Only Arsenal Know – an error-free knock-around with the kids at Brentford [BRE 0-3 ARS]

Only Arsenal know


People are really starting to notice Arsenal. 

The stubborn ones say that we’ve had an easy start. The people that pay closer attention note that there is barely an easy game in the entire league whether home or away.

Brentford were unbeaten at home including a 5-2 win against Leeds and a 4-0 win against Manchester United. The fact that we won 3-0 isn’t really the point though either. That we are now looking a far greater offensive threat isn’t necessarily the simple difference. That our midfield has dominated every single game since preseason started is great but it’s not that either. That we have the best young squad in Europe is helpful as is the fact that our recent transfers have been transformational.  It’s beyond simply good form too. 

You can have all of these things but still be affected by doubt and nerves.

What I am seeing is a brand new belief. 

You can sense it when the game starts. We are out-singing home fans at every away stadium and our home fans aren’t waiting to be ignited before they start igniting the players. 

I love football because of the feelings it offers. I think that’s really it. I’m cool with the tough times because as a human they strengthen me and help me deal with life better. The high times are more rare but when they come they normally come every now and then. You can see that our fans show up already in song and that the pubs have already been experiencing the sounds of hundreds of out of tune drinkers.

The game starts with a different intensity nowadays and we are routinely taking control. When adversity strikes we have more often than not been bouncing back.

The keeper gives the back four confidence. The back four give the midfield supreme confidence. Thomas Partey alongside Rodri is clearly the best defensive midfielder in the league and offers such solidity and belief. When he’s not available his back-up has been very good also. The most important area where the game normally rises and falls is upfront. Whether you believe that at any time your attackers can score. We look like we are playing most games in third gear and haven’t had to fully utilize this threat yet but the threat has grown exponentially, not just from the change at center forward but the additional threat from midfield.

There is so much belief that our coach, who is normally very conservative with playing Academy players, chose a 15-year-old to travel and then actually put him on the field. A luxury that he has fully earned as coach as he is the main one responsible for this huge change in belief at the club.

When I hear my Premier League friends tell me the Arsenal are good they often ask why I think that this has happened quite quickly. I point to all the things that I’ve talked about above but the one piece that sits at the top of the list is the mentality. 

Do you think back to the last time we were this good? I do. My talk often goes to the quality of players at the beginning of Wenger’s era, but his players talked more about the mentality. That they knew that they were going to win before the game started as they had such belief in each other.

Belief affects everything. All of the above. You don’t rely on your coach to motivate you. You don’t feel the need to carry the burden of the game. It greatly affects how your opponents view you. Before the game and during the game. You’ve seen in the past many teams look like they’ve given a free pass to Manchester City and consider this game as a bonus. This kind of belief at Arsenal will demand a similar respect if we keep this going.

What is so delicious about this whole experience is that there is clearly more to come. The opening attack of this game was one of the best of the season and completely dissected Brentford. We only did this twice in the game though. In time, we will do this more regularly leading to victories far bigger than this one. When we dominate and beat a big team there will be another level beyond even this one.

What we saw yesterday was Arsenal comprehensively dominating a good team in a very tricky fixture. It looked like routine but Arsenal are routinely making difficult look routine.

A world away from last season. 

I just don’t think that other fans understand the depth of Arsenal‘s current situation. I’m glad that only Arsenal fans really seem to know.

Gabi in attack


  • It was the midfield that won the game yesterday. The strikers were good and the defence were quietly dominant, but the game was won in midfield. They had set up to smother us in midfield, not remembering that we move the ball quicker than before. That we are more positionally aware in our zones than before. The players are in position to accentuate their strengths and hide their weaknesses. Partey conducted, Vieira floated and glided. Xhaka closed down and created.
  • What cannot be forgotten is that we were largely dominant in our only loss too. The major difference was that we completely eradicated individual errors from yesterdays game. Ultimately, football comes down to quality in the final third and the team that makes the fewest mistakes. As a coach, I am aware of mistakes in football. My high school team have been taught that the easiest way to win their games is capitalizing on mistakes. There are so many in sports. I struggle to remember even one mistake yesterday. That is rather remarkable as there has to have been mistakes. It’s just that there weren’t any in critical areas or the ones we had were rapidly covered up by an intense recovery and press.
  • I felt sorry for Sambi. He had taken up a very difficult job and was growing back into it. Thomas Partey is just currently in the prime of his football career. I hope that Lokonga sees this for what it actually is.
  • What is exciting is that Saka has more levels to come. He is slowly having more impact throughout games. Even though he has been fairly quiet this season, he is second in the Premier League in assists. I suppose it just shows what a good player he is as he can be off the radar but still hugely effective.
  • There were a couple of critical moments in the game where it could’ve become more uncomfortable. I will talk about one in my podcast but I want to mention how Tierney doesn’t get credit for having the helpful habit of sensing danger and cutting out through balls. I think that he might play more than people think the season. He’s clearly a superior defender to Zinchenko and there will certainly be games and moments where this is needed.
  • Arteta’s ‘one brain’ wish is coming to fruition quickly it seems. What stood out to me in this regard was when Max asked me who I thought man of the match was. It is becoming harder and harder to decide because there is very little disparity in the performance of the players. They don’t stand out so much as individuals but look like a true team. Much like trying to decide who is the best in an orchestra, it might be easier just to give the award to Arteta each match as he is the conductor of this current success.
  • Saliba is easy to praise because he makes difficult moments look simple. I thought that Gabriel was  important today. Certainly considering he was carrying a muscular injury. The defence as a whole is more solid than it has been in over 20 years and the biggest compliment is that Tomiyasu, who was our best defender last season, cannot get in the team.

