Feed on
Embed from Getty Images

One of the highlights of my business career was spending a few weeks at Harvard Business School in the mid-90s (to pinpoint the date, while I was there we signed Dennis Bergkamp!). The final part of our course was a two- day case study on Nike, not a company I knew well. We dutifully dissected quarterly performance, key personnel changes and marketing strategies when one of our group suggested, “We could just say they signed an unknown basketball player who became the greatest sporting icon in the world and sold a shitload of sports shoes. Maybe they just got lucky!” We decided eventually it came down to a bit more than that but Serendipity undoubtedly played its part.

His remarks came back to me incongruously a few days ago when I considered Mikel Arteta’s tenure at Arsenal. Arteta’s detractors (and there are many) claim that he happened by accident upon a different style simply because he was forced to use Emile Smith-Rowe because of injuries in the game against Chelsea on Boxing Day. That 3-1 win bought an under-fire manager time and we saw a very different Arsenal in the second half of the season 

Arsenal collected 44 points in the last 23 games of the season, the second highest points total by any club in 2021. Those mathematically inclined amongst you will deduce that in the first 15 games we garnered only 17 points, a total that threatened to lead to Arteta’s dismissal. That included 8 defeats which is an over 50% loss ratio. That is relegation form writ large. The stumbling home form, exacerbated by dull and toothless football which ruined so many late Sunday evenings last winter, put great pressure on the Spaniard’s position and even his strongest supporters, of which there are many on Goonerholics Forever, were pessimistic that he could survive.

The actual numerical extent of the improvement in the second half of the season came as something of a surprise to a number of Gooners (including me) when the figures were published towards the end of the campaign. Flaccid performances at home against Liverpool, Olympiakos, Slavia Prague, Everton, Palace and Fulham later in the season were not indicative of strong improvement but the season did also see some fine football from us, including wins at Leicester, Chelsea, Southampton, Newcastle, at home against Spurs and Leeds, and in Europe against Olympiakos and Slavia Prague where our first half performance was scintillating.

However, the capitulation to a very ordinary but well-organised Villareal team was to some the final straw. After the outcry against Unai Emery whose defensive (dis)organisation was ultimately as bad as anything I have seen in over sixty years of watching Arsenal, it was ironic and galling in the extreme to see his team comfortably repel us in a hugely frustrating semi-final of the Europa League. 

But if you were expecting a balanced and dispassionate analysis of Arteta’s record this article is not really for you. I need to state a declared position. I was in favour of Arteta’s appointment, I remained supportive of him through the frustrations of Autumn and Winter and as we approach a new season I believe we should give him our backing and I genuinely believe he can still be a real success at Arsenal. My faith, admittedly, faltered at times but flip-flopping from manager to manager has never been the Arsenal way and we are seeing our neighbours from the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road pay the penalty for doing just that, to our delight and amusement. I am starting to believe that Arsenal really are pressing the reset button which sits in the KSE office and the sort of investment that we haven’t envisaged before may be being contemplated. Trusting Arteta to oversee the implementation of the talent purchased is a very big call. I’m conscious that, as managers can find, in a social media dominated world, Arteta has a lot of detractors. But I believe that persisting with him is a logical, right and intelligent thing to do. 

What are my reasons for coming to a conclusion with which I know many Arsenal supporters will radically disagree? 

Firstly, Arteta has had to cope with extraordinary circumstances. He is a rookie manager thrust into a club which has been very poorly governed for several years, with an unbalanced squad and which, when he assumed control, had seen its confidence shot to pieces. He took over a basket case of a team with several stars soon briefing against him. A handful of games into his new job when he immediately started to wreak a clear improvement, the season was suspended, ironically because Arteta himself tested positive for Covid. When football resumed he took a team behind closed doors to Wembley to beat Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool to earn us an FA Cup and Community Shield. That was a very significant achievement but possibly created an expectation that he was unable to maintain with the very mixed resources he had at his disposal. 

My take is that he was able to turn the just-ended season around, a season in which the schism between owners and fanbase was never more evident and produced a team that while incredibly uneven in ability and styles has the nucleus of a very talented group indeed. If, and it is a massive if, we can add to that nucleus with four or five quality players, can cut out a huge amount of deadwood and salary cost (and there is plenty of both at Arsenal) and take advantage of a programme that will be less physically demanding with no European football, next season could be surprisingly good. The end of season poll in the Athletic, while not definitive, did suggest that the majority of Arsenal supporters believe we should stick with Arteta. That may be more reflective of the readership of the Athletic but I think it does genuinely indicate a lot of Gooners believe he has more to give and he will learn from the lessons of a very fragmented season. 

