I spent intermittent moments of yesterday just smiling to myself. If the Cup final of 2019 cut deep and was a wound that took long to heal, this weekend’s victory in the FA Cup helped to stitch up some of that wound. It was like the lollipop you got at the doctors when you were a kid; a real silver lining to a pretty awful experience, whatever you were in there for.
It has also set us up for a very small summer window in which we can be a little more positive than we were last summer. Things boiled over last summer after the capitulation in the Premier League, followed by the way in which we folded in the Europa League Final, so much so that it also then spilled into this season that has just wrapped up. But before we made some of the late signings that we made last summer, things had also spilled over amongst the fanbase. There was the uproar of #WeCareDoYou, there was the response in the press from the club, then eventually there were some transfers that ultimately didn’t get us going in exactly the direction we wanted. But this summer, with a trophy now confirmed and safely added to the record books, I think we will find a more docile Arsenal fanbase. I’d like to think so anyway. Sure, we’re not happy with the League form, or the exit in Europe, but in Arteta we have a progressive coach at the beginning of what we are hoping will be a long and illustrious career.
I keep thinking back to what we talked about on the GunnersTown Subrubs pod, when Ben talked about the ‘Sliding Doors’ moment, as well as what this means for us as a club. It truly is quite massive. Some other fans I saw trying to play down the cup yesterday, but it is a historic trophy, a trophy that every team that is in the final fights desperately for, so I’m not too worried about some bitter Tiny Totts fans getting hung up because they haven’t managed to experience what we have experienced this weekend. There are so many positives I’m taking from this weekend.
Confidence in the new coach
The fact that we won this cup at the start of Arteta’s regime is massive. Winning trophies is what footballers remember when they get to the end of the league. We all know rival fans and the press derided Wenger for the ‘Top Four Trophy’ but I am not going to watch any old videos of us securing fourth, or looking at league tables. I will be watching the goals and the lifting of the trophy in years to come though. Players want to win titles and seeing all of them with the old trophy being hugged by each tells you that.
But it should also tell us all that it will give each of those players more belief that Arteta can deliver success. That’s because he already has. He is building a new approach, the players have brought in to it, but up until that Liverpool game, followed quickly by the City game, it felt like it was all theory. The players could see that what he was doing was right and they have all talked about the importance of Arteta and his methods, but players need to see evidence of that. Getting those victories – however they came about – was vital to ensure continued belief that what Arteta is doing will deliver results. This competition and this victory at the weekend is massive in that regard.
Confidence in the regime and the future
This is a little more difficult to bring back on track because we’ve seen a lot since hearing that Sven Mislintat is out he door and Raul Sanllehi is going to use his little black book of ‘contacts’. So far that has amounted to becoming bezzie mates with Kia Joorabchian and that hasn’t exactly felt too great. I’d go as far as feeling a little unsavoury and there continues to rightly be some real worry that we’re being dictated by this super agent. Raul need to demonstrate this summer that he’s not just lining a friend’s pockets whilst at The Arsenal and to do that he needs to do a lot more listening to Arteta who, I believe, will not be as passive as Emery was when looking at targets. Arteta won’t just accept a saga like the ‘I want Zaha’ / ‘well you’re getting Pepe’ nonsense and the other good news about this cup win and the validation it gives Arteta, is that he will feel in a stronger position to say ‘no, we do this my way’ to the football executives. And I believe – and hope – that they listen to him, because the current crop of players buy in to him, it feels like we have a manager who is taking us in the right direction, plus players who want to join us will also be more willing if they can see how they sit in with Arteta’s philosophy.
This is an interesting one because as I mention above, new players coming in having the belief that they fit into a system will be big, but the fact that they join a club that wins trophies will also be big. Players want to look back on their time in football and see how many medals they’ve won. They want to feel like they’ve made the most of their careers and if they can see medals and if they have those memories of those special days like cup finals, they are happy. If you are a player looking at Arsenal you might see that they had a difficult season, but when you see that this season they won the FA Cup, the season before they were in the Europa League Final, the season before that the League Cup, the season before that the FA Cup, you can see that this is a club who have contested competitions deep into the latter stages. That’s attractive. Of course players want to play Champions League football and of course the lack of being in that competition has hamstrung us financially, but if you are ‘selling’ a team to a player, going big on the ‘we get to finals and we win trophies’ discussion will be a nice carrot to dangle. We don’t always win them, but we do get there and that gives us our chance. I think that will be attractive to plenty of players.
Which is why I’m feeling positive now. I don’t think for a second the club are going to spend big bags of cash this summer, but I do hope that Arteta is driving us in the right direction, that his conviction will lead to players who will definitely improve the squad, that we will see a better Arsenal next season than the one we saw this season.
And I think we can all be happy about that.