Arsenal critics missing the point and Arteta in driving seat to become Premier League trailblazer

·13-min read
Arsenal celebrate Credit: PA Images
Arsenal celebrate Credit: PA Images

The critics might point to a supposedly easier start for those flat-track bullies at Arsenal, but they are the games they bottled last season.

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Process of elimination
The ranking of the Premier League managers reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of weeks – where are the great Premier League-made managers?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Premier League hasn’t had some great managers, it obviously has. What I mean is, despite this being its 30th season, we’ve yet to see a player who played most of his career in the Premier League go on to become a great, or even ‘very good’ manager.

From about 2000 onwards we should have seen a steady stream of managers who played the majority of their career in the PL, but that hasn’t really materialised. According to Wikipedia just over 200 men have been permanent managers in the PL over the last 30 seasons. How many of them spent the majority of their playing career in the PL? Without going through all 200+ Wikipedia pages, I have that at around 14.

Of those 14, four are currently managing in the PL (Mikel Arteta, Patrick Vieira, Frank Lampard, and Steven Gerrard), with three in management elsewhere (Mark Hughes, Gareth Southgate, and Gus Poyet).

Arteta appears to be best placed at the moment to join the echelons of great or very good managers.

However, unless they show something soon, it’s not too hard to imagine Lampard and Gerrard will become the new generation of managers who bounce around the bottom half of the PL. Not that there is anything wrong with that, after all, Hughes has crafted a decent managerial career with multiple PL appointments, although, that being said, he’s currently in League 2.

Vieira could also join that managerial merry-go-round, but I could also see him leaving England in the next season or two.

Southgate has probably earned a shot at an upper-mid-table PL club, if he wants it, but I think there’s still probably enough doubt around him that he’ll be lucky to last the first rough patch.

That leaves the jet setter of the group, Poyet. He’s currently in his 8th managerial role, in his 6th country, on his 3rd continent. He has been sacked by every club he’s managed and is currently managing the Greek national team.

Looking at the guys who were in jobs relatively recently, it seems Scott Parker has probably already earned a reputation as a good Championship manager who will struggle in the PL. It’ll be hard for him to shift that reputation in the short term. Likewise, I don’t imagine too many PL clubs will be looking for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the near future.

The remaining 5 seem to be done with management. Alan Shearer hasn’t held a managerial post since 2009, Roy Keane since 2011, Paolo Di Canio and Tim Sherwood since 2013 and 2015 respectively, with Tony Adams last managing in 2017.

So, can Arteta become the first great Premier League-made manager?
Jerry 

 

Wright wasn’t wrong on Xhaka
I haven’t written to the mailbox in some time. The last two mails I had posted were pretty scathing on Xhaka.

I heard Ian Wright has said he was Xhaka’s biggest critic and his opinion was wrong. Wrighty referenced he’s now playing like he does for Switzerland. But was Wright really wrong? Were thousands and thousands of gunners really wrong? Was I wrong?

For his first 3 years he was generally a liability. We could all see the nice passes (high packing rate) when given time but he really wasn’t suited to the deep lying role. We witnessed countless cards, penalty concessions and brain dead decisions. Was he as bad as we thought? Perhaps not. But it was hardly knee-jerk, we all saw it for three years.

Under Arteta one thing Arsenal are much better at than under Wenger and Emery is closing down opposition counter attacks.

The current structure suits Xhaka much more as hes not exposed for pace on the counter. He was isolated last season in an example where we did get exposed…the result? he got a red card at anfield after kicking the player in the chest.

Xhaka has definitely improved under Arteta’s coaching.

He doesn’t dwell on the ball getting caught flat footed as much these days (Fofana early in the season springs to mind). But It happens less because all his teammates have zones, and we have patterns of play. Hes clearly not holding the ball or trying to turn with his back to goal like he used to.

Also, his pass completion was always pretty good even when he wasn’t great for us. The issue was that most of it went through him. We have more threat and more options, also Partey is better at the deep role, understated and brilliant.

