With the club still another three and a bit days in which we play another game (having had rapid-football fired at us over Christmas) there is understandably a desire to eek out as much delicious content from the Leeds win as possible on the official site. And who can blame the PR and Marketing Teams, to be honest with you, because we haven’t exactly been awash with victories this season and certainly back-to-backers has been a rarity.
But we’ve got Sokratis piping up on social media, clips and more clips of ‘Mr Perfect Hair’ talking about the game, the team, the comments of the likes of Aubameyang, etc. It’s all good stuff.
The Aubameyang and Xhaka situations are important though. I am in no doubt that had we stuck with Emery until January, both players would have been rushing for the exits along with others, so whilst the arrival and subsequent performances on the pitch have been better since Arteta’s arrival, the importance of having a little more harmony in the dressing room can’t be underestimated.
As for Aubameyang, the comments in his programme notes on Monday night were welcome and exactly the sort of thing you want to hear from your captain, because it should diffuse a lot of the noise from now on. Not all of it, because the press will always push for an angle and that may now switch to talk of a summer move, but I think most Arsenal fans are fine for it to go away for now. What we need is stability given this turbulent season and that comes with keeping as much of the squad together until June and then assessing the situation.
So it seems a truce amongst those potential dissenters in the squad has been called and many of these players will look to get their heads down and work hard under Arteta to get Arsenal moving in the right direction. And as fans that’s what we want to see. The hope is that the confidence, form and hard work continues on Saturday lunchtime and I am also hoping that we start to get a little more luck too, because it was the Palace game at home earlier in the season which saw us quite literally robbed of three points because of an incorrect VAR overrule to prevent it being 3-2.
But anyway, there’ll be plenty of time for me to lament football karma on that match later in the week, as we get closer to the game. For now, I’m focused on the fact that at least from the outside looking in, we appear to have players all pulling in the right direction. And all it took was better communication and a plan, hopefully making it simpler for those simplest of human beings: footballers.
Emery’s problem was that he had a plan but it felt like after about five games that plan changed every week. We all stuck with it whilst it got results, but I think deep down we all knew it wasn’t going to work out long term, because footballers are simple humans and can probably only process instructions at about 75% the speed of a normal human. So giving them as many as he did was always doomed to failure.
Arteta appears to have a philosophy and is sticking to it. When the team was announced on Monday I think most of us thought he’d changed to three at the back with Luiz, Holding and Sokratis, but in fact the system was the same and only the playing pieces shifted a bit.
We all lamented Wenger’s rigid tactical decisions and I think I speak for many of us when I say that we don’t want to go back to that world, but nor do we want the weekly confusion on playing systems and style that Emery brought. Arteta needs to find his way in that respect and discover a middle ground. For now it makes sense to simplify things and make sure that the players know exactly what do do as he starts to enforce the off-the-ball work that is needed for his intensity of football. But when those principles he’s putting in place are embedded in the team I am hoping that we have a side capable off the ball, but also able to adapt to an opposition and find answers like the best teams in the league do.
That has to come with time. For now we need those Mertesacker “automatisms” to find their way into the collective team psyche and then worry about whether Arteta is good enough to get us looking at a sustained challenge at the top of the league.
That’s the end goal we’re all hoping for. For now though, it’s those baby steps on the road to recovery we want to see.