RUNNING UNPOPULAR EQUATIONS

There is a story doing the rounds via Eurosport that basically states Martin Ødegaard isn’t quite sure about Arsenal next season because though he buys into the project Arteta is selling, there are some other players that don’t.

Now, Eurosport has zero credibility for stories like this but as with most made up rumours, there’s a grain of truth that makes it believable. Arsenal boast a small collection of handsomely paid senior players that do not give a fuck and their bad behaviour tends to only be inconsequential when the hungry young kids put on a show.

This is where the football equations about the future of Arteta start kicking into gear.

Suppose we sack him tomorrow, what type of manager do you want at Arsenal?

Let’s talk about the game-changing rockstars. There are very few in world football that can take you to the top just because of their personal IP. Pep G, Conte, Klopp, Zizou, and maaaaybe Poch. Diego Simeone, the highest paid rockstar at £38m a season, is not on the list now. We cannot match any of those names for salary demands or transfer kitty.

Arsenal has spent the last 6 year pissing transfer money away. There’s no warchest in 2021. If a rockstar doesn’t have money to spend, they tend not to move. Maybe you get lucky with someone like Klopp, but really, he moved to Liverpool because he beleived in the owners vision. We don’t have that pull with KSE. That’s not me being down on Arsenal, we are massive, but right now, we’re at our lowest ebb for mostly everything a rockstar would look for in a move.

The second tier of managers you can look towards are the more experienced hands that aren’t quite elite in 2021. Names like Luis Enrique, Louis Van Gaal, Lopetegui, Eddie Howe, and probably Nuno. Guys that’ll come in and crack heads, play the discipline card, but ultimately, not really move you forward as a football club. People talk about Allegri, but I can tell you, there’s a reason he’s not in a job at the minute. His hardcore disciplinarian approach and his bland football wouldn’t work for the fans or the players, not to mention a name like that has already demanded huge wages and a fat war chest we didn’t have 3 seasons ago.

This batch of managers will run into the same problems that Arteta is having. Do you think the squad of players that downed tools on Wenger and Emery would react strongly to someone coming in with an iron fist? I have my doubts. Players will go along for the ride, suss that we didn’t hire in elite, then we’ll see what happened under Emery. Pretty much the exact thing that is going on at Spurs at the moment, and Jose is like, the king of 2nd tier management these days.

Then you get into the next tier of managers. The innovative new generation of coaches that are breaking in at clubs all around Europe. This is my preferred tier for a club in the state we’re in right now. This is where the opportunity is to jump a couple of levels without spending a lot of money, because these people build highly technical teams that think differently, it’s a truly transformational approach that can really move you forward if you make it work. The football is exciting, the style constantly evolves, and it future proofs your club. Top clubs will start pulling from this batch of managers within the next 3 years.

Nagelsmann is #1 here, but he is not going to Arsenal because he knows he works best in a structure built to support him, he’s also well out of our range right now. But say there’s another Nagelsmann in Germany, that wants to coach innovative style of cognitive football… do you think the reaction from our current batch of players is going to be any different? Do you honestly believe the things Arteta is asking of players would be vastly diferent under another innovative coach? I don’t think so. Worth noting that Nagelsmann doesn’t work with top tier players on mega money and most of his squad is very young by design. We are a whole different ball game when it comes to ego management.

Every coach is going to ask more of Auba. No elite manager is starting William Saliba in the Premier League this season. Every young coach is going to expect every player to give more. Every coach coming to Arsenal will 100% ask our players to do things they’re not used to doing and that will not go down well with a squad that has consistently shown it lacks character. Also… any young innovative coach that is asked to be the MANAGER is going to fumble around whilst they find their footing. Mistakes will happen whoever you bring in at this tier, because this model usually only works when the machine around them is prebuilt and rock solid.

Arteta is in the innovator category. He’s one of the best young coaches in Europe, people might not appreciate it right now, but circumstances are improving even if you choose to ignore them. There are problems he’s made worse, no doubt, that’s part of the cost of hiring a rookie. At a normal club, he’d have been protected by a Luis Campos or Ralph Rangnick. We’re not a normal club. But here’s the thing… the place he’s taking the football is where we need to be heading. There’s no such thing as a middle ground. Short-cutting like Moyes takes you nowhere in the longterm. Arsenal need to hit the Champions League then be ready to compete, that is the job Arteta needs to deliver, and he has the right coaching to do that.

So Arsenal either jump ship mid-ocean, in a project that has been tracking well since Christmas, or they see it out and build back properly.

Given the options above, it’s pretty clear why Arsenal are very likely going to stick it out with Arteta. The coaching is paying dividends, things only tend to fall apart when we have to revert to the pre-Xmas starting 11. Our issues have never been clearer. We have some character flaws to address and we need to exit the error makers. There’s no secret wedge of cash ready to activate this summer, nor would there be for another manager, so it’s probably more cost effective to stick to the same coach that has us mostly tracking like a top 4 team since Christmas.

There are also some pretty simple things the club could do to help Arteta out. Vinai should not be sanctioning a new move for David Luiz. He’s a comfort blanket that makes errors, doesn’t show for games he thinks are beneath him, and he’s just had surgery at 34. He also shares an agent with Edu. Let his new deal sunset this summer and bring William Saliba into the fold.

Edu should be doing all he can to move on the problem characters this summer. Tell certain players they won’t land game time if they don’t leave and ease them out the door. Don’t wait until the last day of the window to have tough conversations. There is no one over the age of 25 we should be refusing transfers. I’d put Auba on that list, if someone wants him on a free, let him leave.

Arsenal should staff up with young players, if the fans see a notable shift in that starting 11 next season, it’ll make life easier in the stadium. Arteta should also fix his storytelling, because despite being very good at talking to the media, he’s shite at articulating a clear vision.

Tell the fans we’re going on a journey. Give us goals that go beyond top 4. What does the football look like? How are we going to do it? What do we need to fix? Repeat it over and over again. If it takes 3 years, tell the fans, be honest… because part of the issue we have right now is we’re all working off Willian taking us to Champions League glory in two season. Not happening. So pivot to a story we can get excited about. Inspire the fans the way you inspire the kids like ESR.

Arsenal are where they are now because they spent 10 years pondering whether they were regressing, backed up by a whole group of visionless fans who cautioned it might be a mistake to let someone with dead ideas leave. We tried to fix a decade of complacency with a tier 2 managers and that crushed us further. Emery is your warning against ‘tried and true’ at the level we can play at. We now have a coach at the club that has the right future for us… it’s taking longer than hoped to cut out the rot, but I promise you, we will get there.

There’s no silverbullet out of this mess though, it’s going to be a slog and the pandemic made everything worse. But we’re Arsenal. There’s every chance this summer builds on a brilliant January. We have exceptional kids coming through the ranks everyone is excited about. If we stick to the plan, the fruits will be sweet… if we give up and go tier 2, we’re not going anywhere for a long time.

Let’s see what we have today… Slavia Prague would be a great place for the kids to remind us that the future is bright. x

 

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