The real star of Arsenal’s Old Trafford glory won’t make the headlines [Positive Needs & Hopes]


It’s not in the Headlines


My son Maxwell asks me the same question each week after his football match.

He asks me, ‘How did I do, Dad?’

All parents reading this can relate. We all get a similar question. We all probably feel the same way about our response. We tell our kids that we are proud of them and we feel like the piece that makes us the most proud is the effort.

We can excuse the mistakes and the result shouldn’t drive our response either.

Alongside this we live in world that feels the need to sensationalize everything. Love or hate. Great or terrible. Awesome or pathetic.

The headline in the British press this morning probably wasn’t…. ‘A New Seriousness’ or ‘Steel, Determination and Organization wins at Old Trafford’ or perhaps ‘ElNeny’s infectious energy,’ but even though those headlines don’t necessarily make you want to read the article, they are a closer representation of the story.

Even more importantly they are the root of the New Arsenal.

We all still want a shiny creative midfielder and that is important, no doubt.

Let us not forget though that every great team in every sport has to have roots. A foundation built on seriousness, energy, work ethic, steel, determination, organization, solidity and then in the modern game, pressing and structure.

If we rewound 1 year, 3 years, 5 years or 10 years and offered ourselves an Arsenal with a handful of qualities the two that we’d pick would be seriousness and defensive organization, I’d say. Not headlines but absent from Arsenal for about a decade.

Arsenal now have roots.

We should be shouting as loudly about this unspectacular gift than any shinier sounding headline available or to come.

Much like how we feel when we watch our kids trying to achieve, we should put more stock in applauding the effort, the non- headline.



• Arteta was courageous. He needed a big game. Picking ElNeny and Lacazette was somewhat of a risk because most thought that he was wrong pre-game. It’s encouraging to me that he doesn’t care and is so sure of himself.

• ElNeny is yet another so called ‘not good enough’ that he has improved and made him ‘good enough’ for AFC.

• Should Gabriel have settled so quickly? For a non-English speaking young player in a new league, should he be this effective this quickly? Is the applause just for Gabriel?

I think the coaching staff have a large impact on his confidence.

• Should Saka be as consistent as he is at the age of 19? Do we just clap Bukayo? I think the coach seems to know how to extract a big performance from him EVERY game. No complacency because he’s the ‘next big thing.’ He’s top level too quickly quite honestly.

No coincidence for me.

• The game plan was perfection. Starting with intensity and threat out wide therefore stopping Wan-Bissaka and Shaw from offering the width that a midfield diamond needs due to the threat behind them.

• Playing Willian and Auba narrow allowing Bellerin in particular the space to impact the game proved to be the match winner.

Well done Mikel!

Arteta talks often about the duels.

Have you noticed the difference in our effectiveness at winning headers from long balls? None of our front three are an aerial threat necessarily but all won multiple duels in the air.

• Bellerin has saved his Arsenal career.

He has almost gone back to his early Arsenal days when he was a big offensive threat with his pace and now offers a similar threat but now with his final ball and timing of runs.

• Did ElNeny lose possession once? When at Old Trafford these days this is vital and maybe why he started. They transition so quickly and effectively.

Beyond this he has clearly been challenged to use his accurate passing talent to greater effect by pushing forward and passing forward. This is a clever and easy improvement that Arteta has made because passing security as a talent doesn’t have to be exclusively for the defensive and midfield third.

ElNeny has always had big lungs and always played with the seriousness that others lack. Now that he is making these improvements he will be hard to drop.


• A round of applause to whoever made the first observation on Gabriel.

Half or possibly a third of the price of Upamecano and possibly as good or better.

• It’s only fair to recognize the contribution of Lacazette when he is effective. His back tackling created more than one chance and weirdly might be his most effective asset.

• Partey is slowly having a greater impact. You can sense that he is an elite player even though he hasn’t been brilliant so far. He was very good, 8/10 but you can see that he’s capable of unplayable and 9 or 10/10. When we sign another similar player in midfield (see HOPES) therefore giving us the chance to give him more attacking freedom, we will see more layers.

• Tierney is 8/10 every week. Every week. Quite something.

• Well done Holding for playing so well in such a tricky comeback match

• Willian played with more intent to create too. Desperately important for Arsenal.

• I hope this comes across the right way but I’m delighted in retrospect that Xhaka didn’t play.

As we won and the midfield was dominant it means that we have good reason to not play him so we don’t have to go through what he went through a year ago.

