When you can’t see great: how I’ve probably maybe definitely taken this great Arsenal team for granted [ARS 4-1 CRY] (Positives Needs & Hopes)

When you can’t see great

An Arsenal blog from a coach’s perspective 


I am a blessed man. Feeling very blessed. I think those are two different things.

If there is one emotion in my life that I can’t shake, it’s that. I offer thanks at least twice in the day. Not just for the major things but I try to pick out the smaller things that are easy to take for granted. As much as I’m aware of this I clearly miss many. I know this because life can be reflected in football and I likely analyze football more than life and so I’m becoming more aware of my tendencies.

I was blessed to be able to come to England to watch the game yesterday for the first time in 24 years. I’ve seen pre-season games in the US but not actually seen a PL game in that long. EllieAnn and Max, two of my three, are the Gooners in the family. They’d not seen one either which Max thought was ridiculous considering that he knows that Rennes have had more midfielders win Man of the Match than the majority of their Ligue 1 rivals. I have to admit that I was unaware like you I’m sure, of this fascinating piece of crucial information but it did, along with updates on the fitness of the 3rd choice left back at Shaktar, nudge me to book flights after realizing that Max and EllieAnn might just like football a lot and we should go see our team.

I suppose that in itself makes my point. I’m actually not exaggerating one little bit when I tell you those facts. I get to hear these nuggets all day long, every day. It’s normal for me. Then I find myself sitting in the East Stand yesterday watching Martin Odegaard. I was completely wrapped up in wanting ‘one more’ to recognize his brilliance. I didn’t realize until Match of the Day 2 last night how good Ben White was. How dominant Partey and Zinchenko were. How Ramsdale was actually pivotal again even though we dominated the entire game. That Martinelli was cooking his full back and Saka was combining his full back into a state of nausea through dizziness. 

It was only when my eyes went to Holding or Tierney that I got the jolt. 

They had really impressive minutes and I noticed because it was fairly new to my eyes. 

I got back to Bray after the game and my brother Robin, asked me about the individual performances. After telling him how Holding and Tierney played really well I realized that they weren’t even the best two. Considering their lack of minutes perhaps context gives Holding the MOTM but I pause on that. I pause because it’s unfair to not recognize greatness just because it comes to your house at least once a week. The other players I mentioned were great. Again.

When the Palace lineup came out I was concerned about playing Doucoure as I think he has big potential. Afterwords I couldn’t remember a single thing he did because Partey and Zinchenko ran the middle. For the entire game. All of it. 

Zaha was feeling it and looked dangerous. Certainly their biggest threat, yet Ben White kept throwing a blanket on his fire.  Creative players, risk-takers normally have issues with consistency. Again, totally normal. Whilst the others simply pass and move and operate under the instruction to be high percentage and low risk in possession, Saka, Martinelli and Odegaard can’t do that. Yet they create and cause panic every game. Throughout the game. 

Maybe it should have dawned on me when Jesus came on and even he couldn’t get to their level. 

We are part of what looks like it will be one of those memorable Premier League seasons. A season where something unexpected happened. A season that perhaps we thought would never come because it’s one thing trying to get to the 80 point mark to even call yourself competitors with clubs that are considered in the top five in world football, let alone be leading them.

As I head towards Stansted now, I am a little overwhelmed with gratitude. To my brother’s family for looking after us. To Dwayne and Mike Stride who got us tickets and went out of their way to bless us. Grateful also for sausage rolls and British bacon which can’t be found in the US. Right now though I am most grateful to Mikel Arteta. I now support a team that aren’t just great sometimes, but are so consistently great that I don’t even recognize that I’m being spoilt.



  • Gabriel Magalhaes, I apologize. You should have been in the list above. You are our most underrated player and possibly the best centre back in the league. Your performances are as beautifully consistent as your row of teeth. You have gone from being led to leading. You make me feel safer than Marion Johnson who spent too many hours cleaning me up after I’d had yet another tumble off my Strika bike. If you aren’t in the Team of the Season and they pick Van Dijk, I will personally introduce you to Marion Johnson because she is the only one who will be able to recover you from the shock. I will likely be in her arms disconsolate with rage and being calmly petted back to a state of normality. We will weep together, Gabriel.
  • Ben White impresses me for a variety of reasons. The latest edition is how he controls his Whitehousery. You can tell that he wants to constantly boot his opponent, especially a whiner like Zaha. He’s matured to where he contains his Whitehousery for off the ball cheekiness rather than activating it when the VAR man has his binoculars on him. He was the main part of the first two goals with very clever interceptions and subtle passing.
  • I can’t not recognize Mikel. I noticed that the crowd really appreciate him as his song was sung far more than any other. He clearly has these players’ ears perked up. That is not easy when they hear your voice more than their spouses. It’s clear that they trust him. You can see it by the way that they have bought into the part of the game that most players opt out of. You could see the contrast during the first goal. Ben White stole it from Zaha’s toe before his cheeky pass to Saka. Zaha offered zero effort to chase White. As usual, he stopped, complained about something and started pointing fingers. When any of the Arsenal players lose the ball they instantly sprint. Not a fast jog. A sprint. The number of times we won the ball back instantly because Arteta has taught them how there has to be a player in front and behind. What a contrast. Zaha might be at the level for Arsenal but he will never play for Arsenal for probably a few reasons but that one is enough all by itself.
  • I’d forgotten that Tierney had disguise in his game. My issue with him has been that his general game is very robotic. Totally one footed and plays in straight lines only. Thankfully he’s quick which we needed a time or two yesterday, but it was quite lovely when he picked out Saka for the fourth goal. Almost every other cross had been cut out all day long. His disguise and weight of pass was perfection. I do wonder if this performance both attacking in defending will have given him a little more trust for upcoming games?
  • Martinelli’s goal was underrated. If you watch those three touches again, they are perfection. All done under pressure and perfect. It was interesting from our viewpoint that Ramsdale celebrated before he even put the ball in the net. It’s obviously routine for Martinelli to do this in training.
  • Palace never figured out our right side. Perhaps it wasn’t their fault as the combinations were so varied and subtle.
  • So glad that Kiwior came on for his first premier league minutes. He also made a critical tackle at the end. Arteta was smart to wait until it was a happy home game where the game was secure before introducing him. Talking of that, Arteta is becoming better and better at what was a weakness at times, with his substitutions. You have probably read that he has told the squad that he is not calling them substitutes anymore, and that they are now impactors. If Unai Emery said that then it would probably be thought of as cheesy and get ridiculed, but Arteta has too much respect and I’m sure the players understand why he is doing this as with five substitutes in particular, the game has changed, and substitutes are frequently the difference.


