Podcast: Personal stories and family recollections by Stephen Mills, a 3-generation Gooner, provide history lessons from 94 years of Arsenal Football Club. According to Mills there were difficult and glorious years but to quote him “It was fantastic to be an Arsenal fan.”
This is the audio version of the Uncensored Arsenal YouTube livestream of July 24th. For a full broadcast link the channel at YouTube_Uncensored Arsenal
Today @shotta_gooner and I look briefly at the Brighton game before discussing where were stand, who and why we are standing 8th. What can be done, what might be done, who is best placed to do it? Despite the dire season Arteta looks safe, why?
The end of the season is nigh. Thank goodness for that. There has been nothing good about this season. The odd good result and the occasional half decent performance sprinkled in among dour games and embarrassing defeats. Personally I’ve found watching the games a chore. Quote frankly it’s been awful. But enough of that, we will look at the season in more depth when the dust settles.
Right, on a positive note, we have the chance of winning 5 games in a row and go into the summer with the hope that there has been an improvement and all will be well next season. Where there’s life there’s hope I suppose?
Brighton play a lovely brand of football, but because they have so few good players, it looks better than the results that it earns. Their strikers are particularly ineffective which always means victories will be few and far between compared to the quality of the build up play. I think Graham Potter would be very good with a better squad of players, like Arsenal for instance, but I better keep that under my hat?
If results go our way today, or against us, depending on how you look at it, we could end up in this joke European competition they have dreamed up for teams not good enough to get into the losers cup we have been competing for for the past 4 seasons. A horrible thought, but on the flip side we would finish above Spurs, which will be a source of great joy and merriment for Arsenal fans given how bad we have been.
We will bid a fond farewell to David Luiz, and that’s a bit sad for me. I like him, think he has done quite well for us and brought some much needed character to the club, let alone the team. Ceballos and Odegaard will also exit the building both having disappointed to varying degrees, but who hasn’t disappointed this season? It makes me wonder if it was them or…………………oh never mind, we’ll leave that for another day as well.
Also I heard that Steve Bould has been sacked, dear me, what next, ask Pat Rice to stop attending games? Steve has been a great servant to us and this will be another link to past greatness that we will lose. F. sake.
Ok, enough for today, enjoy the game and I will see ya all on the other side.
Tonight at 7pm Arsenal take on Chrystal Palace in a meaningless huge game. We desperately need a win to climb from 10th to the dizzy heights of 8th. Another win and fans can look at the points gained from some random point in the season and claim that’s a clear indication of progress of the process. I kid you not.
Arteta has done is PR interview, sorry I mean press conference, and told us……………………. well actually, I’m so fed up with him that I can’t bring myself to watch or read his waffle anymore. I’m sorry, but the sight of him makes me so mad I could punt a puppy across a motorway. However, from twitter I’ve gleaned that Xhaka and Luiz are likely to miss out. It will be a shame if we don’t see either of them in and Arsenal shirt again, Luiz is deffinately for the off and I think Xhaka will be too, given a glimmer of a chance.
Old uncle Roy has announced he’s stepping back from PL management, so that’s about the most interesting thing about this game.
But look, don’t be put off my my outpourings of misery, Mikel tells us that the owner are hugely ambitious, so that’s ok then. We are going to be grand next season.
Today’s blog isn’t really about last night’s game, more about how we, as fans , the media and social media, look at the results. That said, while I’m here typing it would be rude not too.
We got 3 points away against a team that has dispatched us with little problem over the last 15 years. We defended gallantly and in a controlled way that for the most part was effective and well structured. There were glimpses of attacking flair with ESR standing out well and perhaps even being outstanding. Elneny was efficient and effective and made a nonsense of the perception of him being peddled by some in our fanbase.
On the flip side, we were rather lucky to win. Chelsea gifted us a goal and were dominating us most of the night. They had made 7 changes, it was basically their B team and still were creating chances four times as often as us, hitting the woodwork and Leno together with some desperate last ditch blocks, saved us several times.
And that brings me nicely to the point of this blog, which of the previous two paragraphs is your analysis, and why?
We all have the same information, facts and statistics available to us, but how we interpret these things varies wildly from one extreme to another.
If you are Arteta out, you will dismiss the result and hark back to the real and perceived failings of the last 12 months, if you are Arteta in you will dismiss anything that’s gone before and use a result away at Chelsea as justification for you’re belief. Whatever your position you will look for a vacuum chamber of like minded people and go to war with fans on the other side of this divide. Well at least the loud mouth over opinionated people will, like me. The reality is that most people are somewhere in the centre ground and shift slightly and slowly after every game.
The extremists, like me, will take a stance and look for everything that will confirm their bias.
I have also noticed that when you have set up residence in a particular camp, and decide to cross the floor to the opposite camp, these fans are even more vocal than they were. This is likely because they have to justify to themselves their change in attitude.
Me for instance, I was one of the very first and biggest advocates for Arteta, things happened and I did a complete U-turn and now I find myself struggling to give a fair and balance look at day to day goings on, because I want to justify being set against him and I want to prove myself right. These attempts to prove myself right will be countered by people who disagree and want to prove me wrong and themselves right. And so it goes on, it becomes a battle of egos from rank amateurs like me with absolutely no reason to have an over inflated ego. The vast majority of vocal fans/tweeters/bloggers/podcasters, don’t do it to share our opinions, it’s to show you all how smart we think we are. That’s the problem, the desperation to be seen as smart and right, stops any critical thinking that might show us to be stupid and wrong.
