An Arsenal blog from a coach’s perspective
Unapologetic happiness. So rich and carefree that I forgot what inhibitions were.
There have been a handful of times in my life that I didn’t care and let loose like I’d just received my 5th Grammy.
Pulling over on the way to Albury so I could listen to the radio announce we’d signed Dennis Bergkamp.
The adrenaline rush of taking the first bus to Aylesbury to line up outside the record store so I could be one of the first to get ‘Bad.’ Then dancing with my button-eyed Pooh Bear in my bedroom to what I thought for at least the next 12 years was the song, ‘Librarian Girl.’ Always thought that Michael Jackson singing so sweetly about a lady who scans books for a living was odd, but then so was he, I suppose.
Getting over my fear of coming home at 1am from Pendley Manor on the pitch black Station Rd in Tring and dancing as my fears ran away.
Climbing a lamppost on the same road after Michael Thomas dinked it over Grobbelaar.
Strutting down to the magic roundabout in Hemel with Kevin Farney whilst wearing my Soul II Soul hoodie I got in Camden Town. I felt I’d hit my peak at 15.
Running around Leverstock Green when David Platt scored against Belgium.
Finding such happiness when the world turned out to be perfect for a few minutes as the most deserving captain in my Arsenal childhood wins the league with a huge dose of ‘who cares’ as he runs 1 on 1 vs Everton.
If Arsenal win the league it will be one of the best days of my life.
If they don’t, I’m going to love this season anyway ❤️
This season has been transformative.
A team moulded with patience and skill that might go down as the model for how to manage a modern football club.
A team that will be remembered for changing the way other teams play football.
A coach that insisted on humility, game by game, the importance of understanding that you are never finished improving in sport. That it is impossible to achieve perfection so you can always do more.
That a luxury hotel will collapse if the foundation isn’t put in place properly.
That because of your solid structure you can give a free role to Zinchenko to destabilize the opposition.
The importance of 10% more. That if you want titles then ‘very good’ isn’t enough. Leno is a very good 8/10 keeper but so is Ramsdale. He does however have 15% more in his desire, communication and kicking ability. The difference.
That young men can lead if you empower them and have a culture of respect.
That everyone’s role is important as trophies are won in moments more often than at a canter. So, any player at any time could be the one to tip the scales.
That having such security in every part of a centre back’s role impacts your ability and willingness to press in numbers and take these defensive risks. This also allows you to mark man-to-man in midfield, which can drag your players around creating gaps. The trust in the CBs turns this potential risk into the reward of not allowing opponents to build up through their midfield.
That it’s possible to have a defensive midfielder that can do everything. Who else has that?
That if you listen to your fanbase and give a group of young men who want to change your atmosphere, the keys to do so, then your team will never lose hope. Imagine going to your job and having 60,000 people encouraging you. Think it would make a difference? Essentially, that’s what this is.
That the result of this is that the fans are starting to understand the importance of players having their own songs. The most undervalued and misunderstood advantage that you can give your team, and it’s free. When a player talks about their time at the club they ALWAYS talk about ‘their song.’ Always.
That your coaches truly care for you and are on the boat with you rather than dictating from the shore.
That coaching may not be talked about as a way of improving, but that it can be the most important reason for growth.
The value in everyone statistically contributing. That one man scoring 40% of your goals is unhealthy in comparison to at least four guys who are all going to get 10 each.
That if Arsenal are going to overcome a team with endless riches, they are going to have to all have a desire to be in the PL
Team of the Season. There are at least 10 players at Arsenal that could be in this team. Ramsdale, White, Xhaka and Martinelli have a shout. Gabriel, Saliba, Partey, Saka, Odegaard and Zinchenko could easily be chosen. I’d also say that Zinchenko, Partey, Saka and Odegaard could win Footballer of the Year. I fully understand that this is not their personal goal but it’s what it seems.
That it’s possible to build a team that can win now AND win in the future too.
That supporting a talented coach who jumped on a rollercoaster is the right thing to do if your words of support are backed up by funding and action. It also helps that his safety harness is the best kind when the storms of frustration come.
That you balance your team with young talent, local young talent, experience and many leaders.
That you reward players at the right time with contracts that are fair but trust that your environment is worth the extra £100,000 a week that they could get elsewhere.
Finally, that everything above comes together to being the reason why you get the unique feeling that with only 1 more kick of the ball left in the game, that you still think you will win ❤️ because you support a club that doesn’t just think that ‘never giving up’ was a war time poster.
- Reiss Nelson may not realize it yet but it’s possible that even though Arteta probably thought of him as a ‘bits n pieces’ option, that he could be the spark that the squad has often missed since Jesus got injured. There is something so exciting about the way he dribbles. So many tiny touches. Such quick feet. Such ability to do so many things. He has this spark, I think, because he has had to deal with so much adversity, that he’s now mentally tougher and likely more appreciative of opportunities. Having to move to Germany as a youngster after failing to break through (Wenger giving way too many minutes to Iwobi), many injuries, constant disappointment and minimal playing time and opportunity to impress. A player in his situation needs a moment. A time that they arrive and become the equal of others. It lifts a massive weight off your back. The thought that ‘everyone loves and appreciates me because I gave them THAT joy that they’ll never forget.’ At the very least, his appearance will give the crowd added belief.
