Playing fun football again

Pre-season football is meaningless, I’ve said. Pre-season football should be taken with a grain of salt, I’ve said. Pre-season football can’t be used to measure the real season, I’ve said. And yet, after Arsenal dismantled a full-strength Chelsea, 4-0 with goals from Jesus, Ødegaard, Saka, and Lokonga, while playing a fairly new brand of high-pressing, high-octane, expansive attacking football.. I have to admit, I’m cautiously optimistic for the season ahead.

Arteta started with a “back four” of Zinchenko, Gabriel, William Saliba, and Ben White and I loved it. Saliba is a revelation (to anyone who didn’t see him play last year). His passing is just awesome but even better, his recovery pace (again, we all saw this last year with Marseille – he famously tracked back and tackled Kylian Mbappe on a breakaway) and almost innate nose for trouble make him one of Arsenal’s best defenders. He played some of his best football in a back three last year (Marseille also played a back four) and a lot of us were worried that Arteta might try to shoehorn him into the Arsenal back four or that he would compete with Ben White for the lone RCB spot. But so far this pre-season, Saliba has been the one who gets to play deepest and most centrally, while White is given freedom to roam forward.

Saliba had three big stops in the first 5 minutes against Chelsea, with one an inch-perfect tackle on Timo Werner to stop a shot on goal. Ben White and Saliba switched positions often, with Saliba playing wide right and wide left whenever one of the other defenders needed to get forward or track a runner. The Arsenal back line was so versatile that Saka tried a through ball for Ben White at one point. I know that he was rumored to have played this way at Brighton but I can’t recall seeing it that often at Arsenal.

The question is what happens when Tomiyasu is back and healthy? In some ways this is a great problem to have. In others, well, it’s just a problem. But I guess I’m going to have to put my faith in Arteta to get it right.

Zinchenko on the left was awesome. He had this one pass which was just insane: a switch of possession from left back to Saka on the edge of the 18 yard box. I’m always impressed with how far footballers can kick the ball but that one blew me away for both distance and accuracy. But more than just a long kicker, Zin was effortlessly switching with Xhaka in the LCM role and I think we can predict with some accuracy that that is what Arteta wants from his LBs and LCMs.

After Arsenal went up 2-0 (which I will talk about!) however, Zinchenko was slightly switched off and Reese James got past him to put in a great cross. The only reason they didn’t score from that move is that Raheem Sterling was slightly off the pace. But it is a worry for Zin and something that we’ve been told can happen from time to time.

For the first two goals, you can see what Arteta wants his players to do. Led by the inimitable Gabriel Jesus (G9) Arsenal press and harass teams into making mistakes in their own half. Then they pounce on the mistakes and with marksmen like Jesus and Saka up top, punish the opponents.

The first goal illustrates this perfectly. Arsenal are pressing Chelsea, they are forced to go back to the keeper and recycle possession. When Chelsea lost their patience and tried a long vertical ball, Xhaka stepped in, stole the pass, and quickly passed to Jesus. Jesus supplied the perfect finish, dummying Mendy into thinking that he was going for power, he chipped him instead. Folks, I don’t want to be too optimistic here but we haven’t seen a player like Jesus since ole what’s his name, the guy who went to Man U and stunk the joint up.

I know there was a lot of speculation this summer about how Jesus would fit into the Arsenal system and they were mostly right: perfectly, is the adjective I would use.

The only question here is what happens if/when Jesus is out? He is fouled A LOT. Chelsea hit him three times in the first two minutes. So, I will be surprised if he can play 50 games this season. His backups are Martinelli and Nketiah. I like them both but there’s a dip in quality there. I can’t really see any way to change this though, so fingers crossed those two come on big this season.

The second goal was even better than the first. Again, we pressed them. This time Mendy tried a chip pass and Partey wins the ball. Partey plays to Øde, back to Partey, quick to Martinelli and this is all just a blur of verticality at this point. Øde makes his run. Martinelli holds the ball up, turns twice, finds Øde who takes a touch and fires into the corner past Mendy. Maybe a better DM for Chelsea breaks this whole play up? But I’m not sure because we played it so perfectly that even prime Kante would have been left chasing shadows.

Again, and I don’t want to keep banging this drum but, what happens when (not if) Partey is out? He’s so incredibly assured with the ball. His first touch is usually sublime and he always seems to know where to play the ball out of trouble. I just worry here (maybe I like worrying?)

