Football without Flair, Future without Focus: how Arteta might benefit from a coaching priest…


Credit: @Arsenal Twitter

Football without Flair


I go through a check list before every game that I coach. I have to because I have a tendency to be an over thinker. Certainly when it comes to football and my team. I used to try to be clever and when I was a new coach I tried to impress the other coach with my knowledge. There are many ways to do that, I found.

My assistant coach is a calm and reasoned man. A priest with the serenity you’d expect from a priest. He keeps me grounded and reminds me of my checklist.

I developed this checklist to ensure that I didn’t do what I mention above. To remind myself of what is important every game.

Here it is…

1) Is the formation and strategy achievable with the players I’ve got or just utopian?

2) Have we practiced any changes enough to make them automatic?

3) If not, can we afford to be practicing them today or is the opponent too good?

4) Are the combinations strong enough?

5) Is there flair on the field and do these players feel free?

6) Is the athletic profile correct for this opponent?

7) How much do they need my words pre-game, or do I empower them?

8) Who needs a 1 on 1 chat?

9) Do all my coaches know their specific game responsibilities?

10) Are we confident, yet humble

11) Does the warm up prepare them for what the game will offer?

12) Do they know enough but not too much about their opponent?

13) It’s just a game and they are teenagers.

14) I am there to help them. Help them because you could hurt them.

Let’s focus on number 5.

After the 10th minute of yesterday’s game I noticed that Arsenal had no flair on the field. We were losing, I was upset and so my knee jerk reaction was flippant. I thought that Arteta is previewing Arsenal fans for the future. A future where he picks a flair-less team. A team he can control, devoid of creativity but obedient.

Not only did we have no flair on the field but we were playing with no technical confidence, either. I went from being upset to feeling righteous in my upset as I had the answer and this justified my shouting at the TV. We improved to the credit of a few players who used energy and belief to drag the senior players up to their level, but still the game was absent of unpredictability.

Then something happened.

It was the 68th minute.

Emile Smith Rowe had been on a few minutes.

As is his natural way, he intentionally floated into space between the lines. The ball was squared to him and he played a slot pass to Lacazette. For the first time this entire season I saw Arsenal using Alexandre Lacazette to his strength. Spinning, separating and creating a little space for a 7 yard pass. He hit the side netting. Then in the 81st minute, ESR observed space behind their full back and sprinted behind. Before receiving the ball he scanned that Balogun was making his two runs and hit an early ball for him that was inches off. A strikers wish.

We also all saw Kolasinac looking straight at Balogun who was going to be through on goal and Kolasinac was too scared to play the ball.



Time to look to ESR

The game petered out but ESR kept playing with hips opened. Quick. Early. Intelligent, but most of all to the strengths of those around him.

If we were to pick him, you not only get the quality of Emile Smith Rowe but you might just get the best out of others who are gasping for their kind of service.

The game ended with two athletes in midfield in AMN and Willock and a fearless youngster with a natural gift for the moment. I reminded myself that ESR was surrounded by Laporte, Rodri, Walker and Dias. All first choice players for one of the best teams in Europe. He’s not ready yet though. Let’s pick Willian vs Chelsea, right?




  • Was Martinelli our best player? He only played for a half. Only had 11 touches. It’s not the quantity but the quality. The life of a forward.
  • Willock made little impact in the final phase of play but was a necessary out ball to relieve the overwhelming pressure in the first half. I always feel grateful to a player playing out of position. A little embarrassing to Willian and Pepe that Willock winning numerous corners and throw ins makes him arguably a better option than the other two. Also, it is a sad indictment of the current plight of Arsenal’s right flank.
  • After we scored it was nice to see the press and a high press, too. When we wake up from this ruddy awful nightmare and return to ‘good Arsenal’ we will see this again. Go back to sleep. Sorry!
  • I think this is a positive but I’m not sure….. Watching Balogun run with the ball at speed at the back four makes me dream about a real striker who can create goals for himself rather than solely rely on others.

Danger on the run


  • Let’s go back to the nightmare. The worst of all nightmares. Summer 20/21. Balogun has already left. Smith Rowe, Maitland Niles, Reiss Nelson and William Saliba walk into Edu’s office. “We’re leaving. The coach wasted last season trying to rescue those that you are trying to sell this summer and didn’t play us. So…. we want to leave too.” Meanwhile, Saka is standing outside the office with his agent discussing Liverpool’s offer and wondering if Arsenal is a club that is worth staying at. 

