Not far from the end of the book (Positives, Needs & Hopes) [ARS 2-1 BRE]

‘Not far from the end of the book’

An Arsenal blog from a coach’s perspective

There is a book….

A book that only one man sees. It resides in Mikel Arteta’s back pocket. He only lets his coaching staff see it a chapter at a time. He only lets his players learn from it one thought at a time. It’s a book that was written over about 40 years of his life but likely only physically written for less than 10 of those years.

It’s called ‘Mi Futbol’ by Mikel Arteta.

For those of us who know no Spanish like me that sounds like I just made up that translation but you don’t argue with your wife, right?

Some of us noticed that he was writing this book shortly after we lost 8-2 at Old Trafford over 14 years ago. Some of us thought he might be writing one after they saw an ‘Arteta as a player’ interview. Perhaps the City fans started wondering about this before we did, but were likely thinking he was simply following Pep’s instruction and that that it was his book. Many of us became aware at his first Arsenal press conference. The impatient crowd (probably 40%) started to doubt this book when the heat went up and some of the patient were reluctant to judge and sat in their window box and kept their wonderings to themselves. They were the ones that had fallen in love too quickly in the past. A chunk joined the club last season and a few flip floppers only saw what was in his back pocket since Dubai.

Either which way, only Lee Gunner and his fan club of two don’t think that there is a book.

I wrote about this book many years ago. People were very interested so I pinned it. Over 50,000, I was told. Most coaches don’t have a book. Maybe that is unfair. Most have one in their head but never write it down and surprisingly only a handful actually decide to write one. So many more could write one but they know it’s pointless because they won’t be given time to start from Chapter One so what’s the point?

The true story to Mikel Arteta and his coaching book likely gives huge credit to those that hired him and stuck with him when it wasn’t going well. They had obviously read the book and thought that it was a best seller.

Arteta is nearing the end of his book with this team. Not the end of his time but the end of his team vision. The players never stop improving their personal game and will never perfect it. That book never ends. ‘Mi Futbol’ is 20 chapters long and we are on number fifteen. This chapter that we’ve seen in 2024, is on ‘Attacking variety.’ Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure if Arteta had this chapter in his book. Much like Wenger, there were times when I thought that he didn’t believe in certain ways of attacking. The difference in Arteta and Wenger is that Arteta can coach any and all parts of the game where Wenger hid his lack behind his philosophy and conned many.

Specifically, Chapter Fifteen has finally given us so much variety that we are by far the hardest team to prepare for. For the longest time we avoided the space behind the defence. We now have Havertz frequently darting behind. Sometimes it’s a run for himself and sometimes it’s for the midfielder in front of him who now has much more room as the centre backs have been drug deep. This introduction has brought out the long range passing ability of Jorginho, in particular. Martinelli is benefitting because one of his weapons is the diagonal run. Saka’s game has added about 4 new tools to his already large toolbox as he now darts back and forth and is willing to run behind. Arsenal never found themselves 1 on 1 with the keeper. We also ignored the space behind on short crosses. We all recollect the allergy to tap-ins. This is quickly changing.

The refusal to cross the ball in the air wasn’t really a problem so much because we had no realistic targets. Rice and Havertz have changed that. Yesterday we saw the fruits of that with two wonderful headers from two wonderful Ben White crosses. Yet again, we find players with gifts that they couldn’t use. Who knew that White had such accuracy on aerial crosses? Zinchenko will now be able to show the high ceiling of his technical level. Martinelli, Trossard and Saka are all producing that low trajectory, pacey, inswinging back post cross.

On a personal improvement level, Saka and Odegaard are bamboozling teams on that right side. Saka has added the no touch turn and his willingness to not only go to his right but pick out net roofers and accurate short crosses has almost completed his tool kit.

Odegaard can shoot from distance and if you close him down then he will thread the needle.

If open play is shutdown then Arsenal can beat you on set plays better than every other team in the PL. I was watching our set plays yesterday from Brentford’s perspective. If I was facing an Arsenal inswinging corner, I’d be pooping myself because the delivery is elite and we have about 6 aerial threats and endless routines.

Havertz’s personal improvement is now seen weekly. It is obvious to me now why Arteta wanted him. His toolbox is more like a suitcase. Much larger than other players who are considered potentially elite. With his growing confidence, he is now playing without fear and with boldness. If you compare his game to any of the strikers we are being linked with, he may score less goals, but he can do more. He can run behind. He’s fast, He’s a true aerial threat. A technical delight. A bounce pass and combination king. His movement has grown and he now adds the slot pass option between defenders. He can muscle and be an out ball. His tactical flexibility is unique and his dual winning and back tackling is largely unmatched.  When his shooting and finishing improves he will make it almost impossible for a new striker to bump him to the sidelines. Because he is such a multi threat, his lack in this area isn’t too much of a problem as Arsenal spread the goals better than anyone in Europe and have done for 2 years. The interesting thing is that he has not been compared to Gabriel Jesus but both are such versatile multi threats.

