Arteta has a Mediocre Squad consistently beating the best – Now add the quality and we have lift off!

Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool (5-4 on pens): Gunners win the Community Shield | Daily Mail Online


The Surprise of the Season


I was listening to Craig Burley on ESPN before the game.

He was upsetting me. Not because he thought Liverpool would win but because he thought that Arsenal couldn’t compete this coming season.

Then I paused and realized that the vast majority of Arsenal fans don’t believe we can either.

Ordinarily, expecting a team that were tumbling towards the relegation zone 8 months ago and only managed to finish 8th, to challenge for the league, would seem biased and fanciful.

Like most Arsenal fans I have a defence mechanism. I expect us to implode as we’ve specialized in this for the largest part of 10 years at least. The devil on my shoulder tells me that I’m an idiot to say what I’m about to say because to go from our worst domestic season to challenging, can’t be possible.


Here’s the thing though…..

If Arsenal had broken the habit of dropping truckloads of points to lesser teams then I’d be getting ahead of myself. What Arsenal have actually done though is started to not only tactically dominate the teams above us, but frequently beat them.


I know it’s a small sample size but I’m sensing a shift rather than a good run of form.

To add to this new happy reality the coach has ammunition. Not a water pistol or even a revolver of a weapon. He has a cannon the size of the two outside The Armoury!

You may have read my last blog, The 3 Year Plan. It was based on Willian’s quote that was missed by all.

There’s been another one. Missed again.

Arteta, whilst discussing transfers, told the journalist that Arsenal would challenge ‘at the top regardless.’

Arteta’s cannon sized ammunition is his ability to tell the players that this coming season he expects to challenge for the PL because they’ve beaten Utd, City, Chelsea, Wolves and Liverpool (twice), so why can’t we do it again? Also, if we can beat them then why can’t we do better against Brighton?

Here’s the double cannon though….

He did all this with what many think is a mediocre team.

He can’t as easily tell the players this as he’d insult some of them, but they aren’t stupid. They will have already figured it out.

Add Saliba, Gabriel, Willian and let’s say Partey and Aouar then should we expect just ‘a little better?’


Add better players for this coach

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are looking at a different beast.

Arsenal are a team with the most modern of modern coaches who has full respect from everyone he comes into contact with.

Arsenal now have belief too.

Belief in the two hardest mental challenges that players face….

  1. Overcoming the better teams
  2. The ability to comeback in adversity

I’m fed up of defaulting to my ‘Arsenal defence mechanism.’

I’m fed up of believing my timeline who almost all think we need a major overhaul, or we are doomed.

I’ve decided to believe my eyes and my eyes tell me we keep beating the best and we are baffling the ‘bigger’ coaches with a new hybrid coaching method.

mikel-arteta 1282919 20200710183825

Mikel instills belief

Like Arteta said and no one heard, ‘We will be at the top regardless.’

I think Arsenal will be the surprise of the Premier League season.



* Yet another almost faultless tactical plan from Arteta.

Liverpool had to bobble their way through to score. The same Liverpool that normally create for fun.

* The off the ball movement that is frequently leading to goals. Centre forward makes a diagonal run to pull both centre backs away from the switch (see Auba goal)

* The tactical ingenuity to be able to understand and teach the players how to shift from a 5-4-1 to a 4-3-3. This makes it much harder for opponents’ coaches and players to figure out how to nullify you.


In a new football world where replication is king, we must be able to buck this trend to make our game less predictable especially as passing patterns and movements in football are becoming robotic and anticipated.

* I suppose we’ve all spotted that we’ve gone from Emery’s heart attack form of playing out of the back to Arteta’s version.

* Aubameyang has been involved in all 8 of our last 8 goals.


Involved in virtually all our goals of late

* After seeing how Bayern Munich won the CL by continually flooding the box, I’m excited by what I saw. Again, watch the goal and notice how many players we had in the box. It opens up the opportunities for the player with the ball as they can’t double team.

* Luiz trained for 1 day and played for 93 minutes. Kudos.


Mo did well

* Mo Elneny.

If you’ve been reading for over a year, you’ll know that I’m one of a few who likes him.

He gets criticized because fans feel secure with power and speed and he has neither.

His qualities are not interesting to comment on. Not headline makers.

  1. Always available for the ball
  2. Secure
  3. Intelligent
  4. Positionally aware and disciplined

Against a fast, powerful and pressing midfield he would struggle more. If you put him alongside someone with power and recovery speed he would excel because the team wouldn’t need him to do something he can’t.

