It’s all gone a bit quiet in the Arsenal world which, let’s be honest, is a good thing because it means we haven’t learned of any players with limbs hanging off as a result of the international fixtures that were played this weekend. Perhaps that’s a good thing so I won’t knock it too much.
With it being so quiet, any kind of content is worth over-analysing, which is why when the club released the interview with Arteta on his 40th birthday, I settled down and had a little read what he had to say yesterday and then again this morning. He talks about his clear vision and building a winning team that has the right kind of identity. I think it’s fair to say that up until this point we look like we are on track for that. Of course it could all fall away and of course we could end up missing out on the big prize we’re racing towards along with United and the Scum, but in the here and now, you can’t argue that he’s helped to shape us in the right way and going in the right direction.
That direction has involved making those decisions around young players coming in, players who can also speak the language or if they can’t, they learn it quickly enough. I do think that is a critical key to success actually. One of the problems Emery had was that his English wasn’t great, so with that in mind if you have a guy running the team whose English isn’t great, along with players who perhaps don’t speak the language as well, how much does that affect team cohesion? I’d wager a fair bit. The players we brought in last summer could all speak English and that meant from a communication point of view they were able to come straight in and hit the ground running. Odegaard, Ramsdale and White particularly even had Premier League experience by the time they kicked off their season with Arsenal and that meant that there wasn’t as much of a worry over a bedding in period. In fact, the very fact that all of the signings hit the ground running, has meant we have this opportunity of a Top Four space in the team. Think about it – it would have been perfectly feasible for us to have been very inconsistent at the start of the season all the way up to Christmas, only for the team to start looking like they were clicking now, with us in mid table. If you’re talking about players needing adaptation periods, six months isn’t unreasonable when you make so many changes to your first team, but we made a raft of changes and they all had a big impact almost straight away. The result is that we are where we are today; we have something to fight for as we reach April.
I thought it was interesting to see him talk about his time in PSG and how he was in one of the youngest teams in the league when he played for them. He will have seen that from a players perspective and so I wonder how much that grounding at PSG and seeing what unfolded had him thinking about how he would craft such a young Arsenal side when he was looking for the profile of player we eventually got last summer. It must have had an impact and he certainly references it, talking about how you need to be more supportive of those younger players because they will make mistakes. It makes me wonder if that is helping to the unity in the team that we are all hearing about. When we saw how the players celebrated around Leno last weekend when he made the save from the Coutinho free kick in the dying minutes of the game against Villa, it was another example of how these players look like they enjoy the environment that exists at The Arsenal right now. Arteta and his coaching staff are a big part in fostering it, as well as the players, so he must be given a lot of credit for what is being developed.
The final bit of the interview that I thought was interesting and of course am now totally over-analysing every word for underlying meaning of, was when he was asked about what he would be doing at 50. He spoke about how he wants to have taken The Arsenal to the next level and that everyone is proud of what has been done. Given that he currently has a contract that expires at the end of next season, it strikes me that these are words of somebody who wants to continue this ‘project’ and it gives me hope that a deal can be done this summer to get him signed up for a few more years left. We’ve only just now started to see – or what feels like we are seeing – the start of things kicking off, so why would you want to leave just as it starts to get really good?
For what it is worth I don’t think he does want to, but with the possibility of somebody like Guardiola having his contract expiring at the end of next season too, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Man City sniffing around their former assistant manager and if City come along with mega cash and a bottomless pit for Arteta to buy players from, then it could be tempted. Guardiola has already said that he will stop as Man City manager at the end of his contract and so there won’t be an extension. That’s why we need to get him locked down and we need to give him the tools to build a proper Arsenal team like he’s started. As each week goes by I believe he’s capable of that because the foundations have been laid, but we need to make sure we get all of that nailed by the end of this summer coming, methinks.
That’s it from me for another day. Have a good one and I’ll catch you tomorrow.