Status change: Arsenal no longer has to look up to City (Positives Needs & Hopes)[MCI 0-0 ARS]

Status change

An Arsenal blog from a coach’s perspective

Fans spend more time arguing about one thing than anything else in football. Who is the bigger club?  Personally, I couldn’t care less. Maybe it’s the coach in me but what I care about is what just happened and what’s happening next.

I know that the recent past certainly has an effect on the present. It’s mental. As humans we are affected by our thoughts and doubts in particular. Manchester City have undoubtedly been significantly better than us for quite a while now. That does matter, but not as much as the present.

Whether we win the Premier League or not the past, will have some effect, as it will probably compose City and possibly Liverpool because they’ve been there, but again, it’s the present and how we feel today that matters the most, and what Arteta will be talking to them about. 

The game and the fact that we have taken four points from Liverpool, and now four points from City is the factual evidence that backs up what I’m about to say. 

I think that as of today, we are the equal of Manchester City. 

Not only this, but I get the strong feeling that our players feel the same way. You may have heard Declan Rice before the game. He was very confident when he said that he did not think that they were superior to us.

For those that read my writing regularly you will know that I prefer feelings to statistics. It’s probably my age and experience in watching and playing the game. That makes me trust them. 

Before the game started, I felt that we could legitimately beat them. I didn’t expect to beat them, but I felt 50-50. You’ve got to like those odds against arguably the best team in the world. Then you think back to the many games we’ve comfortably been beaten and even thrashed by them and you absolutely have to love the fact that we are no longer inferior.

For those that make these decisions based on player to player comparison, I think that we stack up well in this department, also. Looking at the bench that we had at the Etihad I didn’t feel inferior there either. Ultimately, trophies are not won necessarily by the team with the best players. The team with the best team always trumps this. Whether you agree with me or not, I’m sure you’d agree that the gap has closed. I’d hope that you would also agree that if either club wins the Premier League this season, then they can confidently claim superiority.

The fact that this is even a possibility is such a massive compliment to everybody involved at Arsenal Football Club. 

Football fans drink hope. It is the water of our fumbling existence. Yet again, whatever happens this season I will feel very appreciative of the huge improvement at Arsenal Football Club.


How did you feel?

It didn’t dawn on me until the 91st minute when Doku got to the byline that there wasn’t a single moment in the game where I thought, ‘Oh crap.’ The Ake header and Haaland thinking that he was playing with a beach ball happened too quickly for me to panic. Those moments were wrapped in a huge blanket of luck anyway.

The point is that Arsenal played the hardest fixture in Europe and I didn’t notice. That thought should be a quote on the stadium walls as a compliment to Mikel Arteta.


How beautiful to see our difference maker making such a huge difference in the hardest game in Europe and against the team that wanted him. I think it’s fair to say that even though he played in the PL and for England, we didn’t know he was this good. Actually, I don’t think he knew either. The credit goes to him but also to the coaching staff who have taught him a completely different textbook. Quick learner. His superpower is his decision making. He gets plaudits for his tackling but it’s his decision whether to tackle alongside his tackling technique that is most important. You see that in the very few yellow cards he gets. Considering his job, this is quite impressive. His impact is seen in the fact that nobody (not even the British media who love to prod us) is questioning his fee.

Ben White:

For those that care, part of the reason Ben White doesn’t play for England is that there are players in the squad that don’t like him to the point where VestBoy wants to avoid conflict over picking the best team. I think Phil Foden is one of them. Every team needs a git. I think Arteta has encouraged this in White and Gabriel both. You can see how rattled Haaland, De Bruyne and Foden were. Check out this image…

IMG 4193


You know what is sad? The fact that Thomas Partey may leave this summer and to date we haven’t seen Rice and Partey play together. On top form those two are undoubtedly in the Top 5 best central midfielders in world football. If we needed three points he would’ve brought the calmness to our passing game that was much needed and likely would’ve started. I played central midfield my whole playing career so I understand how hard it is to be calm when you have pressure, or think you have pressure, 360 degrees around you. His vertical passing is somewhat unique in our squad. Rice and Jorginho do it but not as regularly and not always when it’s really needed.

