Fear and Fearlessness – Arteta’s Real Arsenal sign off in style

Fear and fearlessness


Credit Stu Macfarlane AFC


Positives, Needs And Hopes

I often wonder what the next evolution in football will be.

Sometimes I think that since the game changed from being a player’s game to a coach’s game, there will be a need for greater improvisation as defensive blocks will nullify what is repeated.

Sometimes I think the opposite.

That the game will continue to become less creative and more structured.

These thoughts live at the back of my mind but the one that lives in the front is the desperate need for more psychological help for the players.  The game has become increasingly more stressful as society becomes more impatient and far quicker to press the angry button.


I watched that game yesterday and felt slightly baffled by the stark contrast in approach to the previous one.

Against Newcastle, we seemed so rattled by their press and the occasion. A team roared on by a crowd who are encouraged about the future and grateful for a good run. A team not really playing for anything in the stadium where very few found their knees became wobbly over the last 20 years. That stadium has the potential to become a very intimidating place as Newcastle fans are a different breed of obsessed. They aren’t that yet though and we treated the game as if they were.


Gripped by fear at St James

We seemed gripped by fear.

Our performances this season have been hugely erratic, and I’ve often wondered whether Arteta’s intensity creates nervousness. Especially in a young team. As a coach myself I often have thought that when Arsenal play well that our coach has likely remembered to channel his pregame intensity into a positive place. I also think that when we have one of those games where his substitutions seem bizarre, that he’s taken his intensity to a place of no pause and therefore likely to take it to the dark place where thoughts become scattered and emotion rules over reason.

The game yesterday seemed to come from a place of sunshine. Absolute fearlessness.  It was a beautiful day in London and the players had completely removed the shackles. More fluid movement inside the box that we haven’t seen for a very long time. A higher tempo in midfield throughout the entire game. Domination in the duels against a physically larger team.

A fresh belief. Everywhere.

How can that be? The Champion’s League was still at stake as Tottenham were perfectly capable of being Tottenham.

I know every game of football is different but, boy oh boy, those last two games of the season were totally different.

My conclusion is that more than most teams, Arsenal need to find a way to make a positive difference in the psychological aspect of the game.

This season has given me the full range of emotions that sports offer.  More so than any other season in my lifetime. At times I thought that we were comfortably one of the best four teams in England and after others, I wondered what on earth I was thinking.

I’ve felt like a fool so many times predicting roses and getting thorns.


A team that has progressed

Ultimately, this was a season of progress. Progress in position, progress back into Europe, progress in the birth of a young and very exciting team, progress in becoming a far more defensively solid group, progress in our young wide players becoming more reliable in the final third and certainly progress in creating a better harmony at the club by removing those that were hurting the vibe.




  • Interestingly enough, perhaps the biggest positive of the season was that the Kroenke‘s seem far more interested in actual success rather than just talking about success. The investment not just in a group of very good signings but also allowing our coach to pay off contracts and sell players that were affecting the others negatively. There has been a purge and the additions have either been promising or significantly better. Arsenal are in a good place.


  • Our corner kicks have been creative this season but rarely successful. Simply too complicated. I recognized something that I’ve done before at a corner kick that I saw yesterday. If Odegaard was standing on the edge of the box where Cedric was, then he would’ve been picked up. Put your least likely player to score in that position and he will most likely be ignored, as he was. Far cleverer and more effective.

Eddie has improved his all round game

  • Eddie Nketiah has improved his all-around game. He seems to be willing to be more physical and his play with his back to goal is twice as good as it was at the beginning of the season. He regularly executes one touch layoffs and can spin his marker and turn too. I would be in a true quandary if I was Arteta. He is clearly a good player and likely will get better. I also get the impression that he is not really what we are looking for. We need three strikers next season. I’d be OK if he was third choice and probably OK if he was second choice. For me, it all depends on having a target man as an option which I think is a priority.


  • Martin Odegaard was back to conducting the orchestra. The difference in his good and quiet performances seems to be his willingness to play on the half turn. Yesterday he turned and accelerated on multiple occasions and the defenders were fully aware of his threat. This also gets him closer to goal and as he proved with his goal, he most certainly has the potential to score more goals than he does.



  • Nuno Tavares is clearly a better attacker than defender at this stage of his career. This is natural for an athlete like him because his skillset leads towards being dynamic, and positional sense and many of the intricacies of defending come later in a defender’s career. I suppose that is why defenders peak much later than strikers and midfielders and are normally at their best post 30. If he makes you nervous, I would relax because he is the profile that is needed, and I think if we sold him we would only buy somebody similar who likely would be the same age bracket and make as many mistakes as he does. I feel sure the club will stick with him.


  • Martinelli is one of those players that makes you feel confident. At least he does for me. When he stepped up to take that penalty kick, I had no doubt he would score. He just seems like such a positive individual and a fearless mind. He exudes belief. Doesn’t seem to hold onto negativities which is crucial for a sportsman. If you want to wear a backpack, don’t put bricks in it.


