Is ‘learnings’ a word or just something we say after meetings in America? Who knows. But here are some from yesterday’s Super Bowl.
I am on a plane coming back from LA after watching our sister club, the LA Rams, smash up the Bengals at Super Bowl 56.
I do not have the chutzpah to tell you anything insightful about the game, but I can talk about some of the interesting bits in relation to Arsenal.
Firstly, that stadium.
I don’t want to take something great and weaponise it, but I’m going to have to. The SoFi Stadium is beyond spectacular. There is absolutely no excuse for KSE not to do something equally awesome at The Emirates this summer. It should go well beyond new signage.
What I love about the venue is they really did respect the architects intentions. It is art and they have preserved it, which is brave when it’s more lucrative to cave to sponsorship teams. So many venues in America are caked in gawdy corporate iconography. Brand logos spoil venues by taking up every square inch with a message that gets drowned out… not here. The food stalls are all owned brand created, so there’s no McDonald’s in the ground. The most prominent brand is Pepsi, but even they had to accept a monochromatic logo offering.
The centerpiece of the building was the infinity screen in the middle of the ground. The largest screen in the world. 1 million cubic tons of screen and speaker. So heavy, that when it was winched in, it pulled the roof down 7 feet like a suspension bridge. The fidelity was the best I’ve seen, but the sound was crisp, cinematic, and it ripped through you like plane turbulence.
The tech stack in the ground is all connected through one system, so the advertising boards work seamlessly with the big screen and the music so when they want to create a vibe, it all plays perfectly together. I know all the electronics probably cost close to what Spurs new ground cost in its entirety, so I doubt we’ll get that much at Arsenal… but my word, do I have a newfound respect for the art of light and sound and what it can bring to a ground.
The music was also really good. I’d never considered the idea of a DJ pregame. Electronic music has never been my thing, but the night club vibe banging through the stadium really lifted the energy of the place. People were bouncing off the walls pregame. Now, I know it was Super Bowl, so everyone is excited, but the electricity of the music added to the feel good factor. I couldn’t even tell you what Arsenal do pregames because there’s nothing interesting to do. In America, by the time halftime ends, 90% of food and beverages will have been served. Does Arsenal do a good job in maxing out that pregame experience? I don’t think so. Could a better music experience encourage people, maybe.
There were also some other neat facts. There are 3 layers to the ground and each of those layers can move 10 feet, so the place can absorb a pretty big earthquake. Not sure how they test that, but it’s built into the design.
The steel exterior is perforated so the light seeps through… and the cool air, so it feels air conditioned. The stadium was also very open. We spent most of the game standing on the mid section on the 50 yard line. I think it might be easier to open spaces because American’s don’t beat each other up if they see beer, but even so, it was really interesting how the stadium purposefully designed around access and openness. It was also interesting how seamless the tech was. I was uploading videos in seconds, AT&T gave me 5G+ in the ground and sent a text to let me know. Everything was so considered.
Beer? Oh yeah, $46 for two pints Kona’s. Wild right? They serve it in aluminum cups that act as collectibles and greatly reduce the single use plastics in the stadium. I think the company that makes them is Ball, who now sponsors Arsenal, so I expect to see that in the Arsenal ground in the not too distant future. Clubs really should be doing all they can to eradicate plastics, but it’s hard to do, because you need to build out infrastructure to dispose of the waste. Even in that fancy new stadium, KSE still have to have people show up after the game to pick through the plastic and aluminum. Wildly inefficient and costly, but that is the price sports clubs with a conscious have to pay to be green these days.
The food was… errr… not up to much.
The game was great fun, the halftime show was the best I’ve ever seen, and now we know that KSE has ‘winnertivity’ IP. There has to be a trickledown there. There is absolutely no reason why that can’t be Arsenal at some point. We’re at the start of our journey, but we have similar foundations. A young coach, elite young players, and a club that has a clear vision to get back to the top.
The Rams winning the Super Bowl hopefully means KSE is serious about sport, not something you could them of in the past.
We’ll see, a big summer ahead.