Gabriel and Saliba:

Are they the best CB partnership in the PL? In Europe? In world football? They are in the conversation, that’s for sure.They are commanding the most scroogy defence in the PL which is considered the hardest league. Fans of Leverkusen (conceded 19), Brest (20), Real M. (20) and especially Inter (14) would fight us on this, I’m sure.

By the way, Brest!!! Wow! Where did they come from and maybe it’s time for Coach Max to tell his Dad about their defensive unit. This is Saidou Sow. He plays centre back and I’ve decided to give him all the credit. He looks scary so I want to make Saidou happy. He also looks 14.

saidou sow - Google Search

A centre back is judged by mistakes more than success. Gabriel used to make one every three games. That’s gone. Saliba makes the rare mistake but his serenity is the band aid that covers the mistake you are trying to think of. Both of them have mastered when to foul which is a large part of winning your duel. If you wait to pull a jersey, nudge an unbalanced player etc… until the ball is close you are spotted. If you do it a second earlier then you knock them off their stride pattern, timing of jump etc…

Add this to their natural leadership, composure, aggression, strength, pace, aerial ability etc… , and you can see two so very well rounded defenders.

Gabriel in particular is becoming the elite shutdown defender. I’m sure if you asked the best strikers who their hardest opponent is they would likely say Gabriel. Kane and Haaland are probably the best two CF’s in Europe. Both jump on the StruggleBus when they play against Gabriel.


Playing for Arteta is about improvement more than any other facet. You hear it directly from the players often. You heard it from Saliba post game as he has been programmed to be unsatisfied with ‘good.’ If you run your mind through the squad you can see the personal improvement everywhere. One area that is not being mentioned is discipline. Arsenal have the second fewest yellow cards in the league. Arteta looked at last season and decided to not let the same disappointments reoccur. At the latter stage of the season suspensions can change everything as much as injuries.


Jakob Kiwior needed this game. Primarily, he needed to be picked. The other three get the flowers often and he is the newbie. The guy on trial. He wasn’t perfect but he belonged. that’s huge for him and for Arsenal.

To win a league:

The art of winning the Premier League. Well, I think you need to first recognize that what was the answer to this has changed as football has changed. Firstly, you need over 90 points. Then you need an athletic team that cannot be mentally or physically bullied. There are so many other pieces in between these and what I want to say but I want to get to the point. You have to be able to play a wide variety of styles. On Sunday, Arsenal, who don’t ever play this way, not only played a low block, but put a low block clinic on.

Arsenal might just win the league because they can do everything and have every tool in order to do so. That includes a coach who isn’t married to ‘his way.’ This is unusual and always has been in coaching. It’s to the advantage of Arsenal Football club right now. As I said in my first post when Arteta took over, ‘Everything just changed.’


Our game:

Why were we so unusually tense and inaccurate in our passing? City were smart. They forced us to our left. It’s why Raya was a little panicky with his kicking. He wanted to go to White and Saka but was forced to change the plan. It affected others too. We had to think where ordinarily we operate on instinct. There is also the fact that only Havertz was ahead of the ball and our block was so compact, it was hard to find depth and width as City’s counterpress was quick and effective. It’s why we had to dribble out of trouble for a few seconds. I’m sure that 3 weeks off changes rhythm too.

The media

Don’t be upset that the British media are claiming that we bored the public. That is a distraction. They always choose drama to encourage conflict so as to distract from the real conversation which is two-fold.

