Not quite yet: the “process” processes (Positives Needs & Hopes) [BAY 1 (3) – 0 (2) ARS]

Not quite yet

An Arsenal blog from a coach’s perspective

It’s amazing how patience gives clarity.

After Wednesday night I was frustrated. Not just because we had lost either. I was frustrated because I didn’t get to watch it live and had suffered the maddening moment that everyone reading this has met before. That’s the moment when you spend all day telling everyone around you that they can’t tell you the score. Not just that but don’t even send an emoji, don’t give me a look, no coughing or even saying “have a good evening” when you leave, because my brain reads something into all of that.

It works like this..   Dan smiled as he went past me and said “have a good evening,” so that must mean that we won, right? He told me last week that he thought Martinelli would be pivotal in the second leg and I think that was an ‘I told you so’ smile too. But then he kept buying me drinks and paid for my meal so maybe he feels sorry for me? The beer he kept getting me was Norwegian, so maybe we lost on penalties and Odegaard missed the last one? Does Norway make beer though? Should I ask Siri or will she think I’ve said “What’s the score between Bayern Munich and Arsenal because somehow she gave me a recipe for the French dish, Aligot, when I asked her a question about Odegaard last week.

Oh, here’s an actual story. Maybe the best I’ve got.

I was dating a girl way back when who had begged me to go to the cinema on a big European night for Arsenal. Her parents told me they’d tape the game for me and I reluctantly agreed.

We went to watch The Usual Suspects which still to this date is the best ending of any movie I’ve seen. On arriving back at her house her Mum was so excited to tell me that I don’t need to worry because she’d bought an extra videotape and so she managed to get the penalty kicks too.

Being the nice guy I said thank you and then went into the bathroom to take out my anger on a loo roll.

I digress.

The moment was when Max asked EllieAnn if she knew the score and she sheepishly said, “yes,” and then walked upstairs and told us she wasn’t watching the game and she was going to read a book.

So, we turned on the replay now being 90% sure Arsenal got knocked out. Nice.

The game itself wasn’t frustrating until the end. Thinking about the 2017 defending in the first leg and Saka not getting a PK, whilst watching us struggle to penetrate, most certainly was.

Sitting here now I can make sense of all of it. It probably helps that I’m having the most relaxing day being the monitor for a hole in one competition.

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There is 25K on the line and I’m so tempted to kick someone’s ball in and cut a deal with them.

I keep getting distracted. Sorry.

The story of our quarterfinal is wrapped in nervousness, fatigue, and mistakes. There was control, opportunity and quality too but just not enough. The first group of adjectives won out.

Is it reasonable that we were nervous? Well, we will never really fully know because the nerves we feel are different to the nerves the players feel. We will never know how it feels to play in a CL quarter final. It’s probably a big head game until kick off and if you start well, which we did, then all is good until…

It’s the adversity that is the test more than the pre game. We make a mistake and suddenly the Bayern Munich 2024 version look like the 2013 version that won it. The ‘fine margins’ are small errors in the PL that may not get punished but get illuminated and become big errors in the CL.

All but two of our players are new to the CL. Did any of the bigger clubs go further when they started their ‘CL project?’ Rarely.

Many have talked about the first leg advantage of having 60,000 Gooners behind the team, but that energy can translate to pressure and expectation to a player rather than support.

I do think Arsenal could’ve done better because I’ve seen ‘better’ for 2 seasons, but I understand that being our best selves wasn’t likely to happen. Not only are we new to the environment but we weren’t in top form and the players that were spanking goals in have been struggling lately.

But so have Bayern? True, but playing a CL quarter final is normal for all the Bayern players which gives them a serenity in adversity.

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So, I can make sense of our elimination.

Jamie Carragher isn’t someone I normally quote for obvious reasons, but he has found the right perspective here.

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Arsenal’s achievements should be compared to Chelsea and Man Utd because we are on similar paths with similar investment. We are still on the path and will likely achieve our goals where those two keep taking short cuts which lead to a cul-de-sac and that’s being kind. The total truth might be that they are on the same path but are heading South when they should be going North with us.

Those that have lost their mind and want to rip their season ticket up as well as Arteta’s hair off his head need to read this analogy….

Wanting Arsenal to fire Mikel Arteta would be the equivalent to this….

Imagine you get your first job out of college as an estate agent/realtor. You start ok but then win the ‘Employee of the Year’ plaque for a highly successful first year. The company ‘Homes for Gooners, but Spurs fans can pay triple’ invests in your talent and gives you a promotion to a position where you have a team who work for you. You are now working on selling homes in the 500K+ bracket. You not only have success in constantly improving your staff but your sales are constantly growing. 

After a few years, ‘Homes for Gooners, but Spurs fans can pay triple/H.F.G.B.S.F.C.P.T.’ continues to be impressed and invest in you and other companies like ‘Maguire & Lindelof… we sell disaster homes’ start to admire and copy your methods. 

