday morning. We were driving on the freeway toward Union street and had just exited from I-5 to Hwy16 where there’s a 300 foot long American flag flapping near the Sprague street exit. The freeway here is 100 feet in the air, a marvel of concrete and engineering, and it curves to give your car the sense that it’s flying over the Nalley Valley. Just as we crest the hill an exit curves to the right and the freeway continues to the left toward Gig Harbor. These are typical American freeways.: 3-4 lanes wide, one-way traffic, all moving along at a good clip with each direction of the freeway separated by either a massive berm, impassible by car, or as is the case on this particular road hundreds of feet of air with the edges protected by concrete barriers.

And yet, there it was. A pair of headlights coming at me and the other drivers, blowing up dust as they hugged concrete guard rails which keep the cars from flying off the overpass like Thelma and Louise and crashing to their death below. I marveled at this car, how did they get into this situation? Why were they still driving? Where were they thinking they were going to turn around or get off? It’s all one-way traffic! There is no turnaround for probably hundreds of miles. The only logical thing to do is to stop and maybe call a tow truck.

They breezed past me, my jaw open in disbelief. Avie and I looked at each other and laughed at the sheer absurdity of the situation. I checked the car in my rearview mirror, it was still going along, against the flow of traffic. And that’s when I noticed on each side of the trunk the two yellow rectangular bumper stickers with red lettering which read: STUDENT DRIVER.



  1. I was in a taxi in Cairo one time and the traffic on the highway was all backed up. Without batting an eyelid the driver exited, crossed the bridge and drove the wrong way down the exit ramp onto the other lane. We drove 1 junction down the hard shoulder – noone coming the other (correct) way even so much as honked at us

    1. Oh Cairo is a different beast. I’ve grown up in countries with absolutely zero traffic sense or laws, pure chaos – Istanbul, Kuwait City, Tehran – but Cairo is the biggest mfer I’ve ever seen.

      1. Tehran, oh Tehran. Navigating a roundabout in 4 lane traffic is not for the fainthearted. My elbow, resting on the front passenger window sill, was flinching pulled away many times in anticipation of losing it when a car smashed into it. Tehranis and Iranians in general take pleasure in mastering bad traffic habits… and driving home stone drunk (in other cities besides Tehran).

  2. Hey, be nice to Gervinho!

    Tim, I’m glad Nobody was injured. What a disaster. Must’ve been terrifying and then hilarious in jarringly rapid succession.

    I’ve been following the transfer scuttlebutt from a distance. Anyone know this Paqueta chap? I was not very impressed by his physicality on the obligatory YouTube compilations and with the Fabio signing you’d think we are well stocked in the creative department. I don’t see what he adds to the team, honestly; is he really superior to Tielemans??

    Too bad about Raphinha but when a player has his heart set on Barcelona, that’s what happens. I’m just grateful that Chelsea didn’t get him.

    Lisandro is a nice player but I don’t blame Arsenal for pulling out at that price.

    Looking at the squad, we still need a credible alternate to Saka on the right wing (my hunch: it will be Pepe. Arteta’s got to get a tune out of him), a credible backup left back (Nuno is not it, not yet), and a box to box central midfielder who is clearly better than Granit Xhaka. Or at least just as good as Xhaka but at different things, like running and tackling and dribbling and making runs into the box. Arsenal were really good when he started alongside Partey last season and terrible when one of them was missing.

    Work still to do.

    1. Zinchenko looks a go. I like it, but my concern is we’re going to try to have him be two players. A starting 8, but also a backup LB. For me, this is penny pinching. When Tierney goes down and Zin moves back, does Xhaka start? That’s not exactly ideal! One injury means a reshuffle. Who comes in when both Zin and Tierney need a breather? Cedric?

      I’d much rather a LB who can compete with and usurp Tierney while Tavares is on loan, AND a MF to make that spot their own (Tielemans, maybe Paqueta). I know it’s money, and maybe we need that money to fill an unexpected gap deeper in midfield (maybe), but still.

      Also, for some reason I’m absolutely convinced we’re going to sign Jarrod Bowen.

      1. I like the Zinchenko signing too. Similar to Gabriel Jesus in that he’s a ready made player who immediately improves the squad. By all accounts he seems to do two things well: work hard and play disciplined positional game off the ball and be able to keep it or progress it. So, 100% the type of player Arteta values, never mind their personal connection. I do wonder what they saw in Lisandro that made them go for that player first. As many people have said, I see more sense in securing a known quantity who is familiar with the league already.

        His fit in the squad is similar to what he did at City, I would guess. I don’t think he is meant to be our first choice #8, but it’s nice that he can fill in there in a pinch. I think the #8 is Xhaka as things stand but I do believe the club is looking for a major signing in that position. I still think Tierney will be LB1 but this is going to push him in a serious way to keep his job and paradoxically help him keep it by keeping him off the physio’s table.