The match wasn’t a complete blowout for the full 90, there were many nervy moments in the 2nd half especially when Chelsea pressured us. I’m always worried about how Arsenal handle pressure – it could be that I’m conditioned on it since the last four of the Wenger years – so maybe it’s just me. But we looked quite shaky in the 2nd half.

That is until Xhaka did a Bergkamp and nearly scored a volley off his own sombrero! Saka stole in (probably offside) and scored the rebound to make it 3-0 and get the goal he deserved. And then Sambi made it 4-0 in the dying minute when Cedric put in a 50 yard cross and the Arsenal MFer was left alone in the box.

Overall though, this pre-season so far has been great. Arsenal look to be deploying a new, more vertical style, with a high press and overlapping MFers and fullbacks. Arsenal are playing through balls, even in tight spaces with packed in defenses, and I love it. It’s just really great fun to watch.

I don’t have a prediction for where Arsenal will end up this season. There are still two weeks left before the first real match of the season and rumors that Arsenal are still in the market for Tielemans or someone like him abound. I’m patiently waiting to see what else we do in the transfer market before I set my expectations but right now? They are pretty high.



  1. “a blur of verticality”

    If I ever start an arsenal blog that’s what I’m going to call it.

  2. That Xhaka attempt was definitely a highlight reel one. Too bad it didn’t go in. And Saka certainly looked offside.
    That said, I’m certainly feeling A LOT more positive about the start of this season than I was last. I think we’re still likely a ways behind Pool and City, but could certainly challenge for 3rd. I don’t see any of Chelsea, Spurs or Utd as clearly better at this point.

  3. Difficult to resist full on preseason optimism, so a loss to Palace must be a nailed on certainty.
    Re the lack of back up to Jesus, I’m going for Eddie to come on strong this season and become the goal machine he was in all the youth sides.
    Re our ability to handle pressure, I think this is our remaining Bissouma/Kante sized hole. Fix this and preseason ‘proves’ we’re contenders!
    Can Sambi/AMN/Elneny/Tielemans/Melo can plug that hole?

    1. Sambi has a lot of upside but I worry about his ability to run the show the way that Partey does. Elneny is ok for a few games but defensively he’s pretty weak. I’m not at all sold on Melo, he’s painfully one-footed and while you could get away with that in the Rosicky era I don’t think you can anymore. Tielemans is a good buy.

  4. There were a couple of times that Zinch stood off the always-dangerous Reece James instead of getting tighter on him and stopping the cross, but I really like the player, and the way that he played… skillful and fearless. Mikel said something important afterwards… he understands, almost instinctively, how he wants him to play. That prior knowledge and relationship is invaluable. He’s got a great personality too… and a sense of humour to go with it. Shades of Ramsdale’s arrival last season. Club videos wont tell the whole story, of course, but it looks a reasonably contented camp.

    Jesus has been sensational this pre-season, but dont sleep on Eddie. He looks liberated, not being way back in the queue anymore.

    Saliba confirmed what we knew…. he’s next level. And I loved his partnership with White. Nonetheless, I predict the following for him early in the season…

    1. He’ll commit a stupid foul and give away a penalty
    2. He’ll doze off and lose his runner, and it’ll lead to a goal
    3. He’ll misplace a pass of 3.

    How come? Because all defenders do. It doesnt change the facts about the player that we have on our hands. In the famous words of Wenger, “he’s almost like a new signing”.

    Optimism is justified, because there’s no such thing as a meaningless friendly between us and Chelsea. At the point at which you could reasonably stop reading too much into proceedings because of the subs palooza, we were 2 -0 up. And Tuchel was livid.

  5. For the first time in recent memory, I looked at Chelsea and said “I think our starting 11 is more talented than theirs.” Jesus, Saliba and Zin are 3 additions that make a big difference.

    Like Fox and Tim, I think Partey and Jesus are the players whose replacements show the biggest dropoff. That’s true to some degree of most teams – when key players go down, the team isn’t the same. When VVD went down, Liverpool suffered. But knowing Partey’s history, NOT having a very strong backup is inexcusable. I have been pretty dubious about Eddie in the past, but his upturn in form seems to have continued into the offseason. He’s no G9, but if he fills in for 7-10 games in PL, I think we’re ok. I don’t have the same faith in Elneny or AMN behind Partey.

    Stepping back, it’s starting to feel like we are in a very different place than we’ve been for 6-7 years. Each preseason I’d look and say, “Here are the 2 or 3 starters who really aren’t up to snuff.” Now it’s “We need better back ups.” As Tim said, a good problem.