Arteta players, if you like.

IMG 3796

So, 33 goals since Dubai. If you’ve been wondering why such a contrast then consider Chapter 15. It’s called ‘Take what they give you.’ It’s a chapter that we haven’t opened before.

It’s based on having versatile elite players who can rotate fluidly. They play JDP football so are rarely exposed on transition. They play it over the top if that’s the best option. They play it high into the box or low depending on the situation. If there is a through ball, they don’t ignore it. There are long shots and combinations, depending on the circumstances. The corners are once every 5 minutes and are as dangerous as open play. And on and on and on….

Many are now noticing that this is our best team since The Invincibles. That team was as solid defensively as they were dangerous up front. They also had multiple ways of scoring, not through coaching but through recruitment and freedom on the field.

It’s wild to think that a team that has perfected most every part of the game won’t run away with the league. So, think on this, because I think it will be true…. If Arsenal win the league it will be the single most difficult League win in the history of our club. Why? Because we are so worthy of this honor yet the league has two other teams that are too.



He is the difference between ‘like’ and ‘love.’ Most defenders ‘like’ defending. They are willing to block shots, chase back, win headers etc… Then you get the ‘Carlos Puyol School of defending.’ You only get in this club if you understand sacrifice, suffering and think stopping a goal is worthy of a celebration as if you’ve scored. In fact if the ref would let you, you’d set off on an actual knee slide and your team would be chasing you. These players are rare. Lewis Dunk is in the club and does not get the credit he deserves. Craig Dawson and Ben Mee spring to mind and Max tells me that James Tarkowski belongs. They are simply not as good with the football as Gabriel. Every team has to find a defender that ‘loves’ defending. You don’t necessarily need four. It’s contagious. It fires up the others. I watched Saliba in France. He didn’t have this passion. Neither did Ben White at Leeds. They caught the bug from Gabriel to the point where their personal social media posts show them winning their personal battles.


Ben White

Harry Maguire will go to the Euros. I think Eric Dier might too. Ben White won’t. A good coach has to have the ability to forgive and forget over time. Especially a national team coach because he doesn’t have unlimited options as he can’t make transfers. Unless Ben White went on an all night date with his daughter and left at breakfast to never return and went shopping at PoundLand, forgiveness has to be offered. Southgate was at the game so he saw Ben White’s best performance of the season live. He could allow England to take an extra striker as he can play both CB and RB and arguably CM now too. When ‘waistcoat boy’ leaves he will be picked by whatever other coach is chosen because England’s weak point is CB and he is currently one of the best and best educated defenders in Europe. My favourite quality is his ability to intimidate. Arsenal have needed that for years. He reminds me so much of Sergio Ramos. Snide, talented, loves to win his personal duel but has a better sense of ‘team’ than Ramos who seemed to be uninterested in controlling his temper. Let’s hope Ben wins as much as Sergio did.

A difficult game

For whatever reason, Brentford decided to show up. Now that the game is over, I’m good with that. Winning games easily can cause complacency and so a difficult game was a good thing. Yet another game style that we can prevail in. I also loved that when Brentford scored we got angry rather than sad.


If that is Ramsdale’s last game then he will be remembered as a match winner. Capable of a massive blunder but equally capable of pulling off saves that others can’t. His second half performance was admirable. None of us will ever know how it feels to be solely responsible for a goal in front of 60,000 plus the other many millions watching on TV. You have to be super strong mentally or fantastic at faking it.

I also loved that the team showed how much they trust him by giving him the ball to his feet early in the second half so he didn’t have to stand there reminiscing and doubting himself.

Rice in the box

uncle ben rice - Google Search

Sorry. Dad joke.

You know that you have a top player when he is one of the worlds best in his position, gets moved and is arguably as good as he was in the position that put him in that bracket. I would imagine that he will be the most improved player for the last few months. Our eyes remember Rice destroying, winning balls and motivating but not really being a goal threat. He is so very capable of being anything and everything and I predict that he will get at least 10 goals by the end of the season. What I liked yesterday was his bravery. That header was a nutcracker. He will also be experiencing the addiction of scoring. When you feel it and know you are capable of it, you want to repeat it.


I wonder if Reiss Nelson will leave Arsenal having played for the first team for about 5 years and never get a run in the first team. What a shame. It seems that every time he might have a run, he either gets injured or someone else is simply playing better. I’m not complaining because beyond the days of Alex Iwobi, I can’t remember a time when I thought he deserved a run beyond Martinelli and Saka. I think we will always wonder if he could’ve been as good because his talent is Arsenal level, just not always his performance. Yesterday, he was in the mood. Probably appreciative of being favoured and somewhat surprised at being selected ahead of Eddie, Fabio and Emile.


