14 for Fourteen
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
Perhaps there is no bigger compliment to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang than Arsenal winning the FA Cup off the back of two huge TEAM performances where all the players take huge credit yet one man STILL stands out!
That’s some feat!
Each player will get credit (below) as they should but my admiration for our number 14 is swelling.
How many elite centre forwards would consistently cover 90 yards helping their full back yet ensure they are the biggest threat going forward too?
How many would even agree to the above?
How many elite forwards would be ok with Eddie Nketiah playing in ‘your’ position, be ok with it, and continue to thrive?
How many would even care to make such an obvious difference when the season has been one of the worst in our modern history?
How many would do all of this with far bigger clubs constantly fluttering their eyes at you?
How many clubs who have finished 8th or lower have had a player score all 4 of the 4 goals to see you defeat the 2nd and 4th best teams in the league to win the Cup?
What can we put this down to?
I think that Aubameyang has mastered happiness.
Too many of us sway with the breeze or are simply never satisfied. We look for the next fix.
I don’t know Aubameyang but he most certainly gives the impression that he lives for the moment. Doesn’t waste time worrying. Some might say that it’s easy if you play for Arsenal and are set for life. My argument would be the comparison with the many others who achieve fame and fortune but always seem to seek more.
I’d also like to add that this mentality is perfect for a striker. Shakes it off. Moves on. Finds the best in life so success just keeps on rolling.
If you choose to stay Pierre, I see you immortalized in that goal scoring flip pose outside the Emirates in the not too distant future.
I see that your legacy will go beyond your goals and be the many that are infected by your happiness and decide to replicate your attitude.
I salute the player. I salute the man.
Now onto the rest of the heroes….
* Martinez…. Always believed in himself. Showed loyalty in a world where it vanished a while back. When was the last time a second choice keeper played a handful of games and may be considered first choice when the first choice was having a brilliant season?
* Bellerin… So happy to see his burst of pace return for the second goal.
* AMN…. why on earth would he leave to be first choice at Brighton when he’s proved he can be first choice at Arsenal and he hasn’t even played in his position yet!?!
* Holding…. Well done for keeping your head and improving as the game went on.
* Luiz….. Simple. Giroud is arguably the inform striker in the league. He had no shots.
* Tierney….. Arsenal’s improvement is largely down to seriousness. The coach is serious and in Tierney and a growing group of others, we have players that consistently bring the fire.
British fans love nothing more than passion.
If you can bring this you are way over halfway there.
* Xhaka…. Like Holding he became more confident as the game went on. Started to open his hips and dictate. His leadership, organization and high level positional awareness will no doubt see him stay and grow at Arsenal. As Mertesacker proved, you can have a fine career if you can excel in what you do have and find a way to persuade the fans to look past your flaws.
* Ceballos…. Like Tierney, Dani Ceballos loves football.
I cannot stress enough how important this is. The stereotypical modern day footballer likes football. They do what they are told to do and nothing more. As long as the money keeps rolling they are good.
There are many, many who don’t even like the game much. You’d be surprised. They don’t watch it and see their career as a job. There are very few in the modern game that love football.
The fact that Dani Ceballos and a handful of others love it might just be the advantage that Arsenal use going forward, especially as the coach has it too and he is the most important piece.
* Pepe…. He was dropped as he wasn’t doing the defensive part up to Arteta’s standard. He has been criticized because he hasn’t produced offensive consistency yet his defensive effort has been ignored. Marry this new habit with his obvious ability to cross with such accuracy and shoot with such finesse and the odds are that ‘second season Pepe’ would now have the rounded skill set to blossom and be the consistent difference maker that he was yesterday.
* Lacazette…. I’m really not sure if Lacazette will stay but I give him credit for learning a brand new way of playing CF. His physicality is a clear addition.
* Aubameyang….. read the prologue again!
* Arteta…. As keen as I was to choose PEA to give the biggest applause to, I could’ve easily given the same to Mikel Arteta.
As a coach I can tell you that getting a game plan right from the beginning (City) is good but changing a game plan to adapt to a game running away from you and winning (yesterday) is harder.
I remember when I started coaching. The hardest part by far was simply seeing the game in full motion and being responsible for a) trying to watch that your team is doing what you told them whilst simultaneously watching what the opposition are doing, b) being serene enough amongst the roller coaster of emotions to see the problem from the sideline at full speed and c) communicating the adjustment amongst all the noise.
Yesterday Lampard won the first 15 minutes. His wingers played as interiors. Pulisic was killing us by turning early.
Arteta saw the central problem and brought both Pepe and AMN centrally and let Xhaka sit between the lines as a DM.
He also instructed our team to stop playing it to Xhaka in crowded central areas as they were pressing him to great success.
Two pivotal moments that changed everything.
Beyond completely swinging the game momentum the most impressive change he has brought is solidity.
Us fans have been begging for defensive solidity for way too long.
As Ian Stone comically put it on The Tuesday Club podcast, “My son told me the other day that Arsenal has needed a holding midfielder his whole life!”
Mikel Arteta has given us this gift in just 5 months.
* Not today 😊
* The post Cup Final week can be brutal. The club has no choice but to have 1 on 1 meetings as players are going off on holiday.
There will be some that will be told that they are free to leave and some that are told that the club are ‘open to offers.’
It was sad to see players looking so ecstatic like Torreira and thinking that they may not see the carpet again.
All this is ok as its very much necessary, just a little sad off the back of champagne.
Arsenal are now a team that can win individual games. Big games too. Finally, huh?
We could comfortably get Top 4 next year by winning the same amount of big games and turning the losses and many draws against lesser teams, into wins.
The key is firstly understanding that we are a better team against better teams but struggle to take the initiative against those that offer it.
Secondly, purchasing the correct creative players to give us the possibility to accomplish this.
The need has actually shifted from a Centre Back to a Central Midfielder to creativity quite quickly. This is due to Arteta squeezing the maximum out of limited players.
So before you berate the board for wanting Coutinho, consider what our coach could do with elite talent when he turned Mustafi from our worst to our best centre back!
As I said on the day when Arteta took over….. ‘Everything’s just changed.
Former Highbury regular. Moved to TN, USA in ’99. Married with 3 kids. Coached in UK and US for 27 years.
Mike McDonald Soccer Academy in Morristown TN, Olympic Development coach, Regional Premier League Champion.