When George met Arsene: Mikel gets the monkey off his back (Positives Needs & Hopes) [ARS 1-0 MCI]

When George met Arsene

An Arsenal blog from a coach’s perspective 

Poor me. It was half way through the second half and I was complaining.

Swimming Pool

Sat here in Jamaica  under a cabana with live service to watch my team playing. A week of relaxation in front of me and Lori wanders past in her bikini to tell me that she’s just booked an even nicer cabana for tomorrow. If she’d let me post a picture you’d understand how lucky I am.


Still I complain. “Arsenal need to be braver. Arsenal need to take a risk.”

Well over half the staff here are Gooners and know their stuff. They are ignoring the other guests and constantly bringing me what I want to drink and eat and hanging over my shoulder watching my phone.

Their Jamaican positivity still has me whining until Ricardo says, “We will take a point, mon. We defending soooo well.”

You need to say that in your best Jamaican accent.

Honestly, it’s hard to be around these guys long and not have their spirit rub off on you. So laid back and genuinely kind of heart.

I breathed for a minute.

These guys all tell me that they started supporting Arsenal because of Thierry Henry and Arsene. My mind rewinds. The happy man on my right shoulder reminds me that back then it all went right when were an unstoppable attacking force. Then it all went wrong when we ignored defending. I remember Squillaci saying that he couldn’t be a good defender in Arsene’s system. Too exposed. We pined for a mixture of Arsene Wenger and George Graham. Game dependent of course.. Football had started becoming more tactical which wasn’t Arsene’s strength. He needed George sitting in that padded chair next to him.

Mikel is becoming a little of both. He is perfect for the modern game. We may prefer Arsene’s football but it was only productive when it was balanced. George could shut games down and ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ had significantly more truth to it than ‘we’re by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen,’ sung by Arsenal and Oxford United alike.

We might have preferred Arsene but it’s George that we are seeing more of these days. Mikel has bought into the belief that you can score three and not win, but you can’t lose if you keep them out.

He is playing the long game. He realized that he played each game independently last season and we ran out of gas, confidence and important players.

Our back four is yet to be compared to the ‘George back four,’ but it’s worthy. Those 2 chaps at centre back, Haaland’s parents, are the equal of any combo of Bould, Adams and Keown.

Gabriel, Saliba and Baby

The full backs we have now are different but I’d argue, more gifted.

It’s the group though. The whole is more important.

Even though I know that evaluating a game is a two way thing, I seem to act like a spoiled dumb fan who only sees the offensive side of the game.

I’m not sure if Jamaica will allow me to watch that back but if I do then I know I’m going to marvel at the group’s defensive success. City only having 4 attempts. Lowest since 2010 for them. The worlds number one striker having zero impact. They subbed off their current goal getter who couldn’t even get the ball in the right areas to get a goal.

Even though we looked offensively tentative, nervous, I didn’t sense that in our back five. They were calm.

I’m reminded and I’m determined to not commit this sin again. Football is attacking and defending both. When I’m asked if we ‘played well’ I’m going to remember that the answer can be ‘yes’ if it’s just defensively, especially in the biggest games.. Whilst I have been ignoring our offensive performance today, others are calling it a masterclass.

I think at the end of the day we aren’t going to be Arsene and we aren’t going to be George. We might be more George than Arsene though. I prefer Arsene and I’ll take some George, as long as we have the beautiful football that we are capable of every once in a while. I am happy to sacrifice it every week to win the Premier League.

So, that slow, hyper tactical game of keepaway may in time to come be seen as the sliding doors moment at Arsenal Football Club. The moment that we fully believed we were winners and the real start of our success.


Arsenal didn’t just buy a dog to be cute. We are being brainwashed into winning. Winning at everything. Even sacrificing a cuter name for such a good looking dog.

• Not only are we being trained in ‘how’ to win, but we are finding different ways to win when we’ve only really clicked against PSV and Bournemouth so far. I suppose that is encouraging. Every once in a while I forget that we are competing against a team that drops so few points. Probably because we haven’t had to be concerned about them in most of the recent seasons. There have been many times over the last 10 years that somebody other than City would’ve won the league in a different era.

• It’s not good enough just to be a good team that wins most of their games. You have to have a coach develop a winning culture where the players understand that if you really want to win., you have to win most every game.

Saliba’s performance was unsurprising which in itself was unsurprising. Gabriel needed that. Remembering that he had a red card in the same fixture and the pressure he probably feels to make the next step to the Brazilian national team starting lineup.

• Arteta has an interesting problem now that Partey is back. I think we would all agree that we would be astonished if Gabriel drops to the bench which is a huge compliment to him that he has likely changed the coach’s mind. Not only was he authoritative defensively but one of the most calm on-ball players. He’s growing in confidence in that area and some are even noticing his passing range.

Gabriel and Saliba


• I would love it if there was an underrated player of the season award. A player who is truly worthy of being nominated for the biggest awards, but gets ignored for whatever reason. Sometimes in England, I feel that it is footballing ignorance of the modern game, but it is also biased towards certain players sadly those ones that play for England. Ben White would be up for the award. There are others in the  team, but he’s the one that stays fit and is consistently 8 out of 10. Doku, who is in hot form, must have been very surprised that he didn’t start. He got no change out of Ben White and neither did Alvarez.

• One of the most encouraging things for me was how we closed the game out. The temptation would’ve been to be somewhat panicked and just welly the ball up the field. We were largely very calm and tactically smart. Not only did we control the ball but we slowed the game down and took any enthusiasm that City didn’t look like they had anyway, out of it.