But if we take a positive view of what might be, we must also accept that Arteta has been complicit in some poor decision-making. The signing of the hugely disappointing Willian, a deal that is almost biblical in its stupidity and wastefulness, the preference of Leno to Martinez (which I believe to be a major mistake), the funereal tempo of our play at home so often last season, the mundanity of our midfield work and the refusal to use players like Martinelli or even to retain Saliba within the group were all justifiable criticisms. His willingness to drop our most high-profile player, Aubameyang for turning up late for the Derby (if only he’d consulted C100 about avoiding Muswell Hill Broadway on a match day!) shows both a ruthlessness and a set of principles that suggest he is a very tough character. Nevertheless, a repeat of the underperformance of last season under the scrutiny of extremely volatile and fickle fans, who represent a depressingly high proportion of the Arsenal fanbase would almost certainly see his departure. Yet he has hopefully learnt and been afforded the opportunity to learn because of a long-term view taken by KSE. This is possibly the most (only?) enlightened thing to happen during their tenure ….to date!  

Set against Arteta’s faults there has been clear advancement in some areas.  We have seen a better organised defence , a real improvement in yellow and red  cards in the second half of the season, obvious development in younger players like Saka and ESR (and how good could they both become?), the emergence of Pépé as a game-changer (when he was picked to start ahead of Willian) and away form that was nearly always effective and competitive. Like so many teams, we were much more fluid and threatening away from home. We took five more points away from home and scored seven more goals and our football looked generally more assured. That may be a function of the pandemic as several clubs saw similar improvements away from home but I think it reflects Arteta’s tactical mindset. If fans return it will be important to create a feelgood factor at the Grove and that is a major challenge he must overcome and overcome early. 

My reservations about next season are more that Arteta needs a better and more experienced Technical Director than Edu, as I have just outlined Arteta hasn’t yet shown himself consistently capable of creating a very discernible style and intensity in our home matches (particularly in our opening salvoes – we tend to start games incredibly slowly) and that he seems to ‘freeze out‘ players that incur his wrath. In some cases, like Özil and Mustafi, he was clearly establishing a sensible principle but some players like Soares seemed to disappear off the face of the earth and his treatment of Saliba, as already mentioned, is quite perplexing. He clearly has a fractious relationship with Guendouzi but it would appear that Guendouzi very much lacks maturity and there comes a point for every manager when you need to decide how far you go in accommodating temperamental players. I think we have to trust the manager to set his standards and enforce them within the club. It is worth noting how highly players (eg, Saka , Tierney, Balogun  and last season’s loanee Ødegaard) speak of his coaching and motivational qualities.

When we chose Arteta as our coach (promotion to manager might have been a step too far) it was an acknowledgement that this was a long-term project and that the upside potential might be very significant. That potential is still there. We were so keen to be rid of the hapless Emery (who has to his enormous credit rehabilitated himself extremely effectively at Villareal) many fans failed to really take on board what engaging a ‘rookie’ manager entails. You pay with results and frustration as he acquires experience on the job but if your selection is astute, and if you are prepared to allow him to serve an apprenticeship at your expense, you can acquire a manager who can be transformative in the way that few other current candidates could be. I can still remember the disappointment among some fans when Arsene Wenger was appointed because he was not Johann Cruyff. Wenger was nearer the finished article in experience terms than Arteta is but his appointment was still a highly speculative one. Arteta knows the Premier League and has negotiated a steep learning curve that should stand him in much better stead going forward. If I have a concern about Arteta it is that he can ‘overthink’ tactically as he did in the Europa League Semi-Final. That is a criticism sometimes levelled at Guardiola his mentor and his record is none too shabby, and although Arteta made a tactical Horlicks of the first leg of the semi particularly, it is not a criticism I would consistently level at him. 

One of the things that disillusions me about modern Arsenal fans is that many ‘supporters’ seem to derive their greatest satisfaction from watching people who weren’t their own choices fail – ‘I told you so on steroids’. Arsenal, through years of mismanagement and a failure to appreciate the key inflection points in tactical and personnel development, are now in a position akin to Liverpool before they appointed Klopp. I’m not comparing Arteta to Klopp but the job he faces is of the same magnitude and complexity as faced the German on arriving at Anfield. Klopp succeeded not just because he was a brilliant manager, although that undoubtedly helped, but because the owners supplied him with an off-field blueprint that enabled them to sell (ridiculously) high and bring in world-class additions. Arsenal don’t sell anybody high nowadays. In fact, they struggle to get fees for most players. In a depressed market that isn’t surprising, but if KSE make finance available it must be leveraged to maximum effect and we must improve our negotiation skills and focus profoundly. It is not entirely clear to me or many observers I know, what the plan for our scouting is going forward. Extraordinarily perceptive scouting is going to be what helps to give us a seat back at the top table of football but we acquired some very poor players in our lower ranks last season who should be nowhere near Arsenal. I’m sensing Tim Lewis is playing a pivotal role in advising KSE and his assessment is that dispensing with Arteta would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Time will tell, but I‘m  starting to feel that we may be about to witness a seismic shift at Arsenal Football Club as the owners finally realise the nature and scale of the challenges facing them .