  • it’s so difficult to be even the slightest critical of such a dominant performance. Rather than being critical I hope this comes across as observational. As most of our opportunities come from wide areas, we really need to start picking out the highest percentage opportunity. The Tierney to Saka goal was the perfect example. Compare that to all of the other crossing choices. I’m fully understanding that when crossing a ball that you are normally outnumbered 2 to 1, but the cutback in particular normally leaves an entire defensive line flat footed as they are more concerned about the forwards in the six yard box. I’m a believer in the cutback all the way to the edge of the box. It works for me and my coaching but then opponents are nowhere near as good at transitioning at the level that I coach at versus Premier League football. It would have Zinchenko or Partey as a frequent choice or maybe Xhaka could hold back.


  • Firstly, and most importantly, I wanted to wish my daughter, EllieAnn a happy birthday. It was actually yesterday and she had quite the original birthday gift for a young lady turning 20 from Tennessee. She has become more of an Arsenal addict as she’s gotten older and now she is an official member of the North Bank. She is one of my very first opportunities to discover what real love is, and she is a beautiful soul who is capable of achieving anything. Much like Martin Ødegaard, I forget how great she is and how blessed I am to have the gift of her. She will one day take over the Arsenal community as her writing abilities are greater than mine. Watch out!


  • The international break has worked well for Arsenal. It gives William Saliba time to recover, and it also puts the brakes on Manchester City doing Manchester City things.


There are so many ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ in this team. 

Here are a few.

Why did City let us have Jesus and Zinchenko?

Why haven’t the media figured out how good Thomas Partey is?

Why doesn’t Ben White get in the England squad?

Why did Real Madrid not see what Odegaard was capable of?

How can Granit Xhaka play so much without getting fatigued?

How can Saka not react to the constant fouling and also play without much fatigue?

How is Smith Rowe going to be a regular again?

They are all beautiful problems. I need to get out of the safe arms of Marion Johnson and stop finding problems though. I need to recognize the greatness before me, accept it and bathe in a bubble bath of football joy that I thought was going to be another lukewarm shower.

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4 Responses to When you can’t see great: how I’ve probably maybe definitely taken this great Arsenal team for granted [ARS 4-1 CRY] (Positives Needs & Hopes)

  1. Tikpo March 20, 2023 at 12:22 pm #

    Brilliant match, brilliant results. Poor Aaron….
    who really wanted his clean sheet.

    And the nerves!!
    Can Arsenal really go on to win it?

    The eyes say yes!
    We really are playing great football


    the heart says can we really.

  2. Paul March 20, 2023 at 1:24 pm #

    Magnificent write-up of the game, the trip, and observations on the team. I’m chuffed for you and your family to have chosen that game.

  3. BtM March 20, 2023 at 6:29 pm #

    Lovely loving appreciation of your beautiful daughter EllieAnn, Mike.

    • Francis Redheart March 21, 2023 at 7:42 am #

      Hello Mikey,

      So nice to have a matchday account of our team.

      What a performance by the whole team an here a few of my observations from the game.

      1. The lack of assurance from Holding was clear as Saliba and others have given us confidence that they can handle the ball.

      2. I also observed that Jesus wasn’t up to the general level of the team when he came on for Trossard who is having a great season with us so soon.

      3. The same issue with Jesus is the same affecting Smith-Rowe. They really need to work harder than their teammates to get a look in.

      4. Martinelli’s goal was very technical and the way he executed the goal shows his very high level.

      5. White was fantastic and he has raised his game so high that Tomi has to just watch and learn from him. He passes the ball to Saka just the way he likes to receive it which makes him immediately attack his opponent.

      6. Saka is our best player!

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