You then hit 20 million in sales and so are invited into the ‘Gold club’ where you are given only million dollar homes to sell. You pocket 7% every sale and life is beautiful. You get to the point where your company enters you into the ‘2024 six month challenge.’ 

You are still in the Gold club and could possibly win the ‘National Salesman of the year’ award even though ‘Pep and Sons’ have been cheating for years and have got unlimited investment. The ‘2024 six month challenge’ goes fairly well but you only sell enough homes to get to month four, but you refocus on the ‘National Salesman of the Year’ award as you have a month left and could very well win it. 

You are at home when you open up an email from your boss who tells you that you are fired. 

You can’t make sense of it because it doesn’t make sense but somehow some folks whose brain can only see life as one day at a time, got angry at your performance in the ‘2024 six month challenge’ and decided to “go in another direction.”

This is the equivalent of the angry heads reaction to disappointment at 2024 Arsenal who are one of the most revered teams in world football as we sit here today. 

Moving on…

There are other areas that can be pointed to also. Arteta still doesn’t have a squad that is complete and he has trust issues. He doesn’t share minutes like our competitors do and maybe he’s right to do that or maybe not. We are 6 games away from potential glory and maybe with more rotation we’d be hanging out with Villa.

This summer will be about addressing this. Either Arteta will decide to trust more or he will sell more and hope new players are more trustworthy.

Fatigue is naturally linked to this. This graphic is interesting and…

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…. this graphic is even more telling from the wizard writer, Billy Carpenter.

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Arsenal are good at learning lessons. That is why we are continually improving.

I think the biggest lesson from these two legs is committing to your strategy. ‘Attacking Arsenal’ works. So does ‘City v Arsenal’ Arsenal. A clinic in how to play a low block. ‘Conservative Arsenal’ is the problem child.

We did commit at times like the first half on Wednesday where our control managed to control the energy in the stadium but we are capable of controlling entire games. There was a noticeable lack of commitment to believing in ourselves when we had to go for it, especially after Kimmich scored. Each stage of a two legged game offers a new commitment but you have to commit or you end up looking indecisive. This was seen clearly on the quick free kick when the Saka was decisive but Ben White looked caught in two minds.

I predicted that we would win the CL this season as I saw an opportunity with nobody in Europe truly on top of their game. The exit doesn’t make me want any form of change though as I understand the journey and the strides Arsenal are taking are bigger than anyone in Europe alongside Mr Xhaka’s team.



Sometimes a big defeat can give you absolutely clarity for future decisions.

Those that played and struggled might reveal the need for rest/rotation so as to see them in top form in April. That would be Saka, Rice and Odegaard. Their struggles highlight the need for upgrades as rotation options on the wing, attacking midfield and defensive midfield.

Those that weren’t really involved get clarity. I wonder how Partey and Vieira feel? Maybe Zinchenko and Nelson too?

Thank you:

I saw that Arteta was asked about his message to the players after Wednesday. He said he told them “thank you.” That is a smart coach. That changes the thinking. What they just tried to do was hard and they certainly had to conquer adversity.

Maybe the single best reaction that I’ve ever gotten from a team was when my boys team got to the Final of a tournament in Nashville. Knowing how my boys reacted to appreciation, I went to every player in the warm up for the final and thanked them for taking us this far. We won easily and they played better than I’d ever seen. The male species likes to be appreciated. It’s in all the ‘differences in men and women’ books. We might see a top performance on Saturday now.



When we realized that Saka and Martinelli were somewhat struggling to impact the game, I wish they would’ve switched sides. I remember Saka on the left wing when he started at left back. He was so very dangerous from there, especially when overlapping. I’ve often wondered why he doesn’t get switched because he seems to be equally effective everywhere he has played in his short career. Putting him on his strong foot to cross would surely be a good option. Same with Gabi. Almost every Arsenal cross is hit with a weak foot and that has to be a concern.

I’d also like to see Saka develop the skill of dribbling at the same speed as Sane. We all want an ‘electric’ winger this summer but aren’t Gabi and Saka pretty fast? Neither of them have that or use that ability to attack on the dribble at high pace as they always slow down to get the defender too do the same. That is obviously a smart tactic but sometimes trusting that you are simply quicker and pushing it and out running is an asset too.

Third man run:

Goretska should’ve scored. They obviously had a strategy to make third man runs to take advantage of their crossing ability. Third man runs are the easiest to score from because you are a moving target and don’t have to generate any power. You are also very hard to pick up. Two runs from deep have caught Martinelli ball watching in the last two games and he should do better but they are also the most successful ways of scoring from crosses as you can blind side an opponent as well as find them being lazy/complacent. I hope we capitalize on Havertz and Rice’s ability in the air and off the ball to use this tactic more in the near future.