        I don’t want to throw shade on Nuno or Lokinga but this signing is a tacit admission that those players are not ready to be relied upon at this level. They both transitioned at a young age from really small leagues to the most competitive one so it’s no surprise. Nuno is basically an elite athlete but without the requisite technical ability and Lokonga doesn’t quite seem to have the fire in his belly or confidence that he belongs. They could both use a season on loan.

  3. We got Zinchenko. Solid buy, although part of me says “another City castoff”. Ah well.

    On the YouTube evidence, he quarterbacks very effectively from the 3 or 8. Looks like the outright competition that Tierney needs, and that Xhaka will get. I like the player, and the price is good. Wasn’t that high on Tielemans, tbh.

    A bit surprised about the swiftness of making Nuno a castoff. Raw player, but superb athlete and good in the final third. This is where a coach is supposed to earn his spurs.

    And hey, I like buying players in the TW as much as any other fan, but our churn these past 3 seasons is insane. And Nuno wont be our first misfire. It’s kinda funny that no matter how many players Arteta bought last season and notwithstanding the fact that he was the league’s highest spender, some of us still want to persist with the fiction that the team isnt his. Saka, Tierney and ESR/Martinelli apart, 9 of our probably starting 11 would all be players that ArtEdu bought.

    No excuses; but there will be.

    Solid TW, and stuff getting done early. Workmanlike rather than awe-inducing. Jesus is the closest thing we’ve had to a “wow” signing.

  4. Claude

    Most 22 year old professional players like Nuno have worked constantly with dozens and dozens of high level football coaches for more then a decade of their lives. If a player like him is still “raw” and struggling with positional sense and other basic defensive skills after all of that coaching then its probably not reasonable to expect a manager to suddenly turn him into the finished product in a few months.

    No manager has the time to work with each player individually and thats why they have a whole group of positional coaches. I can’t prove it but I am quite certain Arteta and Edu would have had someone working individually with Nuno every day in training trying to fix whatever was causing him to struggle. There is only so much any manager can do and the idea which seems to be part of a lot of peoples thinking that a good manager should be able to fix every problem and should be able to improve individual players is just not realistic.

  5. “If a player like him is still “raw” and struggling with positional sense and other basic defensive skills after all of that coaching then its probably not reasonable to expect a manager to suddenly turn him into the finished product in a few months”.

    We scouted Nuno and bought him. What you’re saying — inadvertently — is that he was a failure of scouting and purchasing on ArtEdu’s part.

    And please make up your mind about whether coaches work individually with players, or they dont. You argue both.

    But hey, leaving that aside that contradiction,I dont buy the notion that 22 year old players are irredeemable. I certainly don’t accept that Nuno is, having closely watched his play. Some fans have this bizarre notion that you can buy your way to squad nirvana, without coaching staffs stopping to develop what they have. What Adebayor showed us in his first season with his newborn foal impression, and what he became as the leader of our line, were night and day.

    1. Nuno looked like he belonged in his first few starts. But teams figured out that he is painfully one footed and can be pressed into mistakes and can be goaded into galloping forward with reckless abandon. Now with Zinchenko on the way, who is superior on both sides of the ball albeit without the freakish athleticism, a loan makes sense for him. I could see him having a similar trajectory as William Saliba, who I fully expect will push Ben White out of the RCB position. I think his ceiling is a Kyle Walker type, a bulldozer in the final third and a free safety at the back.

      1. That said, I agree with Bill that most players, if they’re going to develop high level technical security, learn that at a young age. Not so say he can’t improve on that front but I do share his doubt that is ever going to be polished enough to be LB1 for a side that wants to keep the ball and play through the press.

        I think he was bought because we really needed a body in there and that was the price range we could afford for a LB2 last summer given all the other expenditures. It can still work out but I expect loans followed by a transfer out for a larger fee than we paid. Still good business.

        1. Fair points on both your replies, but Im not convinced that he was a “paper over the cracks” buy. He was the same profile player as Tomi… an under the radar, inexpensive, young high potential. Now you can argue that he was a bust (harsh after 1 season), but you cant argue that he was some loose change purchase. You win some, you lose some.

          To me, Bill was all over the place in his argument, which can generally be summed up as “the Arsenal management never makes a mistake”. I don’t accept his premise that a player that early in his 20s with mistakes in his game is uncoachable. There’s a considerable body of evidence to contradict that. If the player has strengths (and Nuno does), he is fixable. Some of the time that is done by positional redeployment. Arsene was a master alchemist when it came to that.

          Even older players can be coached, and coached defensively. Bill doesn’t strike me as someone who invites examination of his dogmatic and oft-repeated positions, so I will recommend to him that he reads what Tony Adams had to say about defensive coaching. Of much older players than Nuno.