In striker news, we’re apparently tracking Chelsea 20 year old, Borja. He’s ripping it up at Southampton this season, terrorizing defenders with his power and pace. He looks very much in the mold of what we’re looking for in a striker, especially height-wise. I’m not sure how much of a future he has at Chelsea, but I’m also not sure they’ll be keen to sell us one of their rising stars. This is the problem at the top of football, your young stars want minutes, if they don’t get them, they leave. It’s also amusing that their ‘very internet’ fans are losing their mind about his potential exit in the same way Arsenal fans do with William Saliba.
I suspect Arsenal know who they are after this summer. The club went hard for Vlahovic, but I think in the end it came down to the power of his grubby agents. Juventus are under investigation in Italy for how they do deals, they have no problem dropping 11m in fees, I suspect our club might be a bit shy in that regard because they were burned so badly under Don Raul. There will be other targets though. I do still find the reaction to missing out on him a little odd.
‘WE WASTED OUR TIME’
Do you want Arsenal to get in the mixer for the best players? If yes, then you have to accept that we’re never going to be in a market of one and that there are no guarantees. One of my gripes from yesteryear was that we only seemed to go for players when there was no competition for a signature. We’re not doing that now, part of that means we’ll lose sometimes. But let’s be clear, we haven’t lost that many times of late. Clubs create a profile of player they want, the analysts and scouts will present tiered options, then someone like Edu will go to work. That work might already be underway for what we want to do this summer.
Arsenal might have been given a price for a striker they like this Jan, but in the summer, the contract scenario goes from 18 months, to 12 months, and the price drops… which frees capital elsewhere. There are also other items under consideration that short-sighted folk miss. Eddie might blow up, I know everyone is certain he won’t, but there’s something there, and if he gets an extended run, he might sign with us. Folarin Balogun, a player every fan was electrified by, might come back and do an ESR. He got a wicked assist the other day, he held his own against United, and he’s very young. Arsenal fans demanding we sign our second striker in January seem to be missing a trick… Balogun might be our second striker next season. We also might deal with Lacazette again.
Someone made a really good point on Twitter the other day… we don’t have to be violent with our squad rebuild. Why do we have to sell Xhaka this summer when we could just add a player and keep him in the squad? Same with Lacazette. If he’s a great leader, why not keep him around? He ain’t getting £180k a week anywhere else in Europe with 4 goals to his name, so he might take a shorter deal that is more lucrative with Arsenal. Rob Holding was part of the 3rd best defense in the league last season, now he’s second choice, but he’s a fine option because he cares.
Our January transfer window will look good in the long term. Making mistakes to appease short term thinkers is never wise. You satisfy the mob that will be calling for heads the next season when those deals they begged for don’t work out. Better off slimming down the squad, giving everyone minutes, then going into the summer lean and ready to roll. This summer will be particularly special because it’ll be the first in 5 years where we don’t need to sell to buy (we didn’t sell last summer, but that wasn’t really the plan).
Finally, how is Unai Conte doing over at Spurs? Mr Elite, the man we should have sacked Arteta for over Christmas, has dropped 3 losses in a row, and tanked Spurs to 8th in the league. His post match press conference depressed me and I enjoy watching them suffer. Never in football has been a worse combination. What I love about this mess is fans will do exactly what they did with Jose Mourinho. They’ll feel sorry for the manager whining about a situation we all knew he’d be in, they’ll blame Levy, then they’ll eventually realise that hiring a massive sulker for a rebuild might be the issue.
Top 4 isn’t over, but the reality of Spurs right now is they need a rebuild and they have the wrong guy in place for that, even if he does get them Champions League this season. What a disaster.
Still, a great weekend for Arsenal. West Ham, Spurs, and United all dropped points. We’re not really in the driving seat, because our games in hand aren’t points on the board. But we have an opening. Just remember though… we have the youngest team in the league, we’re not mature enough to win 16 games straight, there are going to be more shocking moments. Just don’t catastrophize them, because like I said 2 weeks ago, no one has the tools to smash the home run of this league because everyone has problems. We just need to stay in the mixer.
Right, I’m done, see you in the comments. X