Born to be an Arsenal player. Could rotate with Saka and Odegaard for sure and probably Martinelli. Not got the electric pace though. Just a bloody good footballer. Been chatting about him here since his Reading days.
Clearly a very good all round midfielder. Clearly a twat. Is it smart to sign a player that the fans currently hate. If it didn’t go well the hate could affect the stadium and online discourse. Weird, but true. He is certainly the 6/8 that we are probably looking for and he is PL adjusted so maybe Arteta isn’t concerned about his reputation, as a hard working player like Bruno is often appreciated more than any other type by English fans.
Young. Project striker. Wouldn’t demand to start. Hugely technical for a big guy. Not sure if he raises the ceiling but he is far from the finished article and Arteta improves players. Came through the right developmental school.
Two footed both sided full back that started on the wing. I’m sure we buy a versatile full back as that seems to be the trend. This is a player I think we sign. Not because he’s the best option but because we can’t spend 60M on every need.
Willian Pacho: 
An Ecuadorian left footed centre back who can play both sides. Scout Max likes him and that’s good enough for me. Not sure about his first name though.
Wenger was asked on Wednesday what Arsenal lack and he stated a ‘Thierry Henry type difference maker.’ Not easy to find or buy and we would likely have to do what we did with Henry and Bergkamp and either buy as ‘damaged goods’ or before they fulfill their talent. We could probably afford to get in the race for Musiala and our new status would probably be equalling as appealing as City’s. Florian Wirtz the same. Xavi Simons is in this category for me.
The two that we have been linked with that have the potential to be superstars are Isak and Zirkzee. I just don’t see how a club on the rise like Newcastle can sell their best player and still convince prospects that they are serious about building a big club though. Isak has the versatility to play both on the wing or as striker and he has the electric pace and Arsenal feet, like Olise.
Zirkzee is the really interesting one. Understudy to Lewandowski before he decided to go be a first choice at Bologna. Perhaps the most skillful and unpredictable striker on the market and both he and Sesko would cost half of the others fee.
zirkzee - Google Search
I would still go for Viktor Gyokeres. Exactly what Arsenal need. A wolf in the box. Wolves are hungrier than foxes.
If I was Mikel, I would show the players some videos of Henry, RVP and Alexis. Players that put the team on their shoulders when others couldn’t lift. Then challenge all of them. Ask them which one of you is going to do this? Men respond to a chest thumping challenge.


Just that I’m very proud to have Mikel Arteta. Wouldn’t swap him for Pep or anyone. Some folks cannot get past the mentality that the grass is greener elsewhere. They are the types that can’t stay married or keep a job because they feel entitled and get bored way too fast. They also watch American Idol on YouTube every night and fast forward to their favourite part which is watching Simon Cowell judge people and make them cry.
Arsenal are moving in one direction and whether win win the PL or not, this will not be changing as long as we keep a coach that others look at and think is the best new modern coach in the game.


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3 Responses to Not quite yet: the “process” processes (Positives Needs & Hopes) [BAY 1 (3) – 0 (2) ARS]

  1. Andy April 21, 2024 at 2:12 pm #

    Thanks Mike. Know exactly what you’re talking about so won’t tell you the score against wolves

    It was a blow to go out to Bayern. We were far too timid and you could see the energy draining away. The stats are very interesting and Artetas next challenge is to build a squad he trusts not just a team. I note Bayern rested a lot of players before the game- something we are not able to do. Squad players who can come in and infuse energy throughout the match is needed.

  2. allezkev April 22, 2024 at 12:01 am #

    Nice post Mike.

    I heard a stat on one of the podcasts I listen to following the Bayern game.
    I can’t remember it exactly but it was along the lines of comparing the 8 quarter-finalists and how many goals they scored in their 4 last 16 and Q/F games – so for Arsenal it was our 2 games vs Bayern and our 2 games vs Porto – basically every team scored at least 6 goals and a couple scored 8 goals. Only one team scored less than 6 goals and that was Arsenal with 3…

    That starkly puts our major problem into perspective, we need a couple of, or at least one killer who can get us over the line. Defensively I think we’re fine, with some slight adjustments and experience to fall back on for next season. But like you I think this season is a missed opportunity…

    As far as the woman who could have been your Mother-in-Law and penalties, I share your pain but I must also confess that when I read your story I did have a good laugh…

    Good result vs Wolves to keep the dream alive…

  3. Dennis the Menace April 23, 2024 at 9:35 pm #

    While I was watching the Bayern game in the second half, and watching Bayern step up and take more control, I wondered whether this is where you put Trossard up front and Martinelli on the left. Trossard only needs half a chance to score. He’s the right player for the unusual scenario where we are not in control. He exchanges places with Martinelli well too during games, making them both difficult to track.

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