Would you believe it: I’ve read so much Arsenal content over the last few days, listened to so many Arsenal podcasts, that I’m already running out of #content to digest. So this morning, as a bit of a giggle as I did my morning run, I decided to flick on a Spurs podcast, just to see their responses to the game and soak in some of that Schadenfreude that they have been able to deliver to us over the years when we have gone to the Toilet Bowl and lost. And what I came across did not disappoint. They were obviously upset, but some of the beliefs from some of those fans was genuinely amusing. Like, for example, how they think that the league this season isn’t that competitive and nobody has been consistent in it at all. I can understand why they think this; it must be more comforting to look at the league table from Team number two down to 20, rather than to look up at a local rival with whom you danced on the supposed grave of just eight months ago.
That’s the second point I also enjoyed; they are baffled as to how much has changed between the two teams. After all, they have the ‘elite’ manager and we have the ‘rookie’. They have the guy who has proven he can win title after title. From what I listened to they believe that the difference between us and them are that a) we stuck by our manager despite the losing streak, b) we have backed our manager with money in the last 12 months, c) we have a clear vision.
No arguments from me on the first point. It got difficult to watch, it was painful at times the season before last, but ultimately our approach was right and with time we are certainly paying off. Arteta has developed ‘his’ team and that team is in the image he wanted. We had to suffer, but Arteta recognised the power of a unified club in the three key parts of the triangle: the fans, the players/coaching staff, the club and he has worked diligently with a number of people to drive that unity and togetherness. But it hasn’t all been him. We have to recognise that the club has done things with the help of partners and other bodies to really help us connect. From the superficial things like tapping in to the demand for retro Arsenal gear with Adidas, to the community initiatives that they have put on, through to the sensible and clearly defined transfer strategy, build on a foundation of specific principles and careful analysis of what is needed. At the Scum they have listened to the shouting of the latest manager to sit on the throne. Patrici and Conte are currently sat their and when I hear from Spurs fans that sday he needs to be backed, that the board need to back their managers, I only need to spend a few seconds on TransferMarkt to see that they kind of already have. The Scum have spent €265million in the last two seasons on players in that time. Arsenal have spent around €300million in the same time period. So they’ve spent €35million less, or around £30million less, than us in that time.
We were told in the summer that they had ‘the best transfer window’. That their signings of Richarlison, Lenglet, Spence, Forster and Perisic was a master stroke and I will admit, I was worried because when enough media drivel is rammed down your throat, you eventually start to get concerned that everyone else in the football world is seeing something that you are not. What it turns out to to be true, however, is that far from ‘winning a transfer window’, a clear vision and identity is more valuable. That’s what we have at the moment. We may not win the league and in fact I think we are still outsiders unless we beat United this weekend and then one of the league games against City. I still think City will go on a run and all our points cushion has done has meant we’re still in with a shout of at least challenging in to the latter part of the season. But what we can all say as Arsenal fans is that we know what way we are going and for the last 18 months we’ve kind of known that, going back all the way to the beginning of last season and when Arteta changed a big chunk of the team after the three defeats on the opening weeks of the season, which set us on our current trajectory.
The vision is there for us and it has been for some time and whilst listening to these baffled Scum fans talk in bemusement at how different that game was at the Toilet Bowl last season, I found myself quite amused at how they didn’t realise just how fortunate they were at the end of last season. They got all the breaks. They played us where our team included Cedric, Holding and Elneny and half fit White, Gabriel and Tomiyasu. They played and Arsenal squad riddled with injuries and running out of steam due to the smaller size of it. They caught us at the right time and gave us a chinning. But maybe that was a blessing in disguise for us, because that gave them false hope of the direction of the two clubs, where many of us – whilst disappointed – understood that actually, we were heading in the right direction. On this podcast I listened to this morning I heard talk of last season’s top four run and eventual victory was just a ‘sticking plaster’ and it made me smile. Eight months ago one team thought it was already too good for itself, whereas one team took the hits, learned from it and as of now, have been absolutely fantastic.
Of course it could all collapse for us; last season and the injuries we suffered showed that. But if we start thinking about ‘the journey’ as I’ve started to hear Arsenal fans talk about lately, we can’t deny that this has been a fun one so far.
Let’s hope it continues right up until the end of May.
Catch you all tomorrow.