  • I would imagine that this was Cedric‘s last Arsenal game. There’s certainly a need for an upgrade. If so, I’m glad that he scored in his last game because he seems like a super guy. I would also state that if Arsenal had an aerial threat, then Cedric would be more valued in games like yesterday where we had the ball almost the whole game. His crossing is better than most right backs but add very little value to an Arsenal team that hardly ever score directly from crosses in the air.





  • I have to start by commenting on the Pepe substitution. The only reason I think that he is still getting minutes is to maintain whatever value the club hope to get. Of course, if he doesn’t play in the last five games of the season then his value drops and we are in a tough negotiating position if we clearly don’t value him. It just seemed like the absolute perfect occasion to introduce Charlie Patino. Last game of the season. Already won the game. Only happiness at the stadium and an encouragement to a future star. I’m likely overthinking this and it’s probably my first thought.


  • As dangerous as Nuno was in the final third, this has yet to extend to his shooting. I remember his first game in Scotland during preseason. He looked so composed in the box and scored I believe, on his debut. Ever since then he has only been threatening tourists in Row K who are too busy taking a selfie to pay attention to the fact that we are shooting on goal. Alternatively, they may be savvy and know that Nuno shooting is a fabulous time to take a selfie. Nuno has plenty of power but needs to learn to throw half of it in the bin and replace it with a large dose of composure and accuracy.


  • Even during the game as enjoyable as yesterdays was, I still feel a little surprised when we create a good chance. This has been my feeling all season. I suppose this is wrapped up in not having a dangerous striker. This player would’ve moved centre backs together and away from others creating simpler opportunities, but I don’t believe that any of the players we played at centre forward were considered dangerous this season in particular. I think we will see a big difference in opportunities created and especially simpler opportunities next season, especially at the beginning as Arsenal will now be ‘a team with a proper striker’ and conversation will change in the opponents changing room. Sometimes just one change shifts everything in your favour and as I’ve just explained, a dangerous striker doesn’t just occupy one defender. I look forward to hunger and desire arriving in a penalty area this summer as it’s clear that we will be purchasing goals and focusing on scoring at least 25 more of them in the league.




  • I hope that Saka, Tomiyasu, Odegaard and Ben White will get a rest this summer.


  • I also hope that one of our signings is a midfielder that likes to get into the box. Watching Donny van der Beek today it gave me two thoughts. One was that players running from deep and into the box are significantly harder to mark than strikers and I’m surprised that this trend has fallen away. Aaron Ramsey was one of the last players in the Premier League that had this as his main strength. Lampard, Gerard and others would regularly score 15+ goals from Central Midfield. I’ve heard whispers about Weston McKinnie. Not overly excited, but there is potential there and the necessary physicality and goal-scoring threat that we lack. Talking of Donny van der Beek, I had a thought also that could we roll the dice on him? He was getting close to the elite bracket at the Champions League level before he came to the Premier League. Part of me thinks that he’s just not suited to the league and part of me thinks that there is an extremely dangerous attacking midfielder in there that would be very cheap and attainable either on loan or at a low-risk price. Just a thought.
donny-van-de-beek-ajax-2018-19 7c81x9n4g3g19mx2rplnjayh

Roll a dice on Donny?



This blog could’ve been called, ‘The beginning at the end.’ It would’ve been a more positive opening 😬

It would’ve been about what happened after the game. The reaction to what happens at the final whistle of the last game speaks very loudly. After listening to the Arsenal Vision Podcast instant reaction, they were saying that it felt like everybody in the stadium stayed for the entire lap of honour. That hasn’t happened in quite a long time, and we’ve not lost the last game in 16 years.

There is a very positive vibe at Arsenal, and I think it’s fair to state that we had a somewhat frustrating but ultimately good season. More importantly, people feel hope. I feel hopeful because we have invested in the right age profile and make good selections. Our club is full of top Academy players whether playing in the first team or knocking on the door. The Kroenke family seem far more interested in investing and providing Arteta with two very good players in every position, which I think is his next goal.


At the beginning of this season, I didn’t feel like this was the beginning of a new Arsenal team because I hadn’t seen the value that players like White, Tomiyasu and Ramsdale could bring. The way I feel now is that we could be at the beginning of a true launch in our fortunes. A squad with over 2/3 of the players being those that the fans would keep and adore. I vividly remember two seasons ago those with knee-jerk tendencies stating that they’d be OK with tossing everybody out the back door and starting again. I didn’t feel quite this extreme, but I wasn’t that far away from this thought.

I think we will look back on the beginning of Mikal Arteta‘s tenure at Arsenal and credit him and the club for doing the right thing the right way in an environment of impatience and that this took guts and a group of people whose belief in the project didn’t waver when some of us did.


Credit due

A hope to do an end of season review and podcast breaking down my thoughts on all of our players and coach, shortly. Not sure it’s going to happen tonight though. My family and I are rather busy and tremendously excited as we are getting to come to England as a family for the first time in four years. We get to spend five weeks traveling around England and Italy.

We feel very blessed and talking of blessings, the fact that many people read my work often is one of the most satisfying blessings I have been given in my life. Thank you.

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4 Responses to Fear and Fearlessness – Arteta’s Real Arsenal sign off in style

  1. The93rdMinute May 23, 2022 at 10:59 am #

    Love your blogs Mike. Keep em coming especially in the thick of the transfer season.