- Vieira needed to feel important. Again, psychologically this will give him belief. He was quietly effective and always willing.
- If we win the league I expect that every player will react differently. Much like Nelson’s goal, we saw this. Odegaard collapsed. Saliba lost control. White started doing whitehousery. Ramsdale got in Spock’s ‘beam me up’ device and magically arrived to celebrate with Nelson before the majority of our team did. Zinchenko just roared. The subs and staff forgot the protocol and some Dad chucked his son over the barriers to celebrate with Mikel. The reason I say this is because I keep having visions of Gabriel ripping his red jersey in half to reveal a huge ‘S’ on his chest as we win the league. I love defenders that love defending. Especially those whose teeth are whiter than the goalposts.
- Sometimes I think Arteta can sub based on seniority or players ‘needing time.’ Credit to him for his selection of Reiss Nelson. Regardless of the fact that he scored the winning goal, we needed a different skill set. Some individuality, and possibly something that the Premier League has not seen for a while. Arsenal can certainly be a little predictable at times, and so a twist can make the difference, as it proved.
- It will be forgotten, but Ramsdale has put Arsenal in a place recently where they can win games unexpectedly. He is certainly a goalkeeper that wins you points all by himself.
- There is so much more that I could say that is positive. I’m currently in the loo in Asheville, North Carolina, finishing up my writing. I don’t think I can justify writing more on such a happy day, as my wife may just pour the Bouef Bourguignon on my head upon my return, unless I stop now.
- Back again. Not sure I even want this section today but I did want to share a couple more thoughts. I think it is interesting that the one who the team could arguably benefit most from right now, plays for Reims. Balogun is an ‘off the shoulder’ striker. Wants less touches and involvement but creates easier opportunities by giving players like Vieira and Odegaard the opportunity to use their primary talent in sliding the ball behind the defence. Amidst the fog of ‘I don’t care about the other 95 minutes of that game,’ I can’t pretend that we just played arguably the weakest team in the league, that we are the strongest and that we struggled to make Neto work for his paycheck even though we had the ball for 96% of the game. I will stick my neck out and say that both Eddie and Flo will have good careers but I think that Flo will score more goals. I just think he senses opportunity better.
- I didn’t ever foresee Tomiyasu, struggling this season. There’s always a possibility of struggling with injuries and fitness, but he had such a very impressive first season where I thought that he was actually our best defender at defending. I love his low profile, attitude and humility and hope he recovers his form soon. Maybe we need to see him against a better team that attacks him and shows off his ability one on one? Maybe he just needs a Reiss Nelson moment.
- Hoping that Trossard is fine. With Eddie out and Jesus needing to be integrated slowly, we need him available as the fixtures are now piling up. Alternatively, we could go with Martinelli at center forward and lean into our new hero.
- I think I would’ve been upset if Arsenal would’ve conceded any of those contentious penalty kick decisions. What stands out more to me though, is that I have seen all four of those given on a regular basis. So, regardless of whether I think that an unintentional handball should be a penalty kick, the league is crying out for consistency. If we have no consistency, we need to go back to not having VAR, which we need to do anyway because it’s the worst invention in the history of football.
Who would’ve thought on Friday March 3rd 2023, that Reiss Nelson would’ve been the reason for arguably the most memorable moment at the Emirates stadium… to date. And in a home game against AFC Bournemouth? Not me.
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.
Hey, superbly written piece, made me feel like I was watching it again.
A lovely heartfelt article which spoke to all Arsenal supporters. Well done
I hope you enjoyed the beouf bourginogne.
Remember saying to the son of a friend after we lost to Chelsea in the euro final that you have to go through the bad times to appreciate the good.
This team reminds me of the early George Graham years. We had many academy players – rocastle, thomas, Campbell and of course Adams. Spiced up with defenders who had passion and desire. They had their Bournemouth moments. Remember spurs in the littlewoods cup semi-finals? 3 matches we lost the first at home 2-1 then won the next two 2-1 away. It forged the mentality of winning against the odds that won the title at Anfield with the last kick of the game and the cup winners cup against a team far superior to ours.
This team has the same mentality. That’s what excites me.
Another crazy win in our excellent performance this season and although it was against Bournemouth, it gave us a memory of a lifetime.
I had always believed in Nelson. He was more direct and as you alluded to, he’s quick.over short distances. He put himself in the history books and if we win the league, we would always refer to his contribution.
Excellent performances all through the team but Bournemouth name us work doubly hard for the 3 points which restores our lead at the top of the league.