    1. “Stepping back, it’s starting to feel like we are in a very different place than we’ve been for 6-7 years. Each preseason I’d look and say, “Here are the 2 or 3 starters who really aren’t up to snuff.” Now it’s “We need better back ups.” ”

      Very good point.

  6. I wonder if Zinch has the potential to be an effective backup to Thomas. He started as a #10, and certainly has the tools. Maybe defensively/positionally he would struggle, but with Gabriel and Saliba behind him it could work. Thoughts?

      1. I don’t disagree with that, but given Xhaka’s durability the only time we really need to back him up is when he’s serving his obligatory three-match bans…

  7. Great post Tim.. We have 10 house guests including 6 grand kids so I did not have a chance to watch the game and have not seen much of the preseason. Sounds like we really smoked Chelsea and its been an excellent preseason.

    I know we have had a lot of discussion in the past about whether the problems we had were related to Arteta mismanagement or if the problem was he did not have the players who could execute the strategies he wanted to use. There was a lot of talk about his defense first DNA and he preference for boring slow paced conservative football. I think we have the answer to all of those questions. Spending several hundred million dollars on new players has certainly changed everything and suddenly this manager and this team does not look anything like the one we saw in Arteta’s first couple seasons. To me Arteta was like a poker player who is playing against a stacked deck. Strategy and bluffing can overcome bad hands and he is going to look like a bad player because he has to fold almost every hand. Spending all of this money is like stacking the deck in our favor and any competent poker player is going to look like a great player if he is getting the best cards every hand. I thinks it clear those fans who were suggesting the Arteta was hopeless and the current management team could never be trusted to buy good players and calling for the manager to be sacked were just not patient enough. Management just needed time and money.

    1. I don’t think it’s just purchases because I think it’s also true that Arteta has learned quite a bit on the job the last two + years.

      I also don’t think fans being impatient (2.5 years) and upset at finishing 8th 8th 5th is a character flaw on their part. We played pretty awful football, let’s not just say that people should have had more patience and own up to the fact that this was the worst run of results in most of our lifetimes.

      1. And don’t forget he got through some poker rounds on blind luck, ramsdale’s performances can’t be part of any plan. For me the one thing that Arteta has brought from day one is resilience and a master plan. Shore up the defense, build the confidence, take no sh*t from anyone, demand investment and stick to his beliefs. Oddly I think his bust ups with players have got him more respect with both players and owners. I also think that going for tried and tested in the transfer market is a great move and only possible because of the respect he commands from both players.

  8. I wonder if Ben White could do it. Saliba at CB,and Tomi at RB (if fit), can Ben White play a little further forward? Perhaps even rotate with Saliba there. Imagine that.

      1. Me too! That’s why I have some hesitation about the idea of Zinchenko covering LB and LM. He can’t be in two places at once. Ideally we need backups for Partey and Saka, and a replacement for Xhaka. I think we’ll get one of those this summer.

      2. Ben White *did* play DM for Leeds in their promotion year under Bielsa, but I can’t honestly say I watched enough of their games to there are stylistic similarities between his play and Partey’s. I think White’s good enough on the ball to make the right sort of passes, but the positioning discipline and scanning approach is very different when you’re at 6 as opposed to when you’re at CB. Would be curious to see (and super happy if it is a workable backup), but will be a crap shoot.

        That said, Arteta’s approach to squad building is clearly with a view to increased flexibility and versatility across the whole squad, so finding a player within the squad who can effectively be Partey’s backup would be a real feather-in-the-cap moment for the coaches.

  9. Hey Bill, sounding like good outing out there in Colorado. Enjoy.

    You’ll be pleased to hear that nearly every gooner I know is at this point basically rooting for Arteta, and that includes me. Because we know that if he succeeds, we win. The feelgood is real, and it’s palpable. The good work that he and Edu have done this pre-season has a lot to do with that. Credit where due, and he deserves it.

    But I can root for him and be clear-eyed in assessing his work so far. And the fact is that he took the club backwards, then 2.5 seasons later brought it back to where it had been. 8th, 8th and 5th isnt clever poker. It’s a matter of managerial competence, and in truth, Mikel just wasnt good enough. That was us paying the rookie tax. It’s telling that his only trophy success came with players that he had inherited (coming into the job as he did halfway through the season), and had no time to change. We leaped 3 places on the charts last season because we spent the most money of anyone, and had no European games to tire us out in the league. That’s being hard-nosed factual, not uncharitable.