That all said, I am happy to see this Xhaka,  I didn’t abuse him or troll him or boo him, I just didn’t think he was good enough, based on three years of evidence. It doesnt make us wrong, I stand by everything I said, he’s just a completely different player, and all credit for that should go to him, his teammates and coaches as he’s made as much personal progress as the club itself in the past two years.
Strevs, AFC, Canada

Arsenal midfielder Xhaka Credit: PA Images
Arsenal midfielder Xhaka Credit: PA Images

 

Spurs: sh*t or great?
Phil London is getting ahead of himself, there is no guarantee that neither is sustainable.

Spurs have had a series of lucky wins in my mind, played one team that will finish in top 8(west ham are in relegation form), and escaped with a point because the referee was…. But nothing is written in stone, there are no guarantees for either side, the season is still young.

I for one, I am grateful…these lads give me joy, I genuinely love watching them, in 7 games this season we have played joyfully and exceptional well, even during the soccer punch at Old Trafford. I watch games to find joy – that is why I support Arsenal.

I live in Nigeria, so supporting Arsenal is a choice not for geographical or hereditary reasons (Which means I really don’t mind losing to spurs, as long as we beat man United, Chelsea and Liverpool, as I have never met someone that supports Spurs in my life; so who will I banter with?). I digress.

I hope we make top four, whether this is sustainable or not, I will enjoy while it last because life is too short
Kufre, Nigeria

 

Sustainability
Interesting question, whether Spurs or Arsenal’s current progress is more sustainable. Although the morning mailbox headline describing it as ‘Spurs Success’ did make me think of the brilliant Paul Merson line on Soccer Saturday….’what success’.  Sorry Spurs fans, but until you win a trophy that will always be labelled at your team whether you find it boring or not.

Anyway, Phil.London compares the teams faced by each team to suggest Spurs progress is more sustainable.  To my mind the fixtures have been quite similar in difficulty.  Both have played a big team away: Arsenal lost to Man U and Spurs drew at Chelsea.  The difference being Spurs were generally outplayed that game and but for a terrible var decision by Mike Dean would have lost and lost Romero for a 3 game ban as well.

Spurs also drew away to West Ham whilst Arsenal beat both Palace and Brentford away – those are two tough away games where Arsenal eased to a win.

Longer term I also make Arsenal’s set up more sustainable.  Starting with the coach, Conte hasn’t exactly committed himself to the Spurs project yet with his contract running out at the end of the season and threatened to quite a couple of times early last season after particularly frustrating defeats.  Juventus might be looking to replace Allegri soon too.

I know some people sneer at stats but when used to back up what you see on the pitch and what you see in the league table they make a lot of sense.  A huge amount of Arsenal’s stats this season (admittedly a small sample currently) are up there with what Man City and Liverpool regularly produce in terms of dominance and attacking intent.  It is rare for a team to not have such overwhelming dominance match after match and still find themselves coming out at the very top. Leicester are maybe the only team I can think of in recent memory, perhaps Atletico Madrid at times play less dominant attacking football but remain successful.

Spurs fans may not admit it but losing Kane+Son for any length of time will hit them harder than any other top 6 side losing their two best players.  Also when you’re two best players are pushing 30 that doesn’t scream long term success considering the money it would need to replace them with similar quality.  Arsenal is basically an under 25 team with no key players needing to be replaced in the next 3-4 years at least, but more like 8-9 years.

By spending the money he has and bringing in experience like Perisic, Conte has (rightly) gone for the ‘win now’ strategy to make the most of Kane + Son.

Don’t read this as some kind of Arsenal are going to win the league email, we know where we are and we’re simply enjoying it.  Spurs are also doing very well under Conte, he’s turned them in to a very effective team – but the sustainability of the current progress of both clubs? for me it is Arsenal leading that one in every way.
Rich, AFC (obviously)

 

Flat-track bullsh*t
Phil, London is right in pretty much everything he says about Spurs. But why is it so hard for people to analyse other clubs without it becoming a pissing contest? For what it’s worth, I believe Spurs are the most likely side to challenge City, pretty much for all the reasons Phil gives. They’re also best equipped to have Pep’s number in head to head contests, as they’ve done plenty of times before.

