Tag Archives: regime

Arteta and the New Defence

You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so the saying goes.

For a number of seasons, Arsenal have been top-heavy. Ridiculously powerful up top, capable of out-gunning any opponent, but porous at the back, like putting cowboy saloon doors on a bank vault.

Or a bodybuilder skipping leg day so much that his top half looks like it’s mid-way through swallowing his bottom half.

When was the last time we had a solid defence behind us that filled us with confidence? The last time we came close to that was the peak years of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Before and since, we’ve been fed on a diet of mediocre or average, which has been off-kilter to what we’ve had in attack.

Unai Emery recruited the likes of Sokratis to beef up our weak backline, offer some physical security. But if you’re also asking that same defence to play out from the back, Emery was ultimately trying to fit square pegs in round holes.

Then there is the capacity for mistakes in our defenders. Shkodran Mustafi can withstand pressure from teams for 80-85 minutes and be a prime candidate for Man of the Match, but he carries with him a warning sticker, that lets everyone know that there are mistakes within that can capitulate the efforts of the team, and override any decent aspects that Mustafi has contributed previously.

David Luiz is a huge character on and off the pitch, helping youngsters grow and also being a conduit for the positivity and work that Mikel Arteta’s new regime extolls. But every once in a while, Luiz will put his studded foot in his figurative mouth and inexplicably gift the opposition a goal.

It is a characteristic that has beset us for more than a decade, unfortunately.

But Mikel Arteta is instilling something at Arsenal. Something special. Something that is getting all of the players excited and looking to the next game. This tantalising project is luring players in. Both summer recruits thus far – Willian and Gabriel Magalhaes – have both spoken of other offers for their services coming in before joining Arsenal. Why did they shun these other, more lucrative deals?

Mikel Arteta.

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Magalhaes even spoke of a phone call from Arteta to convince him of his growth at Arsenal and the end goal of the club and how Magalhaes can be intrinsic to that.

We now have a solid looking nucleus of defenders at Arsenal.

Magalhaes was wanted by top clubs and chose Arsenal.

William Saliba is another top young talent that lit up Ligue Un last season. The Frenchman is younger than Magalhaes, but both could form part of a new-look backline – especially if Arteta continues to get his players adapting to a 3-5-2 / 5-3-2 formation. It involves a bank of three central defenders, with two wing-backs shutting down the flanks and then offering an avenue in attack. Put the experienced Luiz in the centre, with the youthful exuberance and skills of Magalhaes and Saliba, and we are looking at a brand new backline that is capable of following Arteta’s wishes.

We also have depth too. With the cultured Pablo Mari to come back into the fold, and Calum Chambers – who impressed last season before injury cut his campaign short – we now have the resources available to withstand the annual Arsenal injury crises at the back.

With the impressive Kieran Tierney able to play centrally too, Arteta may well have what he needs at the back to push this club forward and toward where he wants – and we want – us to be.

 

The Worst of Times?

A timely reminder to all fans sits innocuously around The Emirates stadium to whomever wishes to look at them.

It is a dose of smelling salts to all that no matter what befalls our club in these testing times – we have had it far worse in the past.


And our club is still here.


Circling the stands, we have placards detailing the trophies we have won since Arsenal began. If anyone pays attention to them, they will realise that there are some very large gaps in between the silverware we have held aloft. Far larger than we have suffered in the last two decades during Wenger’s reign.


This blog is not a ‘Wenger In’ statement. The majority of us are painfully aware of the tired tactics and the repetitive excuses that are on a cycle of late. We can see on the pitch that there is something amiss from the peak teams that Wenger has in the past masterminded.


What has gone missing in this ever-broiling debate is when fans declare that this is the worst team Wenger has ever produced and that he is a ‘cancer’ which is killing our club – which couldn’t be further from the truth.


If a healthy debate is to be triggered and maintained – and with both parties only looking for the best for Arsenal then this is the aim – then the truth is all that should matter. Anyone who actually supports this view has had their targets shifted by misinformation and vitriolic hyperbole.


As a club, we had a gap of seventeen years in which we did not win anything. Not a jot. From 1953 through till the Fairs Cup win in 1970, Arsenal football club not only won absolutely nothing, they struggled to stay in the top flight.


The squad was made up with mediocrity, with the odd sprinkle of talent which was just enough to keep Arsenal relevant.

We were then treated to a truly wonderful generation in the early ‘70’s which resurrected the Gunners.


Then, from 1971 through to 1979, there was again a dearth of shiny baubles which normally populate the trophy cabinet.


Then again from 1979 to 1987.


We have had some truly awful teams, players and seasons. Year after year of dire football. This struggle is not new, it is essentially the Arsenal Way.


We of course now enjoy a different set of circumstances which mean we should be challenging for honours. We have money rolling through the club and cash is the lifeblood of clubs the world over. We deserve it.


Whether we like it or not, the larger the bank balance, the larger the chance of success. It is a sign of the times. So expectation to challenge as a Gooner is a right, thanks to the influx of cash in our coffers.


It is Arsene Wenger that has given each fan these expectations through his efforts taking Arsenal through the squall of strict budgets into this land where we can buy the finest players available to us.











Now, we all stand on a precipice. Wenger’s time is coming to an end, and his farewell could be either something glorious and fitting – or he leaves the club with negative memories that override his achievements.


We had the nine year drought, which common knowledge amongst us all tells us was caused by a choking requirement to save and even generate, money. Now, we have managed to escape those cloistering times and we now enjoy freedom to spend.


We have done, and yet that elusive first title at The Emirates seems further away than ever. Frustration burns like wildfire and is spread amongst even the most placid of us. Why haven’t we moved on? Why haven’t the promises of contention that Ivan Gazidis made, come to fruition?


We can all be unhappy, we can all want better. We may even be entitled to it, what with the obscene ticket prices we all pay.

What we cannot lose sight of though, is that our club is NOT dying. It is NOT suffering the worst time we have ever had. It is NOT the end of days.


Our owners seemingly could care less, our manager’s obstinate nature has cost us at times, but even in recent seasons, we have had worse than this.


We should be pushing Chelsea further in the Premiership. We should not be exiting the Champions League with a 10-2 aggregate deficit. Our club is most definitely at a standstill.


No club has ever progressed with a lack of support though – and no club has ever moved on when lies exacerbate the negativity surrounding some supporters.