Xhaka is one who has improved under Arteta and has been an important cog. I was getting concerned that he was the only player who wasn’t proving to be the solution, yet always played. Accountability has to be for all.


• Hector Bellerin’s throw ins. Face palm emoji guy.

• I didn’t expect to create more than we did against Utd away but the concern is still evident that we don’t look like scoring.

As with all aspects of football I prefer feeling over stats and I look forward to having that pre-game feeling that we will win because we create so many opportunities. Not there yet.

It’s the stuff in the opening part of the blog that’s getting us the results right now.



• I’m hoping that Nelson and Willock don’t get too frustrated that they weren’t on the bench yesterday.  Both deserved this due to their big performances on Thursday.

• The quick impact of James Rodriguez to the PL has made me pause over the thought of Isco at Arsenal. Much like James, Isco must be a frustrated guy desperate to prove he’s still top level.

• The other rumor as an attacking midfield option to Aouar is Dominik Szoboszlai.

As I’ve said for 18 months, he is a natural footballer who caresses the football and makes you dream. I’m unconvinced that chance creation is his big quality though.

I’d still push for Martin Odegaard.

• Almost as important is another Thomas Partey like midfielder. I say this as I think it would free TP to play in their final third as well as in the centre of the park.

I have many options that I’ll discuss if this becomes a real possibility but for now a player that I can’t shake off is Marcos Antonio at Shaktar Donetsk. A lightning quick and skillful DM.

Take a look.


This win was pivotal.

Mainly for confidence in the manager. For the first time last week our confidence was rattled as we looked offensively stuck for ideas and shy of courage.

A win away at a big six team is certainly the medicine.

Will we kick on?

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3 Responses to The real star of Arsenal’s Old Trafford glory won’t make the headlines [Positive Needs & Hopes]

  1. Adeleke Adeyombo November 2, 2020 at 9:38 am #

    Well thought and written out submission by the writer. It feels so good to finally win at OT.The performance is also quite encouraging. Upward and onward.COYG.

  2. allezkev November 3, 2020 at 12:34 pm #

    Thanks for that Mike, you summed it all up perfectly, I never lost my mind when we lost to Leicester not least because they are a damned good team and we don’t have a player as sharp as Vardy, no not even PEA as it stands, Leicester have already thrashed Man City and they now sit 2nd in the table – on merit.

    Sunday was fabulous but again and I’m being picky here, our finishing wasn’t as good as it should be, we could have been reflecting on a much more satisfying win, possibly 3-0, but I’ll take the 1-0 for now.
    Once Martinelli is 100% fit again, probably next season, our attack will take on a far more ruthless and dynamic level.

    Bukayo Saka, what a wonderful footballer, he’s a gem, of that there is no doubt but Kieran Tierney is key, he plays a fluid centre back/left back role and still gets forward, he allows Saka the security to do his thing and when Bukayo does it, it is a thing of beauty. I used to love watching Ashley Cole, Bobby Pires and Thierry Henry on our left flank terrorising the opposition and now we have history repeating itself with Bukayo, Kieran and Auba,

    Yes, Onwards and Upwards.

  3. Ronald November 4, 2020 at 2:48 pm #

    Hi Mike.

    I am one of your biggest fans from Kenya. Somebody told me that good mangers’ teams usually have their imprint on the team and you can literally see what they are “trying” to do. I get this feeling with Arteta in abundance. One thing I also noticed is that this past summer transfer window players are ALL more or less first team players. Meaning they have basically improved us one step further. I will take steady improvement, growth and development over the last “8 years Arsenal” anytime. On top of all this, Partey has been one of my favourite players since 2017 when Athletico eliminated us in the Europa league. I even went to watch a Kenya vs Ghana AFCON qualifiers just to see him in person.

    How he moves still amazes me. He looks lethargic and looks like nicking the ball off him is easy but honestly speaking, I can’t of a more press resistant midfielder over the last decade, aside from Cazorla of course. If you sit back and hold while defending against him, he will have very easy options since he can dribble vertically, pass over the top or even thread through balls….Not to mention his hammer of a shot. His skill set is so diverse and I think that’s why Arteta said that he can play in midfield on his own. I feel like we will keep on slugging while slowly improving and hopefully with a little bit of luck, we can be in and around top 4 in Feb/March. The seriousness with which we played that game, that is where we need to be.

    I think the next player he will replace is Lacazette though. Let’s call it a feeling. Partey and Gabriel are serious ballers and long may it continue. I never get the “fear” like I do with Xhaka and even Ceballos back there. This will force other players to step up their game which is only good for us.

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