The Initiative Issue: the simple coaching tip Arteta needs to learn [ARS 0-1 EVE]


The Initiative Issue


I think that Mikel Arteta’s greatest success since becoming coach/manager has been defensive intensity and organization.

If he were not to remain as coach in the long term I think he has solved arguably the most important need that the club had on the field in 15 years. I am grateful. It’s unspectacular and nobody is writing these headlines, but it was so greatly needed.

I also think that our current greatest need is being somewhat hindered by our biggest improvement. 

I think that Arsenal are more suited to playing against teams that they don’t dominate. Perhaps this is why we have quite a good record against good teams. We spend much of those games utilizing this strength and teams find it hard to break us down as we rarely slack or are out of structure. I suppose that this structure and the fact that we mostly lose games due to individual error is why I believe in Arteta. When he is blessed with better options the mistakes will subside.


Then we play teams that are our equal or not at our level and we seem to struggle. Not necessarily lose, but make such hard work of it. Everton were a similar level to us. We struggled because we were more dominant and when we are more dominant we are leaning into a part of our game that has a sign attached…. ‘Under Construction.’

The first phase has been conquered. We now play out of the back without anymore heart attacks. The midfield phase is quite impressive as we use the full width of the field to keep simple possession due to our superior spacing. Then we enter the construction site. The hard hats go on and it’s not pretty in there yet. We follow certain pre-ordered passing patterns but we hit a stop sign when they aren’t producing the success that the x and o’s showed us on the white board. Then when the construction manager tells us to turn around as it’s not working we have such little confidence to use our initiative and say, ‘I’m going in. I’m gonna try fix it myself. I appreciate the managers help and plan but it’s not working so i’m flying solo.’ This is when we pass the buck and become risk averse.

I’m not wanting the players to rebel against the managers wishes but in football you can’t always account for your opponents reaction to your plan and you certainly can’t control them.

As I’ve said many times since Arteta took over, I think his greatest weakness is over coaching. The team look like they are torn between what they think he wants them to do and what they see. Much like we’ve seen this week in the lack of understanding of our owners, I feel like our coach needs to remind himself that players have to be allowed to use their initiative. A balance has to be struck between patterns and freedom.

This might be all as simple as Arsenal having a new coach bursting with ideas. It sounds like his latter years as a player were largely spent coaching players he was playing with. Then he sat on the bench having a partial but not full voice at City. He shows up at Arsenal with clear talent, an over flow of ideas and likely bursting with excitement that he now has his opportunity to put forth his ideas as the main man. What happens next is that the players seem to perform the attacking pattern regardless of whether it’s on. This may explain why we seem to lack clear goal scoring opportunities. The players are playing the pre-rehearsed pattern rather than the game.

I think Mikel Arteta needs to learn when to coach and when to sit down and trust.



-Eddie’s link up play was better and an improvement. He was stronger and more deceptive with his back to goal. It was in the box where he seemed hesitant.

-Partey has yet to find consistency but I sure do enjoy watching his line breaking passes and his ability to break up play and create transition. He is part of the solution at Arsenal. That’s for sure.

-I’ve figured out Ceballos’ best quality. I think he anticipates better than most anybody hence why a largely un-athletic guy makes so many interceptions and tackles. His defensive mind is a step ahead. I wish his legs were too.

-I was encouraged that Martinelli was given some time at Centre Forward. I need to feel that this is a potential plan as he has the tools. Unfortunately, after he came on we were at a roadblock and seemed to have run out of ideas.


Our set piece coach. Yes – we have a set piece coach.


-A time has to come where we start scoring simple goals. I’m thinking largely of six yard box goals. Eddie is the king of the six yard box yet he seemed under instruction to stop on the penalty spot therefore colliding with the rest of the traffic arriving in the box. I am yet to see a striker at Arsenal with deceptive movement in front of the penalty spot. Auba hangs predictably at the back post, Laca marks himself and Martinelli looks jumpy and over excited. I thought Eddie would come alive in the box but I didn’t see it.

-When is a journalist going to ask Arteta about our inability to create a set play that firstly looks like it will work, let alone score from one? Yet again, we had buckets of corners and yet they aren’t producing even half chances.

-I hope our frustrations don’t boil over to over reacting to Leno’s mistake. Technical security is his strength. A bad mistake but most certainly not a regular occurrence.