You can’t look at the way we have performed and our position in the league, our early exit from domestic cups and the inglorious exit for the Europa League, and conclude Arteta has been excellent. Similarly you can’t ignore the difficulties he has within the squad, at board level, the clear improvement in our defence, his gaining in managerial experience, the improving patterns of play and conclude that there isn’t a possibility that he could become a good manager.
Most fans want to be happy and enjoy supporting the team, today a lot of fans are happy, that’s has to be a good thing and there’s no need for any of us to go around bursting their bubbles.
I remember Tiger Woods when interviewed after a round where he two-putted every Green, saying he was really pleased with the way he’d putted. This seemed strange, especially as he’d gone round in par without recording a single birdie: when asked about this he replied that his putting stroke felt really fluid and it was only a matter of time before the putts dropped, and pars became birdies. In much the same way, you will hear cricketers these days talking about the importance of bowlers getting it into the right areas, and this football season has seen more and more reference to the expected goals statistic. Get the process right, success will follow.
These days the concept of ‘life coaching’ is increasingly prevalent, emphasising as it does the importance of process-driven growth, rather than a goal-oriented approach. The idea being that rather than setting your sights on short-term peaks of success, a longer lasting value-driven approach will lead to greater happiness: this also finds its way into sports coaching (or was it the other way round?) and most young athletes these days are exhorted to find, and then trust, the process that is best suited to them. Going back to golf for a moment, the thinking is best described like this: if the player thinks ‘if I hole this putt I will win the tournament’, the putt is literally make or break, tension creeps in and disaster beckons. Current coaching philosophy says ‘forget about the outcome, trust the process that has seen you hole thousands of such putts, go into auto-pilot, and the likeliest result will be the successful one’. I find as I write this not golf springing to mind, but rather Steve Davis’s missed Black in that epic encounter back in the 70s. He would have done well to put outcome out of his mind at that moment.
But what of The Arsenal amongst all this? As the signs began to emerge this season that Mikel Arteta was not necessarily the answer to The Arsenal’s on-field issues, fans were either quick to call for his head or offer support by suggesting he needed time to get the players he wanted, and then more time to get them playing his preferred style. ‘Trust the Process’ became the cry, the implication being that at long last the club was going about its business in the right way and that once the non-negotiables were no longer being negotiated, success would surely follow. After all, he had been Arsene’s on-field general and knew the Arsenal way, while many Manchester City watchers were also quick to suggest that he was the real brains behind Guardiola’s success. Well maybe, but it’s worth remembering that not many monkeys make it to organ grinder.
And trusting the process surely became the mantra for the players too. Keep believing, keep doing the right thing; keep creating triangles, keep seeking overloads; keep executing the training ground plan, keep finding the final pass and as night follows day expected goals will become actual ones. What could possibly go wrong? Theoretically very little, but there’s many a slip between theory and practice, as this season has so eloquently demonstrated. While it is right and proper to go into a game with a plan, most managers would have a couple of other plans up their sleeve should the preferred option prove unsuccessful – and one of the main frustrations for Arsenal fans of late has been laboured sideways and back passing repeated ad infinitum, with seemingly little real intent to quicken the pace and go for the jugular. Even some of the great Wenger sides would occasionally lump it long, and they certainly knew when an injection of intent was needed.
But watching the so-called season-defining game last week against Villareal I realised two things. The first was that if a single game is season-defining then you have the exact opposite of trusting the process: the single match has become too important, the players too fixated on the outcome to play with any natural fluidity. And the other thing (which is no doubt why we ended up in such a situation) is that the players do not seem technically good enough to play the way the manager expects them to. Too many passes are hit fractionally behind players, causing a breakdown of momentum, too many passes needlessly gift up the ball, too many passes when received are mis-controlled. Playing out from the back becomes an open invitation for the other side, attacks (when they finally come) are telegraphed so long in advance that any defence worth its salt can snuff out danger whilst also having time for a cup of tea and a read of the paper. Midfield control is out of the question, especially when the only midfielder worth his salt is played out of position. And, most damning of all, the moments of individual and unchoreographed brilliance needed to take charge of a game have long since been either coached out of the players, hampered by chronic uncertainty or are simply not available to players who seem at best just a little bit better than average in Premier League terms.
Trusting the process needs a process worth trusting in, but it also needs players with enough ability to make it work. If we are to stay with the players we currently have then I think a different playing style is needed, a process that is more robust defensively and less complicated in attack. The sort of approach adopted by the Leicester title-winning side maybe, which once in a blue moon may see outrageous success but is more likely to consistently see a placing between 4th and 8th. It would need to see a different manager and would likely be the cheapest and swiftest way to see progress from the shambles of 20/21. If the club decides to stick with Mikel Arteta, and if he continues with his process, then he is going to need much better players to make it work. It will take time, a lot more money, and far greater ambition than I suspect the club is willing to invest in. It is also worth wondering if Arteta has the confidence to coach players more talented and successful than himself: past experience does not necessarily seem to say so.
My guess is that the club will end up falling between the two stools: Arteta will stay, there will be a few arrivals and even more departures, a lot of money (but not enough) will be spent and this money will be largely wasted because the new players will not be quite good enough and the manager will not be pragmatic enough to ditch his Pep inspired tactical dreams and settle for something that might actually work. I can’t see next season being much different to this one, I’m afraid. It’s all rather sad, to be honest, but with mainly Saturday afternoon non-televised games, and no European matches to look forward to, I will at least save on Sky and BT subscriptions, which is certainly a process that will go down well with the rest of the family.