• Arteta had his biggest personal win of the season. On so many levels. Not only has he shook the monkey off his back, but he was personally responsible for the victory. If there is a weakness in him every once in a while it is with in game management. Rarely pregame or hardly ever half time, but I believe there is a feeling that his emotional state affects his decision making. His substitutions were literal perfection. Four players involved in the goal and all four of them were the subs. That was obviously not their only involvement but this game, which looked like it was absolutely petering out to a goalless draw, was won by a very fine margin. So you have to give credit to the coach for giving us that fine margin and recognizing the value in Havertz more centrally and being brave enough to take the gamble of playing Martinelli for 45 minutes when his medical team told him not to.

• Perhaps the tweak that won us the game beyond all the others was when Arteta left Tomi at left back when City brought on Doku to run at Zinchenko. Arteta brought on Tomi to counteract it. Pep switched Doku to the left. Arteta trusted White, left Tomi and told him to push up and support the attack. Tomi wouldn’t have been there and Arsenal wouldn’t have won if Arteta asked him to follow Doku.

• Declan Rice is obviously a top player but I think I’ve identified his major asset. I’ve been wondering for a while how he is so consistent. There is obviously a reason. At first I thought it was because he was so safe on the ball and rarely gives it away, which gives the impression of consistency. Then I thought it was that he stands out because of his tactical understanding of sitting just off the shoulder of the player receiving the ball and constantly nicks it. I’ve given it more thought, and I think that the answer is found in his temperament. Honestly, I think he has the perfect footballing temperament. Enough fire to win his personal battles and drive the team on. Enough composure to know when to douse the fire somewhat with the ice. Much like William Saliba, he has calm authority, and has similar balance in his fire and ice.

• Lori agreed to me posting a picture. I’m very proud of her so I will. She is the reason God brought me to the USA


• If Arsenal buy a target man they will make me very happy amongst I think many others who have jumped on that train. My only concern is how Gabriel Jesus is going to fit into the team. He doesn’t have to play because we like him, but it’s so very obvious how much better Arsenal play when he is playing. He is a ‘standard setter’ which is an underrated quality.


• Did you notice half way through the second half, that Eddie could’ve won the game. Jesus had wiggled his way into the side of the 6 yard box and didn’t pick his head up because Eddie had a tap in. That composure that William Saliba and Declan Rice have would be lovely if they could inject Jesus with a dose of it, so that when he is in the penalty area, he can be as effective as he is outside it.

• Not a negative but I do wonder why we were so nervous? Was it nerves? Fear? I noticed on multiple occasions that players were hiding behind opponents. You have to be careful because sometimes that’s intentional. They are positioning themselves for the second pass or dragging defenders to open space for a passing pattern.  There just seemed like the game started off a team talk that emphasized ‘no risk’ to the point where we sucked the creativity out.


• That Saka isn’t too injured and gets 2.5 weeks off. That Trossard and Saliba recover quickly. That Martinelli plays a behind closed doors game to get closer to 90 minutes.

• That we go on a run. This result isn’t worth a whole lot if we don’t push on. Chelsea away might just come at a good time. They are improving but fragile.


I’m off to supper. You should try Jamaica sometime. Even if it’s to sample Juici Patties. The most beat up looking fast food restaurant I’ve ever been to but the best food. Food was cooked to order and fresh. Totally unexpected. Our Tour Guide told us to trust him and he was right. A real Jamaican beef and cheese patty is different in Jamaica than in the streets of London, or a frozen one from Aldi.

Juici Patties

The real reason to sample Jamaica  is to meet the people. And revel in every other one of them being an Arsenal fan.

This is Ricardo. A Gooner who wishes Jamaica had HD service and knows as much about Arsenal as me.


A great day that I’ve got to learn to enjoy more.

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4 Responses to When George met Arsene: Mikel gets the monkey off his back (Positives Needs & Hopes) [ARS 1-0 MCI]

  1. Bob October 9, 2023 at 6:15 pm #

    Thanks mike.

    I thought we were unlucky against Lens, unlucky with Kovacic decision, unlucky with injuries.. But the “luck”, finally deflect Martinelli’s shot into a better route of empty net.

    Enjoy your vacation!!

  2. allezkev October 9, 2023 at 8:53 pm #

    Substitutions… You know what, you cannot take the element of good luck out of them, they can make you look like a genius or a chump.

    The change in emphasis from playing beautiful football to controlled football is really all down to Man City and the way the grind you down, nobody can compete unless you do the same and we learnt that painful lesson last season.

    I saw it at Wembley and I saw it on TV from the Emirates, seeing it live is better though as you can take in the entire picture. It’s the elimination of mistakes and Arsenal are now as good as Man City at that, Haaland looked a forlorn shell of the flat track bully from only a few months ago, Saliba dominated him like nobody has managed since he arrived. It was a wonderful thing to behold.

    Great post Mike.

  3. Michael Harris October 11, 2023 at 11:01 pm #

    Wonderful stuff Mike. Great to see us battle in a proper high-stakes 4D chess game in the PL. I keep thinking of the turnaround and will put the comparison pic on my show when I next do one. It will be of that shot of a miserable Arteta sitting in the City dugout when they battered us at the Emirates just days before he agreed to become the head coach – the corresponding photo will be the one on Sunday, him punching the air in front of the fans – massive smile on his face! Take care mate

  4. Francis Redemi October 12, 2023 at 10:30 am #

    Hello MikkyMcMikey,

    It was another match that looked like our coming of age. The ripples of this match was felt all over the football world. Arsenal are back at least to competing again and this is all thanks to Arteta.

    Perfect substitutions at perfect times? All subs combining to win the match?

    Very nice work from all the players. It was a complete team performance that they can take heart from.

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