He is/has been sick. I like the ‘sick’ version. He goes to his right more. Now that he is being almost equally productive going to his right, how do opponents defend him? What does a coach say to his left back? Here is a big thought….. think of the best winger you’ve seen in your lifetime. Could he go to the right and left with equal product?  I think of Dembele at Barcelona but he doesn’t have the consistency or durability of Saka. Riyard Mahrez perhaps?  I’m sitting here struggling to think of one who was equally good going right and left. Cristiano, probably. This should be a huge motivation for Bukayo Saka. That could be how he separates himself in football history. Defenders saying that because of his change of pace, strength and ability to cause equal danger going left or right, that he was impossible to defend.



Who is he? He played right wing back for Brentford. Had a terrible mullet and looked like a Bulgarian World Cup legend from 1994. Almost as ugly as this guy….

IMG 3805

Why is this a concern for me? Well, Brentford annoyed me today almost as much as Newcastle did. They deserve a little insult and being compared to Trifon Ivanov is pretty brutal.


The game seemed unnecessarily frantic. Watching it again, I think it was because we rarely played with full width. We were compact offensively, so they could be more compact defensively.


Not sure how much this matters now, but I think Ramsdale’s downfall is trying to impress. His first touch is soft but doesn’t set up his second so he has to take extra touches.

Wrong foot

If you watch the game back you will notice how many times we shifted the ball and lost some rhythm and opportunities to shoot because we passed to the wrong foot or behind the attacker.


You can tell when the group of refs at the game and at Stockley Park favour one team. If you haven’t already figured it out, the PGMOL/FA are in cahoots with the TV companies. We should’ve had two penalties at least but it was only ‘clear and obvious’ if there was a close up replay. We saw multiple replays but they didn’t zoom in or give us the angle from behind the goal especially on the shorts pull. Why zoom in sometimes, but not when it’s needed? Very suspicious.

The refereeing crew have to be able to figure out if a player needs treatment or if he is time wasting. There were many instances when our players simply bumped into them and the ref didn’t call on the physio but just went to pet the Brentford player as if he was his Grandpa. Because Roboref kept falling for this, the ball was in play less than any other game this season.


It was unusual to see his decision making being a little off. The obvious example was when Ramsdale put him through and he should’ve lobbed the keeper who was 20 yards out.


Bench strength

Having Partey, Jesus, Zinchenko and ESR in particular gave us a glimpse of next season. This summer is about recruiting strength in depth and alternate options. Rice and Saka will get to sit out 5 games per season if needed.


As I’m annoyed by Gareth Southgate once a month and it’s come around to that time again, I’m going to share my annoyance. I’m thinking the squad for games v Brazil and Belgium will be announced on Monday. Kalvin Phillips should be dropped. He hasn’t played for 2 seasons and since he started at West Ham, he’s had a nightmare. Ross Barkley or Ruben Loftus Cheek should get his place. Tomori and White should be in ahead of Guehi and Maguire. If Southgate hasn’t been stalking Michael Olise who is yet to commit to France but is essentially English, then he needs a firm slap. James Ward Prowse may not be in the same class as our other midfielders but if the game is looking a little desperate, I don’t understand why you would leave the best set piece taker in Europe at home when he could come on and change the game with one swing of his right boot. Jarred Bowen will likely miss out and his place will likely go to someone less deserving. He could back up both Saka and Kane.

Coach Max

Max seems to think that Arsenal will sign Marcos Leonardo to play striker next season. Married with my thought that we may be signing a back up striker rather than a first choice, I can see this. I’d rather sign Viktor Gyokeres but Leonardo looks like a very interesting blend between effective target man and a big spoonful of Brazilian flair. We’ve had joy with what seems like every player we’ve signed from Brazil apart from Andre Santos. From. Edu and Sylvinho to Gilberto, Jesus, Gabriel and Martinelli, we have hit gold more often than not. You might want to check this video out….



Teenagers and Donuts

My apologies for not writing after the Sheffield United game. I was leading a school trip to Cincinnati. It was so much fun except for Thursday morning. Going on a Donut Trail and eating 13 donuts at 13 donut restaurants and getting a T-shirt for your efforts seemed in theory like the kind of ‘man challenge’ that teenagers would love. I suppose waking them up at 5:30am and spending 4.5 hours driving around eating something that will make you sick after the 4th restaurant, is not my smartest adult choice. You can sense their anger at me when I asked them to get together for another picture.

IMG 3745

I had two main thoughts….

