I’m writing this prior to the Burnley game, but I must say I’m pleased with Arteta’s work thus far.
Yes, we’re still drawing games, but then I feel there are some building blocks of getting a top side.
All top sides have a mixture of the following:
Structural shape and discipline
All of the top sides have this, whether international or club level.
Liverpool has it now – as did prime Barca of the Iniesta/Messi/Xavi days.
We had it under peak Wenger.
And Manchester United had them under Sir Alex Ferguson.
I’m not saying Arteta will get us to that level.
But the signs thus far are encouraging.
End of Wenger to Emery
If there is one theme of the end of Wenger and Emery’s time, it is that we had the technical ability but not the mental desire nor structural shape/discipline.
We used to beat teams pretty comfortably – but often were a soft touch and lacked any real defensive rigidity about us. We, therefore, didn’t really get the best of our side, seeing us finish 6th and 5th in the league respectively.
This is what ultimately cost Emery his job too.
Whilst he was adept at changing formations mid-game, the defensive frailties and lack of desire apparent in games didn’t really correct from under Wenger.
His sacking, therefore, was fully warranted.
Emery since has come out and said that he feels the fans pushed him out. Well, he’s entitled to his own opinions. But he cannot deny that his own form was poor, and more so towards the end of his tenure.
He would still be in a job if he corrected the longstanding structural issues that emerged under Wenger. The fact he is blaming me, and all other Gooners reading this, for hounding him out is comical beyond belief.
We have to wait and see, of course, if Arteta has the skills to correct this malaise.
Desire and heart
Desire and heart are amongst the basic factors any good football side must have.
The will to compete, to win, and to triumph are necessary for any sport.
Most efforts in life are part mental as they are physical.
So a desire to never give in, and always give one’s all, are paramount.
The winning Wenger sides had these traits in abundance. There were numerous games where Arsenal would go down to ten men and still win or not lose. The recent game at Stamford Bridge relates to this.
The home game at Chelsea saw, despite two defensive lapses at the end, us keeping Chelsea at bay well.
The Bournemouth cup game showed this also, as much as the Man United win.
Even the pundits on TV, who rightly have scolded us for years, have said the same.
Yes, our results haven’t improved necessarily.
But then having the desire and organisation are the basic points in a good side. And it’s about building really from the bottom-up.
We’ve been down for a while – a reboot is clearly required.
Since we’ve been lacking desire, heart, and structure for a while, we need this template as a means to get better.
And it’s something we urgently need to re-install.
Our team overall needs a re-boot, and not just in players.
But a new ethos, structure, and pattern.
What we’ve seen here is, perhaps, a reversion to a new pattern and structure, as part of our reboot.
If looking at recent games, we can see how this has developed, as this is arguably the major area for improvements under Arteta.
We lost to Chelsea at home, but bar two defensive errors, we contained them pretty well. The game away from home saw more errors, but other than that their forwards didn’t have a sniff.
The Man United game saw us limit their forwards also, and the recent draws have shown that we’re more able to hang in there when needed.
What’s more, is that the defending has become more dogged lately. We’re putting in more last-ditch challenges, and not letting much escape our attention defensively.
Could this be why David Luiz has looked strong recently? Who can say? Even Mustafi, who has come under much flak himself, has had good moments in this phase of the season. We are closing down challenges more, and it’s telling to see that lots of the pundits are saying the same.
ESPN FC, inclusive of our of “our own” like Stewart Robson, has said that we are working harder under Arteta. Talksport has said this too – and we all know we are a major beneficiary of their professional trolling.
The Man United game was perhaps the best example of this thus far. The first half saw us dominate them, with both Pepe and Sokratis scoring. Solksjaer got his men to attack us in the second, but we successfully held out and didn’t let them get in behind us. This was unlike many performances under Emery, nor under the latter Wenger period.
Gary Neville said that our defenders are uncoachable. Maybe this isn’t correct – if some of our maligned defenders have seemingly improved.
It’s really about getting back to basics.
We have been getting more draws, but the goals we’ve been conceding have been due to mistakes still. But I feel we are more competitive in terms of our structure and positioning as a side, and let’s hope that we sustain this over the long-term.
The verdict is so far so good for Mikel.