-If Europe through the league is unattainable then let’s play those that we want to keep and encourage not those we want to sell. Prime example is Martinelli and Balogun over Nketiah.


Photo: Rob Segal


A few thoughts on this week….

  1. I absolutely loved that two of the opening statements at the fans forum weren’t questions, but statements. I think that asking Josh Kroenke a question is a far bigger waste of time than just telling him the truth. The fact that he was told that he isn’t trusted and that he should leave is a far better use of breath.
  2. An impressive protest. A impressive number protesting. Without exaggeration, if there were 60,000 going to yesterday’s game, I think you have at least 40,000 of them protesting. I think we would’ve seen the entire concourse brimming with protestors.
  3. What an overwhelming thought for the Kroenke family to consider that a mediocre team like Arsenal were given a free pass to the higher echelons of world football and a financial windfall that the fans having been dreaming of, yet nobody wanted it. That’s like being offered the house and car of your wildest fantasies and saying ‘no.’ What that would tell me if I was the owner was that this situation I’d created must be abhorrent to these people. It would also tell me that I don’t understand them. It would then tell me to stop wasting my time and leave.
  4. If I was in authority in any of these positions of power whether it be SL, FIFA, UEFA, FA, PL etc…, I’d be hyper aware that these English fans now have their antennas up and they are not going down. Not only are they going to have a natural distrust for any new changes but they will feel empowered as they comfortably won this war. The fanbases uniting and succeeding has created a power shift in English Football.
  5. If I was a potential buyer, I’d make my offer now. Why not! The timing is perfect. The Kroenke’s may stay. They may give us 100M to spend this summer. Trouble is though that they can’t make any more mistakes and their instinct will likely bury them because they don’t think like we do. They can attempt to change but the mind of a billionaire is so far removed from that of the working class that I’m not sure it’s a fight they will ever win.
  6. Having said that, I do like to wonder as to what I’d do if I were them. There is a fascinating show here in the US called ‘Undercover Boss.’ It’s where a CEO of a big company goes undercover in his own company to get a feel for the problems. If I were Josh Kroenke I wouldn’t just visit London as he suggests, I’d spend 6 months immersing myself in English Football. I’d live the life of an average fan/Arsenal employee to try to understand them. I think this is the only way he”d get respect. People know he’s rich. They accept that. They just want him to TRY to understand them, the game they love and the club they love that he cannot possibly whilst living in luxury in a Colorado ranch.

Well that was a waste of a thought. He’d never do anything close to this smart. Too comfortable to make himself uncomfortable. I wonder if the Spotify guy won’t be the last to throw his hat in the ring.

Here’s hoping.


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2 Responses to The Initiative Issue: the simple coaching tip Arteta needs to learn [ARS 0-1 EVE]

  1. Grimlar April 24, 2021 at 10:21 am #

    Irrespective of performances on the pitch and fan protests I can give you one reason why KSE wont sell Arsenal, 10 years ago Arsenal was valued at less than a billion pounds, now its worth more than two billion. Thats a large profit margin for the owners.

    I can only think of three situations in which they might sell.
    1) They are forced to by a change in regulations about club ownership. IE FIFA, UEFA or the government. Obviously this is unlikely.
    2) Someone offers much more than the club is worth. Given the value placed an Arsenal at the moment I would think that £3 billion might at least get you a conversation. Billionaires are rarely that careless with money, so this is also unlikely.
    3) Massive long term protests that were damaging to the KSE brand. Thats why Josh was sent to deal with the Wecaredoyou protest, and the Super League embaressment. KSE is in the spotlight at the moment and as such may be persuaded to do things they otherwise wouldnt.

    You talk about KSE needing to understand the fans.I think the only way for that to happen is to talk to them much more frequently.
    As such, I think at the moment it would be realistic for the fans to insist on a couple of seats on the board. Simply being present would probably have an effect on some decisions.
    I would also like to see the fan reps given a veto over any proposal that was a major change to the clubs sporting focus. Ie stuff like the Super League, moving Arsenals ground etc. Provided the veto was limited it might be acceptable to KSE, but probably not.

  2. Andy April 25, 2021 at 9:36 am #

    Good thoughts Mike. My impression of the game was that it was men against boys in the final third and we didn’t have the physical power to compete.
    I would be interested to know if the mindset of the average American sports fan is different from the British or European football fan

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