    There have been signs that he’s raising his own level, along with that of the club. But I think we should be cautious about suggesting that spending and bringing in fresh faces is the only solution.Unless youre City, Chelsea or PSG, there are 2 proven ways of building a squad. External purchases, and inward organic growth. Mikel isnt going to take Arsenal forward by ignoring the latter, and to me, that’s where he’s got the most work to do. Would he have given a Saka his head, had he been there 2 years earlier? Maybe a Saka would have been too good to keep his light under a bushel, but on the evidence so far, I doubt it.

  10. I haven’t been watching pre season so I’m currently immune to the excitement and heightened expectations. I hope we keep playing good football. I think the signing are good. They were last season too but wasteful in how the squad was managed. If we bought a Partey backup of quality last year instead of Ben White we’d probably get top 4. But as things are now this is a squad easily worth top 4. Is the manager is a question we’ll find out the answer to.

    As for expectations, so far both Arteta and Edu have once again chosen to be vague about targets while simultaneously being bullish. All their statements reduce to
    1. We want to win because we’re Arsenal.
    2. We have a plan
    3. Things before us were horrible and we are making things great.

    I’m sorry but this nonsense makes it tougher for me to buy in. People who are competent and confident don’t need to bring up having a plan as an achievement and they don’t need to disparage their predecessors.

    Artedu talk too much and perform too little. Along with that they push the idea that anyone who doesn’t automatically go along with them is either a fool or a traitor. Including the supporters.

    So yeah, I love the club, I love the players, I love our history, but I’m not sure everyone from the owners down to management really do. A marriage borne of shared interests is the best I can hope for at this point.

    1. I think they talk too much too, but guess it’s a good time to milk it, and if it generates more goodwill that can help the fans and the team, however temporarily, I’ll let it go lol

  11. Agreed with you on Jesus or Partey missing out. they essentially make up the spine of the team and are probably the best 2 players. I think with Zinchenko coming in Xhaka would move to CDM and Zinchenko to the left 8 (maybe double pivot since Xhanka is immobile). I still have hopes that we sign a midfielder that is on the Partey level.

    The other thing I noticed is that our press became useless in the 2nd half when Chelsea moved to a back 3. I believe Arteta struggles against a back 3 and hopefully we work on it because a lot of teams play a back 3. Maybe not pressing the 3 CBs is the way to go to break down the back 3 and then use the superior numbers in midfield to make sure that the 3 CBs can only play the long pass.

    1. arsenal don’t play a double-pivot so for xhaka to play deeper, they would have to change their entire strategy. it’s cool to maintain the status quo. arsenal are better with xhaka higher up the pitch. likewise, credit to xhaka. he’s matured; he understands his capabilities and limitations and plays within them now.

  12. there’s speculation and then there’s pulling stuff out of your ass. bill, you’re pulling stuff out of your ass. i don’t recall anyone suggesting that “arteta was hopeless” or that “the current management team could not be trusted to buy good players”. you’ve got to stop doing random, bud.

    arsenal have spent more money than any team in the world in each of the last two summers. with that, i have high expectations for arsenal this season. they should be trying to win the league. if you’re not trying to win the league, what are you even doing? winning the league requires consistency; arsenal don’t play against liverpool every week. out-spending the whole world every summer is not sustainable.

    i agree with the notion of having guys do what they’re good at and not this “jack of all trades” guy. be a master of one trade. the premier league is too unforgiving for jacks. can arsenal win the league with ben white at cdm? sounds an awful lot like “vermaelen should play cdm”. what qualities have we seen ben white display that suggests he could be a cdm for a premier league champion, even as a backup?

    bottom line: as a cdm, you have to be the smartest guy on the field. if that’s not you, then you can’t be a cdm for arsenal or any team with aspirations of winning. the reason coqzorla was so good is both those players were very intelligent. they were effective in all phases of play, both with and without the ball. the same with the likes of mikel arteta, xabi alonso, claude makalele, phillip lahm, fabinho, gilberto silva, etc. it’s not about size, being good with the ball, being “defensive-minded”, good in the tackle, or any of that other stuff. it’s about all tactical skill and tactics is all about intelligence.

    1. Excellent comment.

      “out-spending the whole world every summer is not sustainable”. Frame this line.

      There’s this notion that ArtEdu are going to spend spend spend their way to squad perfection. Buy buy buy. Not only is the approach not sustainable… it doesn’t work like that in the real world. At some point, you’re also going to have to bring players through. And I don’t mean Eddie. And here’s the contradiction. Despite massive churn, folks are still arguing that this is not Mikel’s team. When will we achieve squad nirvana? 2026?