  6. Claude

    A manager has the whole team to deal with and I doubt he really has enough time to work with individual players. The club hires a coaching staff with multiple positional coaches whose job it is to work with individual players on a daily basis. I assume the Arteta and the coaching staff wanted Nuno to succeed and help the team so I assume they spent a lot of time working with him in training but its pretty clear the coaching did not fix the problem.

    Nuno was clearly not ready to be a regular player on a PL team yet. That is a failure of scouting but it happens to every team. Playing in Portugal is not the same as playing in the PL. He may yet develop into a decent LB but it may take him several years or he may never develop into a reliable player. GivenTierney’s injury history and our goal of making the top 4 next season keeping Nuno as our back up LB seems is clearly a big risk and its seems very reasonable to me to sign someone we feel can handle the position and send Nuno on loan to see what happens.

  7. There are players in every professional sport in the world who have all the physical talent to be great players but sometimes it takes a long time to develop the mental side of the game. Sometimes even with the best coaching they don’t ever figure it out. I am not suggesting Nuno will never figure it out but no one knows when or if he might come good. It might be next year it might be 3 years from now or he may never get a lot better. Going into next season with him as Tierney’s back would be a big risk and I suspect most of the regulars on this blog would be screaming for Arteta’s scalp if it turned out to be a colossal mistake.

  8. Everything Arteta does is good because the process is whatever he does and we’re supposed to trust it like good fans.. sorry.. supporters not fans.

    The only way some of his decisions are justifiable is if he were getting the results. He has not been and I doubt he will be forthcoming on what the targets for the season are this time around as well.

    I’m also disappointed at the paucity of youth players in the pre season squad. Apart from Saka, Arteta has shown a reluctance in giving youth their chances.

    That said Jesus and it seems Zinchenko are both good signings. Acquiring the former a coup. Fabio Vieira seems talented and should add some creativity. Saliba was mismanaged but will be a great addition. Marquinhos a total unknown quantity but looks lively. And we may not be done yet.

    Arsenal ought to get top 4 this season if Arteta has the substance to add to his bluster. It’ll be his 4th season in charge and he’s had more money to spend and waste than better managers.

    I’m hoping we also play some good exciting attacking football and score 75 goals and points. I’m tired of the soundbytes and the indulgence from the manager and his fans. Prove you have what it takes on the field.

    Hopefully an exciting season ahead. 3 weeks away from opening day.

    1. The young Moroccan Oulad M’Hand played in the Germany pre season game, and I liked the look of him. Shame to lose Hutchinson to Chelsea, though.

      The squad is bloated, and even players on the way out made the trip to America. Sad watching Bellerin in Baltimore yesterday. Shadow of the player we knew (or was it just pre season rust, tbf?). Xavi took a different approach to players that he doesn’t want. They’re not involved in pre season.

      Unless we lock in loan clauses and sell players for a third of their value like we did with Guendouzi, we seem to have a hard time selling on players we don’t want. And because they’re still Arsenal players and we feel (rightly) obligated to play in pre season, they seem to be blocking the path of the youngsters.

      The bigger issue though is that Arteta has a buy first mindset. He is not the guy to bring a player or 3 through the ranks. He has had and continues to have unprecedented churn… churn that would be even more mind boggling if we had moved on Mari, Bellerin, AMN, Torreira, Leno, Nelson and Pepe, all of whom are in the US with the team.

      Agree with you on Jesus and Zinc being good buys. I’m actually cock a hoop about our new #9.

  9. I mean Bill, I did say that I like the Zinchenko signing because he’s the competition that Tierney needs. So where does the idea of continuing with Nuno as the main backup to Tierney come from? Saying that we shouldn’t give up on the player and making him our main alternative to an important but injury prone player are not the same thing. Sometimes, before rushing in to defend the manager, you should read more carefully the point being made.

    Both options that the club considered are solid pros there, and I think that that was the right way to go. Doc, Argentine defenders tend to be rock solid and adaptable. But he’s ten Hag’s player, so we move on.

    And Bill, although you’re right about coaching staffs and about player development often taking time, no one here argued that the head coach has to do all of the coaching. I will say though that it’s his job to find some time for 121. He had input in player purchase, and the tactical/playing vision is his.

    The point remains… the Arsenal coaching staff shouldn’t conclude this early that that 22 year old is irredeemable. And hey, not all players come good. Some are a bust. There’s always a risk. I agree with Doc… he and Sambi probably need loans out. Sambi cost proper dosh, mind. He’s not at the level of loaned out players we’ve shown and are showing the door (which speaks to an inconsistency in approach), but I’m not going to give up on him after 1 year either. Vincent Kompany reckons that his ceiling is very high.

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