Don’t be nervous
POSITIVES, NEEDS and HOPES
Me: We need another one
Max: Yeah, we definitely need another one
Me: Has Leno made a save?
Max: No, but we need another one
Me: Do we need another one?
Max: They don’t look like scoring so…
Me: I’ve seen this before though. One isn’t enough.
Max: But we are good now, Dad.
Me: Yeah, I know but…
Max isn’t as scarred as me. He’s 12 and only experienced a small handful of disappointing years. Years when we weren’t serious. Simply didn’t care as much as we do now. Didn’t feel motivated to care like we do now.
That’s it really. That’s it. Arsenal are a club that cares more now.
The owners clearly changed their attitude a while ago.
Long term project. We back him good times, bad times. We do it differently. We give him money whether the club has it or not. This coach is our best communicator. We will use him more. He can persuade the players to do anything even give up their wages. Get him involved in transfers.
When Arteta was given full trust he went on a purge. A necessary purge. He got criticized when results were poor but crucially he stuck to his vision. Because he did, the players are believers. That’s obvious. Because the owners believe in the manager and the players trust the manager we see that belief and trust manifest on the pitch in difficult situations. Adversity seems to motivate them. Everybody cares because everybody cares.
Nobody talks in the media about caring. It’s just not a headline grabber and so is put to the back of the shelf. It really is the difference though. What are you willing to do for your coach? What are you willing to do to achieve something that comes without a trophy? What are you willing to do for your teammates, your friends?
As I’ve been around a while my natural instinct is to protect myself from the worst case scenario. It’s happened too often. As often as I’ve tried to believe the best and been let down. So I get nervous. I’m sure you do too.
Sometimes it needs a neutral to tell you what you are actually seeing. As the game was chugging along, nerves at the forefront, I get a text from a Bournemouth supporting friend. He tells me that we look so comfortable at 1-0. That we’ve got it won. Because he doesn’t really care, he’s not nervous. Lack of emotion offering clarity.
I thought about what he said and decided to force myself to believe. It was hard to feel comfortable but part of me felt that the players deserved my trust.
If I try to go back over the last few months and remember how I’ve felt during games, I feel like I’m forcing my nerves when the players are the ones that feel it first, yet they look in control.
I’ve avoided the table for most of the season. Refusing to believe that we might have a chance of Top 4 for fear of being let down.
I looked today. I studied it actually as for the first time in years I’ve decided to stop being nervous and try to enjoy a team that honestly, are easy to enjoy.
- Let’s start with the fans. It must be so encouraging to the players that they know that the away fans are so positive and involved. It’s almost as if a different group of people show up to away games than home games. Arsenal’s players always involve the away fans so it’s obvious that they are talked about. They could almost be an equalizer when you know that you might be out numbered but not out supported.
- Gabriel needed a solid game. He was in fact one of the best players on the field. You don’t want to get on a roll where people are giving you minor criticisms as a string of minor turns into a reputation. I’ve noticed an increased composure under pressure. Not as quick to dive in and very calm when volleying out.
- Big credit to Leno. It is obvious that he has remained professional and for a player who has always been first choice, has reacted well to disappointment. He was very commanding in the air, more so than I have seen previously. I think everybody could see how much the players love him by giving him credit for what would be considered a normal save at the end. They wanted him to have a moment.
- I’m not sure why there is a debate as to whether Benjamin White should be in the England squad. Watching as much Premier League as I do, I think he is the most consistent centre back but also the CB with the highest ceiling. He will be the one that I would invest in. Like Ramsdale has done in goal, he has added another dimension that the other centre backs don’t have, with his ability on the ball. Those of you over 35, does he remind you of Alan Hansen?
- What is so remarkable about Thomas Partey isn’t that he is playing like a Rolls-Royce of a midfielder, as he always had this potential, but more that he is doing it as a single pivot. The pressure on him to keep possession of the ball is immense. Most very good Central Midfielders including the one that plays to his left, will play the role in a very different way. Forget turning under pressure, more return passes and absolutely no acceleration through the lines. There are different types of leadership as we know and one is guts. I see this style of leadership in Thomas Partey. I also have to say that I admire his determination to keep shooting. A shrinking violet would listen to the press, cede to the pressure of the criticism and stop shooting. He knows that he can score and for some reason hasn’t so far and I love the fact that he has the guts to push through the mockery.
- I’m not sure if Cedric will be here next season, but if he is then his crossing ability will make him a player of higher value. This might be why the club keep him around. When both he and Tierney are out wide I feel sorry for him. Their best cross is a low whipped curled cross to a target area yet Arsenal don’t have the players with aerial domination or hunger to attack them right now.
- I wonder why Villa left Ashley Young one on one with Saka? Sometimes I fail to recognize how good he is because my expectation is too high. His character cannot be questioned as we saw in the summer, and you can see character also in the ability to rise away from home even more so than in the comfort of your own stadium. He is mastering this.
- Nicholas Jover again needs credit. Backroom coaches are like songwriters. Credit only comes from within. Fact of the day… Arsenal have defended 133 corners this season and as we know, not yet conceded.
- Rob Holding is another that may stay at the club long term as he clearly has a role. He is so dominant in the air and is cleverly being used as a closer when we go to the back three. He has shown consistency in coming on whether it is for 5 minutes or 20 which also shows great professionalism and spirit in the squad. To be fair, you can’t possibly look at White and Gabriel right now and think that you should start. I hope that he stays determined to impress but understands that situation. The fact that we move from two centre backs to three so fluidly is such a credit to the coaching staff as well as these three players.
- In recent weeks, Pepe and Nketiah have brought something from the bench. Yesterday Pepe looked like he went back to being too casual and Nketiah was too nervous.
- I’ll tell you what needs to happen. That referee needs to provide evidence to his boss that Granit Xhaka made three fouls prior to the one he was booked for. If he can’t, then it is further proof that he is targeted.
- Arsenal have a buffer now. If I was Arteta I would keep preaching the same message of professionalism if their lead in fourth place extends. There are just too many teams behind us who want what we have and are capable if we slip up.
- This is probably being greedy but I pine for a glimpse of Omari Hutchinson. It will come when we get back to a comfortable lead. We ideally need to know before the summer so we don’t potentially replace Pepe unnecessarily.
Vultures are going to start circling this summer. It won’t be just for some of our players but for our manager too. Much like the games, I’ve decided not to be nervous. Honestly, it looks like the team is so bonded and has such a belief in what they are doing I’d be astonished if any of them wanted to leave and if the coach took up another job at a bigger club which he is going to get. Arteta, like his players, have time on their side as they are all young. As crazy as it sounds, there is now a real possibility that they can all achieve their individual and collective dreams at Arsenal Football club. What a beautiful thought.
If 15 minutes of Arsenal happiness for your eyes wasn’t enough, then tune in below for 15 minutes of Arsenal happiness for your ears. Let’s finish with a contender for Picture of the Season….
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.