  2. Norman Englender May 23, 2022 at 11:47 am #

    Ho Mike……an interesting article although for a change I don’t agree with you. Yes, we improved over some of our recent performances but we still aggravatingly miss the essence of a quick break…..that it must be quick. We spend too much time dilly dallying with sideways passes in our own half with our wingers just waiting helplessly for the pas that comes too late. And when we do attack instead of pressing the advantage we have created we pass the ball backwards for no good reason …….in heavens name why?

    Our defence has been caught out many times by our opponents quick break from defence….one…two passes and they are threatening out goal with few defenders in place.

    Up front I strongly disagree with you over Nketiah. He has come to life but in no way does he lead the line, I like his one touch passing, I only wish it was to his own team. My hope is that we let him go, even if he turns out to become a star elsewhere, and we buy a real centre forward.

    Until we scored the penalty we were mediocre…….huffing and puffing to little effect….great approach work but no incisive pass at the end. We were decorative but with no end product ….as so often has been the case this season. Is that the fault of the players, their coaches or the manager? Cedric’s goal was a beauty, a well executed move ….not unique by any means, but beautiful to watch from the time the corner was taken…..un fortunately je is not premiership material but at least he tries.

    I want my Arsenal to be decisive in the way they play, to be far more effective in front of our opponents goal, to press hard and not give opponents any space. Strong midfielders that are not easy to run past.

    Now on to next season…….I think that qualifying for the European Championships would have been a step too far at the moment. Let us get the experience of playing in the European League and hopefully be ready for a top four place next season.

    Finally…….I hope that you and your family have a wonderful time in Europe, travel safely and enjoy everything…….Norman

  3. TheFriendsofMisterCairo May 24, 2022 at 2:10 am #

    Hi Mike
    I don’t think any of us will ever know the reasons for the tepid/insipid lackluster performance at Newcastle with so much on the line.
    It was so dispiriting to watch.
    But it’s done now, and the Europa League is our lot for next season.
    Looking at the final table, and the top 4 finished in exact order of most goals scored and least conceded.
    69pts last season would have got us 4th spot, [ Chelsea got it with 67pts last season ]
    I do feel that this was an opportunity missed though, as an improving Spurs under Conte, and Utd with what i think is a very good Coach coming in, will only get better, making it infinitely harder to make CL than it already is.
    The CL would also have given us 2 bites of the cherry, where a 3rd place finish in Group stage gets you directly into EL knockout stages.
    Being realistic, we are still light years away from City/Pool, so we have to be prepared for a few more seasons of vying for top 4/6 spots.
    New season starts August 6th, so any new signings will hopefully already be in situ for start of pre season training so they can be fully integrated for the kickoff.
    Look forward to your end of season review.
    Take care

  4. Damilola June 1, 2022 at 4:00 pm #

    The team has great potentials but there’s still need for clarity on the choice of players in certain positions.

    Firstly looking at CB/DM. I feel like White, Partey, Elneny, Xhaka, and Lokonga are not physically imposing enough for that defensive spine, just as Mari and Holding are not athletic enough, only Mangalese, Tomiyasu, Saliba and Trusty look like complete package of the trio prowesses of atheltism, physicality and Technique.

    Secondly is the fullbacks department. It’s a beautiful thing that all our fullbacks are speed demons, however apart from Tierney, all the rest guys are not defensively solid enough say Bellerin, Maitland Niles, Cedric, and Tavares. Thank God that Tomiyasu and White can play there as makeshift. Xhaka at worst should fill in in a 3man backline and never as a fullback. Tavares and Niles have the grace of age and mindset to still be able to evolve defensively.

    Thridly, considering our creative midfiled, Martin Odegaard, Maitland Niles, Emile Smith Rowe, Patino and Partey all looks the good fit. Though Xhaka with all his tactical intelligence is just not mobile enough to cover the yards for second balls nor to recover team shape when attacks suddenly breaks down and our defense is on the back foot.

    Fourth, we seem to be blessed with a few proper wingers Nelson, Saka and Martinelli. We definitely need atleast 2 more. Nicolas Pepe has stamina and concentration issues, he’s a drifter, he can’t hold down wings the Arsenal way due to his limited defensive positional awareness. I’m not sure Folarin Balogun wants to play wing, else he has all the qualities to succeed there for us.

    Fifth, is the CF role. All we need there is a physical playmaker. Lacazette does the playmaking well but he is not physical enough. Nketiah’s physicality and playmaking is impressing, but only good enough as a third or second choice considering he is not going to develop into somewhat Harry Kane, Lewandoski or Benzema out there. We should look for prospects in that mould and make them grow into the role say Mika Biereth, Tyreece John Jules, Armando Broja, Tammy Abraham, Victor Osihmen or whoever.

    Lastly, I think we are good to go in the GK position. Ramsdale is really really doing well with both is feet and hands. Turner, Okonkwo and Hein would provide him competition to get to that world class status we are dreaming of him. We must cash in on Leno given he is not going to be able to play the Arsenal way from his position, though he is a very good shot stopper.

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