I’m writing this piece just as the Spurs vs West Ham game starts, the great thing about today, is 1) not needing to be worried about this result because we’ve won 2) knowing that we’re in good shape whatever happens .
The preference is a West Ham win, they have Europe to worry about.
Back to Arsenal.
What a great win yesterday. We dominated the game. We defended exceptionally. We delivered a win with a second choice keeper and right back.
Maybe I was a little bit unfair on Bernd yesterday. He was a total professional. His kicking was pretty decent all game, he was braver coming for crosses, and he showed up in the last minute to deal perfectly with a Coutinho free kick. The reaction from his team mates told you all you needed to know about his character behind the scenes. Also, fair play to Ramsdale, he showed up to support his team, and went to celebrate with Leno after the game.
That is culture in action. It’s no about the individual at Arsenal, it’s about the greater good of the team, and delivering the right result. You are seeing the togetherness over and over again.
It’s super amusing to listen to pundits and players alike criticizing how much our players enjoy winning. It’s so petty and dull. It’s also quite stunning to watch some people reframe our progress through a new lens of high standards.
What is behind it?
Firstly, let’s start with the standards merchants. There’s a real trend for people who don’t have standards in their personal lives to use the internet to put forward a character of Pep Guardiola/Steve Jobs/Dan Houser levels of unattainable ambition.
If you disagree with their ‘standards’, you are the problem, because you lack ambition. The problem with this? Just saying something should be better is not an action, it’s a complaint. It’s backseat driving. It’s Flamini pointing at things after a conceding. If you think we should be better, how do you propose we get there? What should Arsenal do differently? Where have you seen this done before?
Just saying ‘ARSENAL SHOULD BE TOP 4 BECAUSE OF OUR REP’ is exactly how big clubs fail. If your plan for Arsenal greatness is just being Arsenal, you have no plan. That’s how we operated under Wenger in the latter years. Our standards did drop because the only plan was Wenger and mere existence. We missed the freight train of better managers dropping into the game. We didn’t push Wenger to upgrade dated thinking. We had no strategy to compete in the Champions League (didn’t break last 16 8 seasons in a row). We accepted that money was the only way to achieve greatness. We feared change. That lack of standards eventually crered us and we are where we are now.
Arsenal are aiming for titles now. We know that because Arteta told Willian he’d be winning the CL in season 3 of his deal (lol). We’re realistic about how to get there. We aren’t City, we don’t have fuck you money, so we have to be honest about what we do have and max our advantages (coaching, London, 2nd tier money, academy, recruitment) and work around our weaknesses (lack of fuck you money).
The nuance standard merchants miss is the reality of getting back to the top: It takes time. At best this is a 5 year rollout.
As a fan, you are allowed to enjoy this phase. It does not reflect poorly on you. The players NEED you to treat Villa like a cup final win. They need you to NOT hold them to Liverpool standards of expectations after a loss, because they are kids. Our support truncates their development time. Making The Emirates a festival atmosphere will be a crucial contributing factor to where we are heading in the same way The Kop has been massive for Jurgen Klopp.
So in short, don’t be fooled by people that pour cold water on where we are to make a statement about who they are as people (ego). Maybe ask them: What, in your life, have you done that maps back to the ‘standards’ you are using to make people feel shit about Arsenal this season? Most won’t have an answer.
Proper people that have contributed anything of note in sport, art, creativity, music, or business will all tell you that success takes time and the process of getting to the top is the most enjoyable and memorable part.
So how are we here with so many pundits and fans breaking neck to pop at us?
A whole lot of people that are seeingthing they didn’t see this Arsenal team coming.
There is a group of ‘fans’ and professionals that totally missed where this project was heading.
Here are Top 4 predictions from the BBC.
Agents of Europe for The Athletic.
Now things have changed, these folk have to pivot to something new, because if they were worth their wages, they’d have seen this Arsenal team coming.
This was the league I was hawking last season after we debuted Emile Smith Rowe.
Plenty mocked this sort of table splicing, but serious people knew that a sample size that accounted for 63% of the season was statistically significant.
When we added creative players, cleared out the trouble makers, and leaned hard into youth we accrued the 3rd most points, scored the 3rd most goals, and had the 3rd best defence.
The reaction to the opening 3 games was so vicious against Arsenal because it felt like confirmation bias to a lot of Arsenal fans that wanted the project to fail, combined with a lot of pundits that had gone on record saying our summer was terrible. Remember G Nev saying he didn’t understand the direction? Remember Thierry showing up against Spurs in the retro kit after slagging off the strategy?
The first 3 games of the season were rocked by COVID before cancellations were a thing, injuries, and a slow end to the window.
If you can agree that the season started for the new project when 5 of our summer signings went right into the first team, then you can look at this next table and start to get really excited.
- 3rd most points.
- 4th most goals
- 4th best defense
- 3rd most clean sheets.
- 3rd most shots per/game
Why am I ignoring the first 3 games? I don’t need to. We’re 4 points clear in 4th. The point of showing you the spliced table is to show you how close we are with the new generation team. Win our game in hand and we’d be 5 points behind Liverpool and 7 behind City.
Imagine if we had a more dynamic forward? Imagine if we add Tielemans or Neves? Saliba will slip into the backline after his loan. I mean, we are really, really close to being in a good place.
There’s a lot of chat about the forward, I fully expect us to sniff around Marcus Rashford. He fits our profile of signing. He’s 24 years old, lightning quick, the right sort of character, he’s been mismanaged badly, and he needs and Odegaard like rebrand. People calling him Danny Welbeck MKII aren’t paying attention. This is a kid that has 93 goals and 58 assists. That’s a contribution every other game. He’ll have 1 year left on his deal this summer, he’s fighting with abusive United fans, he’s been put in the bin by United’s Instagram strategy with young players.
Anyway, the key to our summer is to stick to the strategy.
The biggest mistake of the Arteta tenure was investing time and energy in older players that didn’t want to reimagine their game under a novice manager. We lost a season.
The Arsenal strategy is very simple.
Project Elevated Youth
Playing Style: Manchester City Lite. JdP fundamentals with a slightly deeper focus on the defensive aspects.
Recruitment Approach: Feed young players from the academy into the first team. Only sign players 24 or younger. Prioritise intelligence, technical ability, and big characters. Find young players with 1-2 seasons of high level experience (80+ games).
The biggest danger to Arsenal this summer is to deviate from the strategy. We don’t need Hazard, Brozovic, Belotti, or Lingaard (expiring contracts in 2023). We need to focus on future players that will be ready to bang in 2 seasons when we challenge for the league.
That requires club discipline, because there will be big temptations this summer, because Europe knows we have money.
That’s a worry for tomorrow… today, f*ck the people who pretend they have standards that are higher than yours, they aren’t important. Don’t listen to those that say you can’t enjoy a win, you can. Just look at the away-day fans, read the tweets from those that go, and as Matt Kandela always says: Trust the Progress, but more importantly, Celebrate the Progress. That is what football is all about. Enjoy the journey we’re all on together because it is going to be special.
Ok, so here is the pod and Vodcast for your consumption. Apologies my volume is a little loud. I must have accidentally turned it up to make the pod about me, me, me.
As a heads up, we’re thinking of venturing into a Patreon setup next year. I’d like to package up some extra writing and ADD to the content pot. Core podcast will still be there, but we’ll make some special bits for you. Let me know if you have any ideas for it in the comments.