But on Arsenal, and being flat-track bullies… I really don’t understand it. The games Arsenal have won are massive. In the Premier League, if you’re a ‘big six’ club (sorry, I hate that), you absolutely have to take as many points as you possibly can against ‘the rest’ because you’re damn sure going to drop some when you face each other, as proved by the United game. In fact, Phil could look at Spurs’ own results and draw the exact same conclusion. Dropped points in two away London derbies (still good results) and beaten everyone that they really should have so far.

People (not just Phil, lots have been having this moan this week) have seemingly quickly forgotten that as far back as erm, April, Arsenal lost three games on the bounce to Palace, Brighton and Southampton. That was an absolute disaster and was where the true ‘bottling’ of the top four went awry in my opinion. Beating Chelsea and United (the tests we weirdly passed last season but seem to only be allowed to be judged against when we play them this) in the following two games only set us up for glorious failure in the end. Of course, we also lost to Brentford, Newcastle and Everton last season too – these were all bad and contributed to our downfall.

In summary: there are no easy games in the Premier League. We’ve beaten Fulham, Palace, Villa and Brentford and each of those has gotten something from Liverpool, City or United already this term.

At some point we will draw with Brighton or get beaten at Wolves. And those losses will sting more than the customary defeats at City or Liverpool, trust me. Because they’ll be the ones I’m ruing more if we don’t end up in the top four again.
Joe, AFC, East Sussex

 

Oxymorons and Spurs
Poor but good – boring but plenty of goals.

Spurs have been weird, and for a good few, the telling part is who we’ve played, and there the worry begins; not one team we’ve faced could really be said to have a striker worthy of the name, Mitrovic aside (who scored and so very nearly equalised in a match Fulham really shouldn’t have been involved in with ten minutes to go).

Against Leicester, Forest, Wolves and West Ham we gave those sides far too much respect. The system is set up in such a way that we’re supposed to allow the opponents possession and play on the break, but to do that we’re still lacking two key components in Conte’s plan, a\\ RWB who is far better at attacking than Emerson (don’t expect Spence to be playing any time soon), alongside an additional ball playing playing, left sided centre half. Lenglet might be good in this regard but the past two matches have shown he is easily pulled out of position, and follows the ball than stick to his position.

The good thing with Leicester which hasn’t been mentioned, not least that I have seen, is the switch to a three man midfield. The additional player, and what a player he is, meant Bentancur and Hojbjerg we’ren’t overrun as they often are. It also means that, hopefully, we can play a 4-3-3 which I believe, for now, is our strongest formation until the above are addressed.

Also, if Nice don’t get him, Poch to Newcastle will happen.
Dan

 

The tennis match goes on
Well, 747always that response needs addressing:

1) A private citizen of the USA is not the same as a Head of State/Member of the ruling Autocracy.  John Henry isn’t in charge of a Government that enables human rights abuses such as arbitrary detention, cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees, suppression of freedom of expression, and violation of the right to privacy.  That you then try to play the race card shows how sportswashed you’ve been.  Congratulations.

2) The club I support signalled (erroneously in my opinion) that they would sign up to a Government scheme to pay it’s employees and then rowed it back. Unlike Newcastle, Tottenham, Bournemouth and Norwich. And other multi-million pound organisations like M&S, Sports Direct, JD Sports, Ladbrokes and Betfred. This is not abusive behaviour.

Cheers,
James Outram, Wirral

 

In response to 747always’ mail about club ownership and human rights abuses…

Liverpool are owned by an American. They’re not owned by America.

That one letter is what makes all the difference.
Iain, Sunderland

 

A return of those random lockdown XIs
Currently in work and was thinking of something to do whilst staring into space.

Decided I’d make the best 11 I could off the top of my head (no googling) where the first players last letter has to be the first letter of the next player (it needs to snake back to the GK too).

You also need to have watched them at some point whilst they were alive.

Basically starting from GK to Forwards, but keeping players in their right position etc. Cant have anything scruffy like putting Fabio Cannavaro at right back for example!

This is what I came up with:

Peter SchmeicheL

Lillian ThuraM
Matthias SammeR
Rio FerdinanD
David AlabA

Andreas IniestA
Andreas PirlO
Owen HargreaveS (sorry)

Sadio ManE
Erling HaalanD
Dennis BergkamP
RoB, WaleS.

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