* AMN and Martinez were yet again, excellent. Again. (See ‘Hopes’)



* Saka must be careful. He switched off twice defensively and we should’ve been punished.

* I don’t remember us ever trying to dink it over their high line from midfield. There were many runs but none picked out.

* Both Xhaka and Elneny played with closed hips.

* If Pepe plays right wing most of the season, where does Saka play?

At what point does he get his own position?

Does he just stay/become the versatile, hybrid player?

* I may have missed the info, but where was Willian, Pepe, Lacazette and Torreira?

I heard whispers of quarantine but no confirmation.



* I’ve been consistent on this for a long while…. I don’t understand why we would sell AMN or Martinez.

In a team with this new ‘hybrid style,’ surely the most versatile player in your entire squad becomes one of the most valuable?


Epitome of modern player

I’d start him every week too. Forget about ‘great squad player,’ AMN is the epitome of a modern-day footballer. Fitter, faster, stronger and versatile enough to allow to shift to different formations in game.

Isn’t this what we want to progress, not sell? I’m confused.

I’d sell 20 of the other 24 before him.

I fully understand the need to have to sacrifice to grow in other areas, but I absolutely would not sacrifice him. Here’s an idea that I don’t want to do either but is better than selling AMN…. Nelson or Willock would command similar fees.

The Martinez situation is less baffling because we do have an excellent alternative. The piece that I don’t understand though is that if again we must sacrifice to spend in more important areas, why sell the GK that you’d get £30M less for when they are so close in ability?

I don’t understand but I’m always willing to believe that I don’t have all the information either.



This season will be fascinating. I think we just saw a glimpse of the short-term Arsenal, as I think with a creative option in Willian and two modern, powerful and athletic CB’s we will see 4-2-3-1 eventually.

Either way, it’s the first time since the club came up with the ‘Forward’ or ‘Always Forward’ motto that I actually believe it.


@Mike _Mmcdonald

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5 Responses to Arteta has a Mediocre Squad consistently beating the best – Now add the quality and we have lift off!

  1. Uwot? August 30, 2020 at 9:36 am #

    Nice write up.Agree with practically all your thoughts.Im looking at this squad as it stands& thinking crikey if they can do this in any consistent form I.e against the lower clubs as well as having to appear to have got over their “ mental block”of top six sides.You can only conclude that with another 2/3 additions that they could conceivably challenge as title “ outsiders” let alone top 4.crazy I knowI made a prediction at the start of Arteta reign which was he might win FA cup in his half seasonThis season top 4 & Europa winners,next season the title.Crazy I know.could he be ahead of the curve.Get those extra additions to our squad & the sky’s the limit.

  2. gooner August 30, 2020 at 11:14 am #

    We can get results against the best teams Liverpool and Man City are far better than the rest-because we can’t get the ball off them- forcing us to get all our players into defensive positions- what Arteta has added is when we are defending deep we now have much more defensive discipline and positional awareness. We also work harder and don’t expect to lose- proving you don’t have to have the ball to win the game.

    But playing like that don’t give you a lot to shout about as a fan.

    When we play lower league teams we get more possession and attack- but are more vulnerable to gaps being found in midfield and defence- hence the Villa result at the end of last year- losing a game when we were much the better team.

    We are still a way off from being able to dominate and win a game against top opposition.

  3. Omar August 30, 2020 at 12:12 pm #

    Excellent read as usual Mike

  4. allezkev August 30, 2020 at 3:54 pm #

    Interesting, agree on the goalkeeper value situation and who to sell if we have to sell, in fact I think we look more secure with Martinez in goal anyway and although I rate Leno as well it just seems like simple economics to me.

    I wouldn’t sell Maitland Niles, in fact there aren’t many who I would sell because potentially what Arteta can get out of them is huge. Holding could go on loan for a year and then return when the guys whose contracts expire in 2021 depart.

  5. Victor Thompson August 30, 2020 at 4:04 pm #

    I read this blog and at the end of it I saw that you were the the author Mike. I was not surprised because it was so well written and once more I am as one with you. I have been commenting on every submission I have read that it would be a big mistake to sell AMN. I`m just a commentator nowadays and I am delighted to see so much of my comments put into really intelligent argument by a well respected writer. The folly of selling AMN is so unjustifiable that I sometimes think that those in charge miss the good points of what I am saying. Keep up the good work MIke, they can`t ignore you even though I have oft said the same things!

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