Hi folks! Sorry I’ve been away for a few matches. I’ve been a bit busy with the holidays, disc golf, and a number of family things. I used to just share that stuff but I got out of the habit and I’m not sure I’ll get back in the habit, if I’m honest.
I did watch both matches this week and I have a report: two thumbs up! Great results!
Kai Havertz scored a pretty good goal, Bukayo Saka needs to be triple-teamed now, and even when teams know we are attacking through the wings and try to stop it, they can’t. But rather than recap each incident of each match in a 30,000 word post, I just wanted to share a weird observation.
I am preparing for my 2nd ever disc golf tournament – the SeaTac tree smack – and in order to get ready I scouted the course that we will be playing in January. I started out great, following the advice of my more experienced friend, I just put drives in the fairways and started with three easy pars. Immediately after the third par I told my friend Cleveland that I was “just throwing within myself”. And of course, stepped up on hole 4 and instead of playing conservatively, I ripped one. Then I tried another risky shot and landed in a laurel. And I got a bogey. The next hole I got a double, thanks again to some 300 year old laurel bushes, and I was on my way to a stunningly bad +26 on 27 holes.
SeaTac is a tough course, for sure: punishing if you miss the fairways, long, demanding technical shots on most holes, and boasting more than a few tricky and protected greens. It’s also full of distractions (there’s an international airport very close) and easy to get down on yourself about. If there was ever a course where it’s important to approach almost every hole and especially every recovery shot conservatively, it’s SeaTac. It’s an amazing lesson in humility.
The only way this ties in to Arsenal is that in yesterday’s win over Wolves, as the 2nd goal went in for Arsenal, I had that same feeling watching them as I’d had in the early holes at SeaTac: we were off and cruising, playing our game, not trying to do too much, and controlling the game.
I’ve had a hard time over the years getting behind Arteta’s style, which is partly down to my diminishing patience these days. But after Arsenal scored the second goal, Arsenal did the thing that they always do and took their foot off the gas, went into their conservative mode, and controlled the game. The old me (of a few months ago) would have been perturbed by this conservative approach. I grew up on the Invincibles – a team that also controlled games but did so with an arrogance that often drifted into toying with their opponents – and I’ve been acculturated into believing that “good teams will step on the necks of their opponents when they are ahead”.
But modern teams like Man City, Arsenal, and others don’t do that. They control the game in a different, much more, well, controlled way. They are looking to score more goals (of course) and keep a clean sheet by controlling the ball, but just like how I want to play disc golf at SeaTac: they aren’t extending themselves needlessly, creating chances and trying to take the chances when they come, rather than force the chances or put on a show.
So I sat there yesterday and watched Arsenal at 2-0 for a good 45 minutes play pretty boring football and try to see out the game through control. They could have scored a third, and probably would have if the referees were not dead set on refusing every close penalty call in Arsenal’s favor*, and there were a few nervy moments at the end of the game but overall I have settled into “this is just how Arteta wants them to play.”
I get it. It’s down to a science about workloads and other data-driven aspects of the game. We are playing the percentages. No need to put money on low percentage, big payout moments, when the long-term odds are in our favor by playing football this way.
So, I’ve come to accept it. Even if we do occasionally have a little wobble at the end! Which we did.
*Jesus was clearly pulled but the “not enough for me” excuse was deployed. That excuse always raises the question “ok, how much is enough then?” And of course there is no real answer. Like almost all of the laws of the game, it’s just vibes.