      I’ve bought in, but I hear Shard on this… “People who are competent and confident don’t need to… disparage their predecessors. Artedu talk too much and perform too little”.

      I’d say that this season is put up season, but for those of us with decent memories, last season was too. And the goalposts moved, and will move if we fall short again.

      Josh, spot on too with asking what is our aim. To too many gooners, the answer is “whatever we manage to achieve”. Cue re-adjusted goalposts. It’s maddening. Go on… have high expectations! They’re not unrealistic ones! We just keep trimming our cloth.

      All that said, I’m bought in and hopeful. I see a big, big season from G9, and good ball from the other injects. Now a Partey competitor/alternate, please.

      1. We’re not outspending everyone in the world. I can guarantee that our football costs over the past 4 years will have been 8/9th (or somewhere around that) in Europe & 4/5th in the PL.

        I’m also pretty certain that our spending this season should just about bring us into line with a decently competitive ratio of football costs to revenue.

        1. You know he meant transfer fees. Besides, the only reason our wages to turnover ratio was higher than normal (for us) was because dropping out of the top, and then any, European competition brings turnover down. Wages in 20/21 went up by 13m after a 7m drop the previous season. Not sure what the 21/22 accounts show.

          Which reminds me, been meaning to ask, what is the reported wage Gabriel Jesus is on?

          1. I was commenting off the back of Josh, who was talking about transfer spending. Transfer spending is a straightforward track — it’s there, in plain sight. The stuff that LT talks about not so much. And LT isnt clear or certain of his/her figures.

            Arsenal is one of the top 7 most valuable clubs in the world, so it has consistently strong revenue. But relative to the rest of the market, we:

            1. Overpay on incomings
            2. Get low or no returns on outgoings
            3. Overpay on wages. If we give Eddie 6 figures, how much do you think that Jesus’ agents are going to demand? Saka’s agents to re-sign? Partey’s on something like 3x his Atletico wage.
            4. continued to have, on our books, wages of players who had already left, but we were still paying.

            All of that is going to increasingly offset strong revenue, and we’re adding the largest transfer spending for the second summer window running. We’re close to half a billion GBP in transfer spending since 2019 STW. It does not seem sustainable.

          2. Claude

            I don’t really care about the Kroenkes spending any more. It’s their money. I get the feeling they view football the same as their American franchises. They’ve been spending and have had success recently in the US. They’ll keep going until they get tired of the management.

            I just don’t think we should forget just how much leeway Arteta has had. Forget Wenger, if we gave Emery the same time, money and power, he would have performed better. Arteta still hasn’t matched the 70 points Emery got in the same season he got us to the EL final.

        2. dude, i didn’t say anything about the last 4 or 5 years. i mentioned, exclusively, that arsenal have spent more in transfers, both last summer and this summer, than any team in the world; although this summer isn’t over yet. don’t change the narrative…makes you sound like bill.

          you say our football costs to revenue this season will be competitive. with whom? according to transfermarkt, arsenal have lost money on every transfer except marquinhos. lacazette, -£13.5 million; zinchenko, -£9 mil, fabio, -£9 mil; mavropanos, -£11 mil; guendouzi, -£13 mil; matt turner, -£1 mil, etc.

          this is a continuation from last season where arsenal paid for ben white double what his market value was and triple for what ramsdale was worth. they also lost at least -£20 million on aubameyang, –£10 million on callum chambers, -£5 million for lokonga.

          the club did well with the transfers of willock, ødegaard, and tomiyasu but not enough to overcome the devastating loses since artedu has taken the helm.

  13. btw, i’d like to make a correction to tim’s post. on the first goal, tim says that xhaka intercepted the ball and quickly released it. wrong! xhaka read the play, intercepted the ball, and with his weaker foot, released gabriel jesus…….all with a single touch! before chelsea even realized they’d lost possession, the ball is past their midfield, past their defense, and the arsenal striker is 1v1 with their goal keeper.

    as a player, i used to do that a lot. it’s a skill i developed in germany and has served me very well. it doesn’t get a lot of notice but it’s a legitimate highlight for me…..every bit as much a highlight as jesus’ finish. both vieira and gilberto silva used to do this all the time. xhaka didn’t have a great gaem but that was the best play of the game for me…..all because he did it with one touch.