You can’t tell me that this isn’t possible the more desperate Arteta is for points and the more he continues to lean into unusable senior players just because they were born in the 20th century.

  • Isn’t it more likely that Chambers and Mari stay than Mustafi and Kolasinac? If so, why didn’t they play or feature? It could be fitness, I suppose, but considering what I’ve just said, I’m not so sure as we continue to live in bizzaro OppositeWorld.
  • Is the line up picked based on the club wanting to show that those that they want to sell aren’t ‘unrated?’ We still value them so we can ask for a couple of quid more. Meanwhile, we continue to tumble and upset our talented youth.



  • I suppose it’s a good thing that we saw a keeper riddled with errors and nerves against a good team. Not easy to decide if we need a real second choice keeper if you are only playing him against the 5th placed team in Austria. This shouldn’t be a big issue as buying a second string GK should be fairly straight forward. Unless you are Arsenal and you have to replace 10 players this summer and the only one you might get actual money for is Hector Bellerin.
0 Runar-Alex-Runarsson

oh boy!

  • I’m a little surprised (worried) that a new signing hasn’t been announced already. It’s been Arsenal’s mode for donkeys years that when something goes badly wrong the club changes the narrative with some good news.
  • My understanding is that Reiss Nelson wasn’t injured. If that was the case I’m sad to think that he is likely being saved from injury as he’s being sold. I hope I’m wrong.



Are you jealous that I know a football coaching priest? I bet you are. What’s your strange combination? Please tell me so I can enjoy a small part of my day. The part where I convince myself that this Arsenal isn’t real. Maybe 2020 isn’t real, either? Maybe I should take up clogging to make this year even weirder? Sign up for the Cheese Roll?

Please change my mood, Arsenal.

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2 Responses to Football without Flair, Future without Focus: how Arteta might benefit from a coaching priest…

  1. allezkev December 23, 2020 at 11:52 am #

    Thanks for that Mike and yes I share your sadness, some will relish the opportunity to go online today and say ‘I told you so’ and don’t they feel oh so full of themselves, but I just feel so so disappointed by this whole situation, because only a few months ago the future looked so full of promise.

    I had an awful feeling a few months back when the club announced that they were selling Emi Martinez (old ground I know) but I just pushed it to one side as the guys running the club surely knew what they were doing – didn’t they?

    And despite a mixed start to the season the win at Old Trafford was a real tonic and it put us on the edge of contention for a top four finish. So I’m at a bit of a loss atm because I’ve been watching this club play football for more years than even Dave Seager and I cannot remember a season that we started so well and then just disintegrated into a rabble like this one, not even the Terry Neill ‘couldn’t beat a team of dustbins’ team.

    I’ve seen some really terrible Arsenal teams and players and this isn’t the worst believe me, but there’s a cancer at the heart of this club and an inertia from the top and it really concerns me because for the first time in my life as an Arsenal fan I can see us being sucked into the relegation zone and staying there.

    The only thing that saved some of those moribund seasons I witnessed in the past was the young players, because when the 1st team is that bad you may as well play the youngsters and this season is shaping up to be one of those.

    As for selling Reiss Nelson I’d be more inclined to sell Nicholas Pepe before I sold Reiss…

    Yes, Smith Rowe looked like a breath of fresh air and must surely come into contention for the rest of the season, as for Kolasinac he is an awful footballer and my heart sank when I saw him in the starting XI.

    Balogun needs more game time, never mind his youth, bloody use him…

  2. jjgsol December 24, 2020 at 2:12 pm #

    Are you sure that the season started well?

    The first game against Fulham showed nthing,k because the opposition were so bad.

    We then scraped a lucky win against West Ham and then losing started to Liverpool.

    Can anyone honestly say that we really played well in any of the games, and that includes Manure away as we were simply the slightly better of 2 terrible teams?

    The Europa league does not count, firstly because the opposition was so poor, and, secondly, because it was the 2nd team that mostly played.

    If what we have seen this season is Arteta’s vision for the future, it is, certanly, not for me and I doubt for too many other fans.

    Why the club is hesitating is beyond me.

    Do they want another pasting on Saturday, or are they hoping for a miraculous about turn in form?

    I always hope for a good result, but have now become resigned to the opposite.

    The problem is that I am not sure that I really care what happens any more.

    The destruction of our team, commenced by Emery is being enthusiastically completed by Arteta.

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