Firstly, the British media be it TV, newspaper or whatever do not understand modern football. When you live elsewhere that becomes abundantly clear as not only do US media and pundits know the US sports inside and out but they put countdowns on their analysis because they know too much. It runs all the way through the system as our own elite league only has 6 British coaches in the PL at Sheffield Utd, West Ham, Wolves, Everton, Luton and Newcastle. Also, the majority of these 6 are struggling. Our media keep redirecting the narrative to drama. Quite deliberate because we like drama and they like sales/figures etc.., so it works for most until you branch out and realize that I can name at least 10 Arsenal podcasts that understand modern football and can educate me. The media better be careful introducing Clive Palmer to the mainstream because the rest will wake up.

Secondly, the real story was that Arteta played a pressing game last time and lost 4-1 so because he can coach more than one system, he switched and chose ‘nullification’ in order to get a point or three. It worked and he has conceded 1 shot on goal in two games against City this season which is worthy of a trophy itself. It wasn’t that we simply ‘parked the bus.’ Everyone does this against City. It was the details. Our block was so compact and our defensive line kept squeezing up that you will recall how many times they got tangled up on the very edge of our box. Arteta told them to get closer quicker so they have to dribble and can’t pass which was the superpower of the 11 Pep chose.

The media can’t get into these conversations because they can’t explain why and how this happened. They can’t even call Arteta a coaching genius because they can’t explain that either.

City and the ref:

It is so obvious that these new focus’ are just a distraction. We were supposed to be concerned about surrounding the ref. That was the latest sin. Did you see City committing the latest sin repeatedly?


I’m getting a Tshirt. It’s going to look like this….

New Note

Clearly the design won’t be as nice as mine.



Would he save us from having to buy BOTH a winger and striker in the summer. On most levels he would be perfect. More goals, height, speed and flair. I just can’t see a club on the rise like Newcastle selling their best player. Secondly, I’d be worried that the drama addicted British media would endlessly compare him to Thierry Henry. It’s a fair comparison as far as stylistically but not fair on him.

Gyokeres and Summerville:

I’m feeling quite clever. I mentioned that Gyokeres would not cost 100M but closer to 60M and that has been reported. He is my number one choice. I want a monster.

Crysencio Summerville was a player I’ve been chatting about on Twitter. I think Arsenal should consider getting the ‘next Michael Olise’ before he becomes the 60M

Max Dowman and Chido-Obi:

Just a little prediction….

Max Dowman and Chido Obi will be the next two players from our Academy to play regularly for the first team. Dowman is 14 and playing in the U-18’s. A Wilshere style player with more acceleration. Chido seems to score 4 goals per week.

IMG 4190

Winger over striker:

With the success of Havertz now, is there an argument that another winger should be the summer priority? We rely so much on Saka and Martinelli and on Sunday we saw what life looks like when they aren’t there, injured but play or simply don’t play well. Then we see the fatigue that opponents suffer from at the end of games and yet we have Nelson or Trossard to come on. Both good players but not with frightening pace. It’s why we went so strong for Mudryk. That’s a huge clue as to what Arteta wants. Pedro Neto is perfect but his injuries are a big concern. Nico Williams is cheaper and can play on both sides but has no PL experience. I still have a feeling that Arsenal will go for Raphinha as he has everything needed except perhaps electric pace.


On paper we could rotate heavily and still win with far superior players. Arteta has never done this and I doubt he will. I see Partey coming in for Jorginho, Trossard for Saka and Martinelli for Havertz with Jesus moving to CF. Also, Tomi for Kiwior.


A new name:

This player will likely never play for Arsenal. It’s too early and his experience is limited. He is however one to watch. Can Urzan. Centre Forward for Nurnberg in Germany. 15 goals in 24 games and quite the handful. I cannot explain to you how my lil son knows so much about a striker in the 2nd tier of German football but suffice to say, I could tell you a whole lot more about this Turkish player but I also know that you don’t care so…


We only have 4 away games left. That hadn’t clocked with me. Brighton, Wolves, Toilet bowl and Utd. As much as we look at these and see pitfalls, imagine being a fan of these clubs knowing there is a team about to show up that can score 5 on you and equally can suffocate you.

