The Loss Arsenal Needed
I openly admit it. I was wrong about Mikel Arteta. I’m not sad about it either. I didn’t think I’d seen enough to suggest he was the man to lead us forward. I had seen a great foundation of a squad, which was super positive, that I thought whoever the next man in was, we would have something special on our hands in the coming years. Then this weekend just gone, happened. Man City being out played happened. The result wasn’t necessarily important but then it also was and I’ll come onto that later.
Essentially allowing Man City 2 shots on target over 90 minutes (one of them being a penalty) is in and of itself progress. Add to that some of the scintillating football that we played and we had ourselves a real performance, the likes of which I haven’t seen against one of the better sides in the Premier League for a long time. People may point to our 3-0 wins against Utd and 4-1 vs Liverpool previously, but these weren’t teams at the peak of their powers. The last time we out-footballed a top side was back in December 2015. It was Man City then as well. We beat them 2-1 and it could have been 3 or 4 with the way we played. It was incredible to watch us beat one of the big boys and beat them well. I can’t remember when we have done that in the league in terms of performance.
Sure we have won games (both in the league and the cups) but we haven’t kept a team as such at arms length as we did to City this weekend (with 10 men for 30 minutes no less). This performance alongside our progress vs the lesser teams in terms of us stamping our style on the matches themselves has been a breath of fresh air. I saw a string of tweets from the ever excellent @gunnerblog stating that it is far easier to be in the “#artetaout” camp than actually being a believer in the project as with every loss the mob are out with their pitchforks saying “I TOLD YOU SO!”, but when do the believers in the project actually get their day in the sun? When do they get to be right? I suggested that a positive performance this weekend would be that moment. The moment where people who have had faith in the longer term project are rewarded and in turn have the right to be smug (and why the hell not!?). This weekend was in fact the time for this. It was the time to unite the fan base in the perfect way possible.
The reason I feel that the loss was the important part here is due to the following. A win and the Arteta fan base would have their flags out waving them in the faces of the anti-Arteta mob. A loss and the #artetaout brigade would have been screaming at the lack of progress. What actually transpired was one of our best performances this season (in fact, in years considering the opposition) and it has united the fan base in a way I haven’t seen for a long, long time. There were apologies to Arteta all over my timeline (myself included!) and it seemed for the first time in ages that the manager, the players and the fans were all singing from the same hymn sheet. It’s refreshing. The only club I feel that is currently in this situation is Liverpool. Klopp has unified all fronts for them and maybe, just maybe we are seeing the beginnings of something like that happening at Arsenal.
I really think that he’s earned the right to see us through to the end of the season and take stock then. We’ve seen enough progress now and an identity building that cannot be ignored. The green shoots are there to see and beginning to flourish a little. We’re well and truly in the fight for a top 4 spot and we may or may not get there, however we have a big chance to make it happen. Without European football I feel we absolutely have to make it to sit at the top table for investment next season and coupled with this we need to ensure we beat Utd from getting that spot. It’ll then allow us to eat at the top table for players. Added to that a relegation to Newcastle wouldn’t go amiss, as if they survive and we miss out on top 4 I imagine that we will be in the 2nd if not 3rd tier of players for recruitment. A lot of those elements are out of our control of course, however we have one big element in our own hands, and that is to get ourselves into the top 4 before some of our other competitors iron out their own kinks.
As I said the loss on the weekend was almost perfect for us. I know the Liverpool cup game has been rescheduled for us this week, however would this have happened say had we just lost to Everton on the weekend with the performance a few weeks ago? The cynic in me isn’t so sure. The FA are throwing charges our way, games are being pressured for postponement, rival fans are tweeting about us more than their own club. It’s the beginning of a type of siege mentality that could well help propel us to heights we never thought we’d get close to at the start of the season. The only people who still have something to complain about are ones that are trying to grow their own channels with outrage and exclaim. They need controversy to be relevant and without it there is nothing to their content. No reason, no debate, just hate. They are well and truly the minority right now and it’s a moment that feels significant for us as a club. It could be the spark for great things in the long term and that is truly exciting feeling to have around this amazingly likeable squad.
So for all that and more, I am very sorry Mikel. I should have trusted you more. However I am with you now, in fact we all are!