Saliba’s Leap

  • I had heard of Ethan Nwaneri before today. Just once though. I think I read a tweet about this phenom in the Academy. I watched a video of him before the game and he looks like football is easier for him than others. Quite the achievement becoming the youngest player to ever play English football by an entire year. This may never be beaten.  I was honestly astonished that Arteta put him on though. My daughter, EllieAnn, called me and told me that we should put him on at the very end of the game and I told her that Arteta wasn’t likely to do this. He ordinarily considers that the experience of simply traveling with the team is the first and only step that the player needs. He seems to prioritize seniority. Well, I was wrong and as usual EllieAnn sets me straight. Huge compliment to Nwaneri. Alternatively, perhaps him and his agent (if he even has one), are getting serious attention from other clubs and we have decided to fast track him as we think that he is likely a generational talent. 

Ethan Nwaneri

  • Fabio Vieira is so smooth. I love players that just glide around the field. He doesn’t look like he breaks sweat. I absolutely loved that he even shot when he scored as we need an attacking midfielder who feels confident from long range. 


As rhythmic as we are in general play, we still have the bad habit of snatching at shots. Composure in the box would lead to far bigger victories as the opportunities are there.

  • One of the only nerve-racking moments was when two of our defenders went for the same ball. That is an irregular habit that we need to shake off.
  • With such a strong back door, do we need to be concerned that although we are completely dominating every game, that we rarely create multitudes of chances?


  • I’m thrilled that we won 3-0 and that we are back to the top of the table not just for the normal reasons. I don’t think that Arteta’s outfit was an accident. I think he was really annoyed by Thomas Frank the last time we went to Brentford. I think that that collar was actually a weapon that was given to him by Q. I speculate that Daniel Craig’s replacement is actually Mikel Arteta and the ‘death collar’ will be a feature in the next Bond movie.

Arteta Death Collar

  • Maybe we are giving too much credit to Mikel Arteta? Maybe like the rest of us he watched Ted Lasso and has taken inspiration from Coach Lasso and Coach Beard? Either way, I’m glad that a legend met legends yesterday.

Ted Lasso


Everybody has a referee that they really don’t like. David Coot was generally fine yesterday, but there is just something about his face that makes me think that he is somehow related to Mike Dean.

So I decided to write a poem about him…,

‘Oh David Coot

Oh David Coot

Your name is silly 

And your face I wanna shoot

I tried to get a picture 

Of your mug,

Because you look like 

A mafia thug,

But this was the best 

That I could do

Oh, David Coot

I don’t like you’

I shall be putting my poetry on sale at Sotheby’s next week as I know that you are all interested.

Check out my 15 minute podcast below, where I look at more of the positives.

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2 Responses to Only Arsenal Know – an error-free knock-around with the kids at Brentford [BRE 0-3 ARS]

  1. Positive pete September 19, 2022 at 9:52 am #

    Funny that.I had the exact same thoughts about coote but to be fair by & large he was pretty fair I thought.Bar two incidents.The ‘foul’ on the edge of our box for Toneys free kick & bkng Jesus for his first foul.That aside he was ok.was was worried because he’s been on VAR on one or two recent matches & hasn’t done us any favours.

  2. Francis Redheart September 21, 2022 at 10:22 am #

    Hello Mikey,

    Nice blog as usual and thanks for the insights you give us as a coach.

    A totally dominant performance from start to finish with a clean sheet to boot. The whole team played very well and FV was also outstanding. It was outstanding performances all over the team.

    For Nwaneri of Nigerian descent, what a day of history. It just adds to the feel good factor around the club and imagine the confidence that would give all the academy players.

    Kanu has really ‘Nigerianised’ Arsenal football club with the number of Nigerians that continue to be associated with the club. It makes me so proud as a Nigerian. Kanu also converted a lot of Nigerians into Arsenal fans.

    My regards to your family.

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