    1. Agree, great pass. *If* we play him regularly this season, let’s please judge his performance on how often he can repeat that – exhibiting the vision and anticipation to split a crowded area, rather than “taking what the opposition gives him” toward the wings. Doesn’t have to be an assist, even deeper in midfield is great.

      I loved that Zinchenko cross-fielder for a similar reason – it led Saka toward goal rather than pinning him to the wing or leading him toward the corner.

  14. Josh

    The overall tone of comments on this blog for the last couple years was mostly pessimistic about the long term outlook with the current management team. Even you can’t dispute that. There were a lot more who suggested that his philosophy was defense first and he wanted us to play conservative slow paced football. There was a significant segment who openly called for Arteta to be sacked. To me that sounds like a lot of fans believed he was hopeless.

    I think its obvious to everyone now that Arteta’s DNA was never included conservative defense at all costs boring football. No one can accurately judge a managers intentions or his ability when he does not have the right players to play the type of football he wants. Arteta needed better players.


    I am sure everyone agrees that outspending the rest of the world is not sustainable. That is obvious. However, I think we can now say with close to 100% certainly the current management believed the club needed to be completely rebuilt top to bottom when they took over 2 1/2 years ago and they convinced ownership the rebuild would take a time and a lot of money. The first part of any rebuild project is always the most expensive. Like it or not we needed that big time spending just to get the squad back to the point where we have a legitimate chance to compete for the top 4. I am quite sure the long term plan is for spending to level off once we get to a steady state.

    1. “I think its obvious to everyone now that Arteta’s DNA was never included conservative defense at all costs boring football. No one can accurately judge a managers intentions or his ability when he does not have the right players to play the type of football he wants. Arteta needed better players.”

      This is literally revisionist history.

  15. Tim

    I understand fans being impatient with the 8th place finishes but realistically I don’t believe we could not have hoped for a lot better. As I mentioned to Claude its seems pretty clear management believed the club they inherited 2 1/2 years ago was not going to be a top 4 team and it needed a rebuild. We as fans did not want to believe the players are not good enough but clearly our management did and events have proved they are reasonably competent. Arteta and Edu were the ones who were watching the team in training sessions everyday and watched thousands of hours of film and knew the players mental state so they were definitely in a much better position then any of us to make the decision to go nuclear and basically start from scratch. Fans never want to hear this but It was always going to take time and a lot of money.

  16. Bill, the club’s publicly known target was to win the Champions League this coming season. As some the say of the lotto, you have to be in it to win it.

    Your 3-year, top to bottom rebuild seems something imagined after the fact (Im going to be less colourful than Josh), and not based on anything that I can find in the public record. You say “it seems pretty clear” and “I am sure” a lot. With respect, it all sounds like hopeful guesswork. This isn’t the NBA… clubs don’t tank seasons to get high draft picks.

    What some of us have found frustrating is the moved goalposts…. downwardly re-adjusted expectations to match the quality of the outcomes and management. Our expectations, it seems, change retrospectively to “wherever we find ourselves”.

    You don’t have to like or dislike ArtEdu say any of this. Just simply look at what they said versus what they did; what they say, versus what they do. Shard is right… ArtEdu need to talk less and do more. All they’ve won is the FA Cup… with Emery’s players. The surplus players of your “top to bottom rebuild” won Arteta his only trophy, led us to 5th, and managed a points total that Mikel hasn’t achieved in 3 tries.

    Edu’s been talking about the process (some juicy stuff in there), and Tim will likely post on that. We’ll probably have plenty to say then.

    We had a good preseason, got a really high calibre player to join a club that wont offer him top shelf football (a big coup) and do look to be on our way this coming season. This has been one of our most reassuring pre-season buildups of late, the football is good to watch, and fan feelgood is high.

    All’s not perfect, mind. We lost to Brentford in our final pre-season, albeit playing our C team; and Matt Turner’s acquisition isn’t looking that sparkling an idea in the early going. Palace has been something of a bogey team for us of late, but I expect us to take 3 points. That said, I knida wish we’d got Chelsea first up. THIS, unsettled Chelsea.


    1. I won’t be reporting on any of the corporate messaging because I do not read it, watch it, or listen to it.

      I will also not be watching the Amazon prime docudrama.

    1. That description made me lol. It’s exactly what that is.

      My 1st thought when I watched that was no wonder experienced players got disillusioned with the guy. My 2nd thought was if this was the ‘inspirational’ speech someone gave me I’d feel manipulated. Of course if they were paying me millions I probably wouldn’t mind going along.

