I often wonder how much of a ‘football fan’ I actually am you know. I mean, I’m a die-hard Arsenal fan and birthdays, special occasions and holidays are often navigated around based on the football calendar, but football fan? Not so much.
Take this round of midweek action currently going on. Not watched a single second of it. No interest in it. I don’t want to see United, Chelski, City and Liverpool picking wins up in midweek European competition. Then this evening I have little to no interest in West Ham or Leicester doing their thing in the Europa League. Nada. Nothing. Nowt. Nix.
I wonder if it is because deep down it pains me to know that other teams are in another competition we have no access to. Maybe it’s in my subconscious though, because I don’t feel angry about it. In fact it feels quite refreshing to know the Arsenal players are safe from injury (unless on the training ground but there’s nothing you can do about that), prepping for a big game at the weekend, getting time to study the opponents and understand what tools are needed to beat Watford.
I’ve been watching that ‘All or Nothing’ documentary with the Scum. I know it is them and all that jazz, but I wanted to see what it is all about and now that I know that the Jose experiment there (“he’s a winner”, “he’ll get us winning trophies, that’s what he does” and the like) was an unmitigated disaster I can watch the historical documentary side of it and see what we might be getting at The Arsenal when they release theirs next season.
But what this documentary has shown me that I’ve found interesting, is just how little preparation time these teams in Europe have. When the season gets in to full swing and you have the League Cup, Premier League, then European competition, it becomes quite relentless and whilst I know that they will only have taken a fraction of footage from the training ground in Enfield, what it felt like to me is that the amount of time for true analysis seems quite short if you are playing three games in a week.
So I’ll not talk about them much more I think as it’s leaving a bad taste in my mouth, but what it is giving me is that hope that the Arsenal team can do a lot more growing this season together. Think about Man United. They played on Tuesday night. They will have travelled Monday morning, arrived in Italy, headed to the hotel and probably had a bit of a debrief. Maybe they did a light training session in the afternoon, then it’s a team talk and a chat before dinner, then bed. The next day it’s probably more light training, then on to the game after lunch. Play the game, finish the game, do the warm down, then either stay overnight or fly back in the early hours of the morning. Wednesday off, back in for training on Thursday. How much time has there been to work on drills, on approaches to the opponent they play this weekend, etc?
Now take our situation. No game at all this week. So after travelling back from Leicester on Saturday evening, the players have Sunday off, then it is in to training on Monday. Training session on Monday and then perhaps it’s analysis of Watford and how they play Monday afternoon. Then repeat on Tuesday. Then Wednesday. Then Thursday. Every day these players are working on drills, on approaches, on a style of play, getting to know each other better in no pressure environment of training. Then multiply that out by however many weeks we have this season whereby we aren’t playing midweek football. We don’t play every week of the season with no midweek football because we’ve played the League Cup, but the number of weeks in which the players can find out more about themselves means more quality time together rather than travelling and learning in pressure situations like a competitive match.
I’m not saying that I don’t want us to e in Europe. Of course I do and I hope we get there next season. But I do think that this brand new side with so many new faces may be benefitting from more time together in the familiar environment of London Colney and I hope it is going a long way to the formation of what is a core set of players who will be with us for years to come.
That’s my hope anyway. We have so many new players that perhaps them all spending more time together at London Colney will be beneficial for the long-term evolution of this team. In the utopia of the future of Arsenal in my mind that means that we spend this season with them ‘bedding in’ as a team, so that hopefully we hit our goals and obtain European football next season. And not that Mickey Mouse competition the Scum are in either. Then, next season, having developed the rapport it feels like this team is building, we go in to next season settled, with those Mertesacker ‘automatisms’ in place, so we have a nucleus of players who are united, ready to rock and roll and start challenging for the big prizes. You knwo the ones I’m talking about. I don’t even want to mention them at this stage, because it’s that early and I don’t want to jinx things. But I guess what I’m trying to say is that this season feels like it could be a blessing for the long term evolution of this current crop of players.
Let’s cross our fingers and hope that is the case.
Catch you all tomorrow.
Agreed with your thoughts!
I’m pretty sure that’s how Arteta convinced the Board to spend £150m on 6 new players in the Summer too. It is the first opportunity Arsenal have had in two decades to properly coach the entire squad all at once (given you always have players missing pre-season and during the season itself, there have always been too many games). That time to coach the squad is most impactful if you already have 10-15 players that you intend to play together consistently for years going forward.
The strategy is clear – by the time this season ends, Arsenal want to have a core of players that can play the type of football the top teams are delivering week in, week out and hopefully, be back in Europe too. That way, when you supplement the squad with new stars, only the new players need to adapt to the core rather than having to get a group of individuals to gel. And when Arteta goes, a new coach has a clear style of play to leverage and build on.
The only unknown remains whether Arteta can deliver that this year. The past 2 games have looked promising – Villa and Leicester games are the first 2 times it was truly clear what Arsenal wanted to do and they did it (I discount Spurs game because Spurs were such a mess, it was hard to tell what Arsenal’s plan was other than walk past them).
Anyway, all very promising. Now we just really need to see it against Watford and ideally Liverpool too…