The Controller and his joystick
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
It was the 70th minute yesterday. For the first time this season, I’d lost hope. Actually, that’s not true. There have been others.
I felt without hope because I knew everything that Arsenal were going to do next. Nothing came as a surprise. More importantly, Unai Emery had figured it all out too. His side had just a couple of scary moments but largely nullified everything we tried. I felt a while back that when the last third of the game approached that we, like any football team, would have a Plan B. Not so much ‘bring on the target man’ but simply a different way of playing. What I am discovering however is that we are being controlled. Mikel Arteta isn’t just controlling because he sideline coaches, but he seems to coach them to perfect instruction in literally everything they do pre-game. So, where in the past players would try to make the difference with imagination, this wasn’t going to happen or more likely, be allowed.
Arsenal needed the unexpected. Some flair. Something that wasn’t programmed. Watching Arsenal is becoming more and more like watching an 80’s video game. For those old enough to remember, video games back then were very limited in their possibilities. Everything was expected and robotic. Limited. None of the razzmatazz options in the current world of video games. It’s like Arteta is stuck in 1984, controlling with an old school joystick but limited himself and the players to the options that were available in 1984 rather than the many modern variables.
I think Arsenal fans want Arteta gone for reasons beyond the results. His controlling style of football is sucking the freedom out of the players and out of the fans joy in watching the team.
I think that subconsciously we are reacting with little patience towards him as we’ve just lived 15 months where our freedoms have been eroded and the last thing we want is to see our team play as if they have lost their freedoms too.
Football is primarily fun. Fun and hugely unpredictable unlike many sports. Until now perhaps. It’s changing and Arteta embodies the modern coach that seems to want to change it into an ultra controlled coaches game. Players have always been under direction but this is extreme.
I am still undecided on Arteta.
I think I’m undecided because in his time in charge he has changed so much and many of the pieces were needed for the last 15 years. I feel very grateful for that. I also feel that we have seen everything this season, literally everything. We have been awful, largely mediocre and occasionally hugely impressive. I’m suckered into seeing the high points and believing that with the players he wants we will stop the individual errors and he will be able to move us forward quite significantly.
Ultimately, I think it will come down to the players. If they fight for Arteta behind the scenes as they often have in public when hugely praising him, then I think he stays. If they are indifferent, silent or if he’s lost them, he goes.
What a big fat shame. I didn’t see this season going this way.
-There are two teams that affect a result and we often just focus on one. Villareal were very good and made it very difficult for us. If I was a Villareal fan, I’d think we deserved that, and I think they’d be right.
-Pepe is becoming far more reliable in possession. He is more aggressive in protecting the ball and seems to wiggle out of many difficult scenarios. I do wish that he would run at players at full speed though. I’ve always felt that he waits for the defender to bite and the better ones don’t so he’s stuck.
-Leno has been getting much negativity this last week. I thought he was fully focused and very good.
-This is what I wrote after our last game….
“On the other hand I found the game highly frustrating. Frustrating because there were so many things that were better, but the timing for such improvement may be perfect but feels so off. I appreciate yesterday’s performance against Newcastle. I will be infuriated however if we end up taking Newcastle away, whilst in 11th place, more seriously than Villareal at home, though.”
This was in relation to the rather impressive tempo that we discovered in an unimportant game. I think what happened was that Arteta had found some combinations that were able to play with a higher tempo. He then got clever and changed it….. again. Simply too clever.
-Emptying the midfield and leaving Partey largely alone is fine if the players who are higher justify this tactic. The players in front of Partey were not sharp enough in their movements and looked afraid to play outside Arteta’s joystick.
-Auba came off. Why? So that Eddie could come on?
-People are starting to talk about whether Arteta is listening to his other coaches. I’ve said all season that if it doesn’t work out for him at Arsenal, I think it will be lack of humility that was his downfall. I have no concrete proof that he doesn’t listen or receive advise well, just a strong feeling.
I hope that he goes on to have a top career at Arsenal but I fear that he may never fulfill his coaching potential if his ego keeps tripping him up.
-I think Arsenal will spend big this summer as the Kroenke’s will want/be forced to change the mood. If we don’t get any European football, will players like Bissouma go elsewhere?
I think it’s important to note that preparing to play Arsenal can be tough as Arteta plays so many formations and he makes so many tweaks. If you can figure out how to combat his changes in-game, you will beat Arsenal as Arteta doesn’t seem to allow the players to win the game.
Might be why we don’t see much of Martinelli. He’s a wild card. Might be why we love him too much. He bucks the system and offers us a break from the joystick.
For what it’s worth, I think that this might be the most important thought I’ve had this season.
Please have a listen to my ‘PNH expanded 15 minute podcast here….
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.