    2. Thanks for sharing this and…wtf? I am not a fan of whatever this is. Liking Arteta is a project for me.

      I miss Wenger more when I see stuff like this. Maybe drawing a wolf on a chalkboard is ridiculous but so is this. The wolf was drawn by someone with the kind of charisma, charm and mystique that allowed him to. Arteta is not that.

      Also why do you use the example of Wharton? Trump (supposedly) graduated from Penn/Wharton. Surely you’re not drawing any comparisons.? LoL!

      1. I do corporate communications training. Mikel’s approach there could be described as very top down. Speech, attention but not engagement. Audience closed, not open.

        But to be fair to him, we saw there 3 minutes of the thousands that he delivered to the squad and coaches. The others had to have been more interactive.

        I loved his personal story about his medical condition as a baby, but he wasnt up to his usual press conference standards of clear delivery. He really shines as a communicator in that setting. In that clip, not so well. The connection wasn’t that clear, and I had the benefit of playing it several times. And the facial expressions were priceless.

        The doc is going to focus on those chalkboard moments, and there may even be an element of giving the cameras what they want. That I dont know. Maybe, could be. What I do know is that this stuff can backfire. It fits right in with corporate-speak guff like “non-negotiables”, the kind of thing that that bosses imagine is impactful, but actually leaves people cold, or makes them roll their eyes. I can almost hear the dining room banter when the manager isn’t around. But of course, when he kicked Auba in the scrotes, he got everyone’s attention.

        1. Well, I think one’s response to the video must be impacted by one’s perception of the coach. What I unpacked from the video (and my biz is making corporate vids and storytelling) was a bunch of young guys who were awestruck by the talk. When a coach came in and was very vulnerable about how it had been a hard time emotionally, but the players were what gave him purpose and was thankful to them, despite how the season had gone. They suited up and destroyed Norwich that day. I thought it was pretty powerful stuff.

          If you really dislike Arteta, you see the speech one way. If you like him, you see it another. I can understand how people who are not 22 or 23 would be very cynical about this, but every interview with every team member shows how dedicated and bought in his players are. Seeing how Zin and Jesus were thrilled to join the team also suggests that players like the coach. I don’t begrudge anyone’s distaste or dislike for Arteta and Edu, but I really see that video way differently.

          1. OK 1-0 was not smashing Norwich. 🙂 But given the start of the season, it was a big improvement.

          2. “OK 1-0 was not smashing Norwich. 🙂”

            You got there before me, bless you 😀

            But hey, as I said, I think there were other interactive sessions, and probably far more of them. Fly-on-the-wall loves that kind of stuff.

  17. Claude

    It seems rather obvious to me there has been a rather drastic overhaul/rebuild in the squad since Arteta took over. Actions tell the story more then any reports we might have read. From the beginning they talked about the “process”. I doubt Edu/Arteta could have convinced ownership to move away from some of the clubs highest paid highest profile fan favorite players and then be patient thru a couple of 8th place finishes and spend hundreds of millions of dollars of their money if there wasn’t a long term plan that everyone involved was on board with.

    1. Yes, the plan was very clearly to pay incredible wages to players and then have to pay them off to go play for other teams when they fell out of favor with Arteta.

      I’m pretty sure that the most plausible answer here is that Arteta was just a young coach who has struggled to adapt to certain players and who served up a playing style that was extremely conservative at the start and has slowly become more expansive as the coach has learned on the job.

      1. Yep.

        Love the old British saying, “in for a penny, and in for a pound”. Or put another way, the rookie tax.

        I sincerely hope that that strategic approach pays off. If it does, we’ll all become Arteta stans. Except perhaps for Shard 🙂

    2. Or.. the Kroenkes are happy to have the fans off their backs because Arteta has dreamy eyes.

      I mean who cares if they have a plan? that’s like the barest of minimums you could expect from anyone? Is it a good plan though? Is it everything you wanted? I don’t even mind the results. I’d take it as the price of fielding a rookie manager. I just can’t abide the lies and arrogance about it all. Plus, it goes contrary to the values I expect(ed) from the club. Arteta is an A-hole.. and he doesn’t even have the chops to make it worth living with that. Not yet anyway. I don’t think he’s been a good investment for the club. But for the owners? Fantastic.

      1. I think it’s also clear that they had one plan in 2018/19, changed the plan, then changed the plan again, and then changed it again, fired those guys, paid them off to go somewhere else, until they finally settled on “hey, what if.. we buy mostly young players and get some academy players in the starting lineup?” sometime in 2021.