Firstly, the cut backs were so much more effective. Players holding their runs to open up a simple cut back. Much better.

Secondly, we looked like the most effective modern 2024 team playing 2024 football against a team playing Championship football from 2015. SHU had not one shred of evidence that they could play or understood football in 2024. This was illuminated by how we looked like we had arrived in Sheffield from another footballing galaxy.

Blood pressure

Arseblog’s reaction to watching the middle half of yesterday’s game was how all Arsenal fans felt. He just has a more hi-tech watch than us….

IMG 3794 (1)

Thank you for reading…. Mike


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5 Responses to Not far from the end of the book (Positives, Needs & Hopes) [ARS 2-1 BRE]

  1. Francis Redemi March 10, 2024 at 10:54 am #

    Hello Mikey

    Another way to win a scrappy match was displayed yesterday.

    I am so happy for Ramsdale but that’s part of the reason he’s sat on the bench nowadays Even though he’s a better shot-stopper than Raya, he’s not calm enough for a team that’s chasing trophies.

    Arteta seemed reluctant to make changes yesterday and I have also concluded that Trossard is better as a sub and not s starter.

  2. Ronald Bolo March 10, 2024 at 4:55 pm #

    You guys my guy. Always look forward to your post match analysis, of which you have missed for a couple of days but I get it, sometimes being busy and not being able to post quality content is a challenge especially after our mighty gunners just keep winning by 4 or more goals.
    Anyhu, I wanted to point out 1 fact and I think it really applies to our coach. Let me start by giving an example or 2….
    Remember Pablo Mari’s last game for arsenal….it was that game vs Chelsea where he basically allowed a very average striker in Lukaku to do the same thing to him time and time again.
    Next guys are kolasinac and chambers….those 5-0 and 2-0 losses vs Chelsea and man city were basically death beds coz of so many factors but I get a feeling that Mikel is the type of coach that expects some situations to be doable and actionable.

    Nelson’s choice when we had a 3 v 2 at the end will have made his mind up when he passes a short pass when he should definitely have done better is his death at arsenal. This is a coach who will gladly bench last year’s goalie and full back when they were acceptable. So for me, I think that he’s done

  3. allezkev March 12, 2024 at 12:45 am #

    Nice write up Mike.

    Esposa feliz Vida feliz…

    Lee Gunner, what a sad loser, desperately clinging onto the last vestiges of any credibility to his worthless online presence. He should really go back to being a double glazing salesman.

    How can doughnuts make your lads look so sad? I love a jam doughnut or as they say stateside a jelly doughnut. Mind you a custard tart wins the day.

    I’m slowing becoming a bit a Havertz superfan, every time he scores I just feel it’s like a dagger to the heart of the Chavs and of course I love to remind my son that patience is a virtue as he was a tad too sharpish to write Kai off. Dad knows best, doesn’t he Mike?

    Southgate and Holland are a lost cause, they’ll go down as the double act who wasted the finest generation of English footballers since 1970.

    The Premier League to me is the standard by which we judge ourselves against the best, but the Champions League is the psychological key to a probable period of Arsenal superiority. We are so close to a golden era with this manager and team but tonight against Porto is the gateway and we’ve got to get through it.

  4. Andy March 13, 2024 at 10:39 am #

    Hello Mike.

    Very Brave waking teenagers at 05:30 and then filling them full of sugar. Would it have been safer to take a pin out of a grenade and played catch
    I remember watching an Arteta interview on football focus when he played for Everton and being impressed with how articulate and intelligent he was. Most footballers could only speak in well worn cliches. I was delighted when he signed for us. I reckon he only signs players who are As intelligent and articulate as he is. They not only understand it, they can do it and in Odegaards case can see it before it happens.

    Anyway, great read and hope you enjoyed the game yesterday. The first time I watched penalties and thought we would score each one. Never doubted the preparation or character of the takers.

  5. Dennis the Menace March 13, 2024 at 9:19 pm #

    I watched the Porto game last night and lots of people around me in the pub were puzzled by Arsenal’s performance. To be honest, I think Porto did what Wolves threatened to do to teams like Arsenal and City earlier in the season i.e. use their forwards and wide players to put pressure on Saka and Trossard. Every time they got the ball they would sweep it quickly out wide to Conceição and Galeno who would be very high up the pitch before they received the ball. Against Wolves we would beat them through Odegaard. To an extent, Odegaard did unlock Porto but there was not enough fluent play to allow him to do that on enough occasions. Why? Because Porto were very good at manipulating the referee to break up play when Arsenal were in transition to attack. Going down when the ball strikes the face. Staying down after attempting a bicycle kick. We complain about English referees but they would have soon seen through that and played on. So how do you beat that if the referee is consistently gullible? I don’t know. But we won’t face that problem again this season.

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