I’d like to say a special thank you to those that have been quote tweeting my blog. Den in particular, you are much appreciated. If you ever feel the urge to share and comment, I’d be most grateful. I’m trying to get the England job and I would never pick a Spurs player. Incentive alert.

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7 Responses to Status change: Arsenal no longer has to look up to City (Positives Needs & Hopes)[MCI 0-0 ARS]

  1. Andy April 2, 2024 at 1:52 pm #

    I’d pick you for England manager. Be nice to see Ben White play.
    I agree with all you say and the semi finals of the CL will not be great viewing for the neutral if both us and city make it through. I guarantee you that city would prefer to play Bayern.

    If, as I suspect, Havertz was bought for these games to provide an outlet he was a great buy. Even so, his availability, his work rate and the extra dimension he provides makes him a great buy.

    This season feels different and it’s nice to see tomi and Partey back as we will need them.

  2. Andrew April 2, 2024 at 10:16 pm #

    Tactically Arteta clearly decided not to lose this game and he and the players did a fantastic job, the last time City didn’t score at home was 58 games ago vs Palace.

    Arteta’s bench and in game management has significantly improved. A few mins after City brought on Doku & Grelish, with City changing their vector of attack from wide to central to now staying wide & attacking the fullbacks so as to pull Arsenal out of the middle to provide space for Haaland, Rodri & De Bruyne, Arteta subbed in Tomi to nullify Doku & Party for his right side mobility to cover the Grelish infield pass to DeBruyne.

    This is a real testimony to how things have changed at Arsenal, both in terms of game management from the manager and the depth & level on bench.

    It’s amazing the transformation and seriousness that all the players now have. All of which bodes well for the short, medium and long term future of this club.

  3. Jax April 3, 2024 at 6:32 am #

    The lad Chido Obi that you like…have you seen the size of him? He’s only 16, and already 6ft 2inch and built like the proverbial.

  4. Michael April 3, 2024 at 9:33 am #

    Another brilliant and insightful entry Mike. Love it. Best wishes to the family and coach Max!

  5. allezkev April 3, 2024 at 2:51 pm #

    Great post Mike, so much to consider and comment on.

    Man City and Liverpool still have the edge as they’ve got the prizes in the trophy cabinet but the difference between all three of us is minuscule.

    When you’ve suffered at places like Anfield, OT, Etihad, it leaves a mental scar on the players and us fans, but our players looked confident and secure at City so much so that that element is degrading fast – and to such a degree that I can’t wait to play the Bavarians, for example, and give them a bloody nose!

    When, as a fan, you watch a game, you follow the ball the majority of the time but during the game last week I was just looking at our defensive set up, how it moved as one, players dropping into spaces, filling the gaps and nullifying the City attack. I’ve not seen the dangerous de Bruyne look so ineffective before, City looked bemused, confused and frustrated – if was beautiful.

    Kiwior has done a great job and deserves to keep his place in the team, I don’t want wholesale changes just plenty of subs when the games are safe.

    I just chuckle at Ben White, nothing phases him, Arteta loves him, the fans love him and I love the way that he lives in the heads of so many critics.

    I thought that both Havertz and Odegaard were massive at City, they do so much work that seems to go under the radar but I notice it and I admire both of them for their efforts.

    Rice is just peerless as is our defence.

    Finally Isak, I’m not sure about this guy, Newcastle are talking £100m and that a joke if the rumour is true? He had a questionable injury record and I’ve seen him disappear in games. So if a no from me…

    Although there is a thought in the back on my mind that what Mikel did for Havertz he could also do for Isak?

  6. Chiomba Mutindi April 4, 2024 at 2:39 am #

    At £50k per week, surely Gabriel deserves to be paid more! KT is on £110k per week for goodness sake! He signed a 5 yr deal in 2022 but still…he is our rock, so should be recognized for it. Maybe from a business standpoint this is not necessary though

  7. Francis Redemi April 4, 2024 at 8:58 pm #

    Hello Mike,

    It was a wonderful and a coming of age performance at the scene of some of our worst defeats especially when we were challenging for the league.

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