        It’s pretty irksome that folks want to see this as some kind of gamed out plan from the start when it’s obvious – just in the Auba deal alone – that they’ve been far less organized.

  18. I’ll go ahead and use the reductionist magic wand to set this year’s expectations at “4th or bust AND EL final or bust”, my personal bust being switching to watching a different sport.

  19. Tim

    There were mistakes made along the way such as giving Willian a big contract and buying Mari. You could argue that giving Auba a big contract was a mistake but at the time he was producing at a high level and they desperately needed his goals. When the new leadership team took over they had to clean up the mess made before they arrived and its pretty clear the at some point the front office and ownership accepted the idea the squad we had was not top 4 capable and was headed the wrong way and could not be fixed by a different manager and a few tweaks. You don’t blow up a squad and start a complete rebuild unless you believe there are no other options. The first thing part of any rebuilding is getting rid of the high wage players who were no longer producing and not part of the long term plan. Unfortunately many of those players were unsellable but still had to be moved. The next step was rebuilding from the back.

    I am not sure they could have brought in an experienced previously successful manager. That approach didn’t work with Emery and they needed to move in a completely different direction. I doubt someone like Conte or anyone like that would have accepted a job which included a start from scratch rebuild that was obviously going to take a few years.

    1. After winning the FA Cup with Emery’s players, one of Arteta’s first acts was to buy Willian. He then told Willian that they plan on winning the Champions League this coming season, which was supposed to be Willian’s last (at age 35). He then made a very strong push to get Aubameyang to re-sign, even bringing in his wife, Lorena Bernal, to help with the charm offensive.

      And… hear this Bill… HE TRIED TO RE-SIGN LACAZETTE! Until it was clear that Laca had no intention of staying. As recently as this Christmas the club went hard after Laca. They then offered a new deal to 30-something Elneny, and stopped 30-something Xhaka from leaving.

      Known facts, not hopeful speculation. They moved as circumstances changed. It was in the last season season that they settled on a youthful refresh.

      And btw, it’s fine to adjust to circumstances. And barring the absence of a signing of a big midfielder, Im loving this pre-season prep. Maybe this really IS the year… 🙂

  20. Btw, notwithstanding my overall optimism about the direction of the squad build, Im worried about our midfield.

    There were decent cases to be made for retaining Elneny (cost/utility/good squad man), and for retaining Xhaka (experience/improved play). But keeping both seems a mistake, and would seem to fly in the face of the overall strategy of the club. Partey is 29 and injury prone. The 2 others on the taxi rank are 30ish. Sambi seems not to have made the expected progress, and we bounced out a superior young prospect for a fraction of his market value, and for reasons that are clearly not related to footballing ability.

    But be that as it may, we needed to keep ONE of Xhaka or Elneny, go all in on a worldie, and bring through one of Patino or Salah Oulad M’Hand. In fact, we should have brought in that worldie last season. If Thomas misses games as much as last season, it’s going to cost us. I know Zinch can play in midfield, but he’s likely going to be seeing a lot of time at LB and he’s going to alt with Xhaka. The dropoff from the quality of Thomas is precipitous.

    The opportunity cost of keeping both Xhaka and Elneny doesnt seem worth it; from an overall quality POV, or from the POV of the inward organic growth that is the hallmark of our great club. Together theyre blocking someone.

    btw, gooners are going to love Zinch. Great character; future fan favourite.

  21. I never understood why anyone would have believed Edu and Arteta wanted their team to play boring conservative football for a couple years. Arteta grew up in Barcelona played his best football and on his most successful team playing for Arsene Wenger and he learned to coach from Pep. There is no reason to think a manager with that background would ever want to play boring unimaginative football. Edu had his greatest moments playing for Arsene and I can’t believe he would have wanted boring football. The most reasonable explanation is their tactical options were limited by the squad they had and in many cases what we saw on the pitch was not what they were trying to do because the players were not able to execute well enough to play fast paced eye pleasing football. The fact that everything seems to have changed dramatically in the last couple season after spending hundred of millions on better players certainly adds strong supporting evidence to that theory.

    1. Bill, thanks for the comment.

      I think I’m going to Japan in November. I want to go to Okinawa but also Kyoto. I think I’ll fly in to Kyoto, stay a day and then go to Okinawa and stay almost a week. It’s going to take a lot of planning though to pull this off. I’m pretty nervous.

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