It was a familiar sight, back in the Wenger era: Arséne glued to the manager’s throne, watching the game along with the rest of us, knitted brow, shaking his head, letting his team muddle their way to a solution to their on-pitch problems. I’d scream at him through my TV set – implore him to get up and do something… make a substitution, berate a careless player, point out an obvious fix.
Hell, even just walking up to the sideline and waving his arms in that massive coat of his – the one with the faulty zip – would have been better than doing nothing, surely? But he would just sit there, stubbornly let the match unfold, and it would frustrate the living daylights out of me.
Fast forward a few years, and now Le Prof’s protége, Mikel Arteta, is in the driving seat. Except he very rarely is. In the driving seat, I mean… Nope – he’s perpetually planted on the touchline, toes touching it like an athlete waiting for the starting gun. Constantly barking instructions in multiple languages to his charges:
“Run, Eddie, run, Eddie! Eddie Eddie Eddie!”
Every single action is analyzed, eagle-eyed, and a real-time correction is issued to the relevant player:
“Go back, go forward, press, tackle, pass wide, clear it, mark him, no… him!”
Fingers point, hands dance, arms flail.
No-one can accuse Arteta of being detached, uninvolved.
In fact – there have been whispers of the young gaffer possessing an over-controlling nature, accusations of micro-management, as fans and pundits attempt to explain Arsenal’s lack of creativity, their poor Goals For column tally, and the dismal returns of their strike force.
Arteta’s footballing knowledge is well-documented: the intensity with which he prepares for games is legendary. He is a lover of tactics, formations, and is comfortable devising intricate gameplans to nullify opposition threats, as Arsenal’s defensive record has proved.
Apart from the games against Aston Villa and Liverpool, in which Arsenal conceded 3 goals apiece, and the 2-1 loss to Brighton – the Gunners rarely concede more than 1 goal. They have yet to concede off of a set-piece in the Premier League (the only team still to do so). And Arsenal has the second-lowest Goals Against record in the league.
It is no secret that a good defense wins leagues: George Graham’s impermeable back four (Adams, Dixon, Bould and Winterburn) proved this beyond any doubt. Wenger’s most successful period at the club was with the defense he inherited when he joined the club.
With recent signings Gabriel Magalhaes and Kieran Tierney consistently producing man-of-the-match-worthy performances, half of a world-class defense looks to be in place, promising a solid structure on which to build possible future title-winning teams.
Current Club Captain Aubameyang is a world-class striker: a lethal and clinical finisher who won the Golden Boot in 2019, and was runner-up in 2020. When he signed a new contract in the summer of 2020, it was touted as a real coup, and fans rightfully rejoiced. However he has only scored twice in 9 EPL matches (and only once from open play) – easily his poorest run of form in many years, and though it is easy to blame this poor stat on the fact that he is played ‘out of position’, starting out wide never stopped him from producing the goods before.
Auba’s strike partner, Lacazette has huffed and puffed, but only has 3 goals in 7 appearances to show for it. Young Eddie Nketiah has one goal in eight for his efforts.
These figures make dismal reading. Fans want to see goals. They make games worth watching. No-one wants to see the monotony of an ineffective attack: tedious swinging of the ball in a horseshoe around the opposition’s box, an inability to penetrate, slow transitions from defense to attack, and barely any attempts on target…
But what is causing this malaise? Is Arteta’s system stifling creativity? The low-risk, conservative approach has improved our defensive stats, but playing it safe in a highly competitive league definitely won’t deliver goals, and goals win games…
The young Spaniard needs to let his creative players off their leashes – let them make mistakes, as frustrating as that may be… Players like Pepe produce occasional flashes of brilliance, but only when they are allowed to express themselves freely. Like signing up at one of these 5 Euro Deposit Casinos – a relatively small initial outlay could produce some great rewards if used responsibly… Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Perhaps Arteta just needs to get the balance right: not invest in defense at the expense of attack. Ease off the reins a little during matches – take a page out of Arséne’s book: sit back and let his players find their groove, and produce those little bits of unexpected magic that football lovers everywhere live for.
I was eleven-and-a-half. My family had just emigrated from Rhodesia to South Africa. All the kids on my street supported United or Liverpool, because of their Southern African goalkeeper connections: Bailey for United and Grobbelaar for ‘Pool. Problem was: I didn’t like the colour red – so when FA Cup Final day came around in 1979, I supported the team in yellow, even though their name sounded like “Asshole”. At the final whistle, I had bragging rights and a team that had won my heart.
Then I discovered that the Gunners also wore red. Luckily, I remained loyal, and the Arsenal has kicked my heart around ever since… (apart from a few lost years in the ’90s and early ’00s, when I was busy doing grownup things as a composer in Hollywood).
Abandoned invinciblog.com to launch this site with 1 Nil Down 2 One Up blogfather Dave Seager – and we have used this platform to help launch the writing careers of a number of amazing Arsenal bloggers.