Maybe the addition of Richard Garlick working with Tim Lewis will help that process. Even Wenger at the very peak of his powers, with his intuition cranked up to full bore, had to lean heavily on David Dein to implement his plans. I’m sure the chaos at Arsenal has added to the already sizeable job Arteta has. To lose one senior member of management, to quote Oscar Wilde, may be misfortune, but to lose Wenger, Gazidis, Mislintat, Emery, Fahmy and Sanllehi after years of stability which ultimately morphed into stasis can’t be part of any coherent plan and goes beyond carelessness into mismanagement on a serious scale . Arteta needs backing behind the scenes not just in terms of fine words but from a well co-ordinated and effective plan that provides him with the wherewithal to put a high-quality Arsenal team on the field.  

If Mikel Arteta can fulfil his potential as the manager of our team he can restore us to be a power in English and ultimately European football. Many consider that a long shot, some an impossibility, but I consider that it is really possible that the Spaniard can revive our club. Let’s all try to be positive and hope that he can drive the team forward next season. I think a return to the Champions League is possible and would represent the satisfactory progress we should look for, especially if there is substantial investment into the team this summer. Some suggest he has until Christmas to show that he can do the job. If he starts well and his team respond he can make such talk redundant but we need a positive mindset around the club, something that has not been the case for several years. May 2021/22 see the end of the ’Wilderness Years’ and the beginning of a new era that restores the fortunes of our great club. Naive optimist that I am – I believe! 

152 Drinks to “A Tale of Two Half Seasons -Mikel Arteta, Stick or Twist?”

  1. 1
    Cynic says:

    Some interesting points in a good post.

    I’m one who would rather Arteta left, as the signs of progress are negligible (and I actually think we’re going backwards) but on reflection we’ve had so much upheaval all over the club, a tiny bit of continuity is called for.

    Results almost don’t matter as much as having some sort of clue as to a way forward on the pitch. He has to get us playing a better brand of football and stop trying to be so clever. If we’re still looking like a team in search of a plan by the middle of the season, we should start to think about a change next summer.

  2. 2
    OsakaMatt says:

    Fine piece TTG, thanks. As a fellow believer I was on board before reading but anyway it’s a well-reasoned argument that sets out clearly the case for giving Mikel our continued support. Obviously it is conditional on delivery next season but that is the same for any manager really.
    If we do bring in four or five new players to the first XI next season then it may take a little time to get them embedded and the trick for Mikel will be doing that while maintaining results, as I don’t believe he can survive another first half like last season.
    Once that’s done, like you, I hope we will see better football week-in, week-out as the season progresses. Let’s hope Mikel is a lucky general.

  3. 3
    Countryman100 says:

    I really enjoyed this thoughtful post TTG. We have a fine core of excellent players, and the capture of Saka, KT3 and, we are led to believe ESR, onto new long term contracts is very significant progress. Arteta appears to be a fine coach. Whether he is a fine tactician is not so certain. I am hopeful that he will be given some fine young players to add to the core. For the moment I’m with TTG. But I think a solid top four position by Christmas is critical. We have a very tough start to the league programme. In August, after Brentford, we face Chelsea and City. Between 6 and 9 points would be a really good start to the season.

  4. 4
    bt8 says:

    Re: Cynic in the previous drinks. Not sure why Spurs would hire GSD to manage their club, or why he would have taken their offer. I suppose everybody sets their price somewhere though.

  5. 5
    bt8 says:

    TTG that is an excellent assessment of Arteta the manager, and a timely rallying cry for Arsenal fans to get right behind his project. Exceedingly and entertainingly well written as always, you have done a great job of whetting my appetite for the new season.

  6. 6
    North Bank Ned says:

    You lay out a convincing case for seeing the project through, TTG, with which I am inclined to agree. On the assumption that Arteta’s three and a half year contract meant the club had a three and a half year rebuilding plan when he signed it, there is little sense in jettisoning Arteta 18 months in because he hasn’t achieved his final goals in that time, or the club’s dealmakers haven’t delivered the incoming talent or shifted out the deadwood.

    Yet we do need measurable waymarkers of progress. Some are obvious (eg, CL football in 2022-23). Some may be barely perceptible to the untrained eye (eg, the reduction in fouls leading to set pieces in scoring areas that you allude to above). I am sure the bar could come up with plenty of suggestions in short order. It will be important that Arteta gets the season off to a good start with the fans in the ground. To C100s point about the opening three games, we may have only three points at the end of them. The table won’t look good and the wolves will be baying unless the style of football can silence them.

  7. 7
    OsakaMatt says:

    Wales well beaten, ridiculous red card I thought

  8. 8
    North Bank Ned says:

    Ridiculous yellow for Moore, too, OM. But it all went a bit pear-shaped for Wales towards the end.

    Italy squeaks through, but still looks the side to beat.

  9. 9
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Superbly written analysis TTG! I am completely in agreement that Mikel deserves one more season at least, but there has to be discernible progress at the end of the season.

    The club really has to focus on bringing the kind of players he needs. And we’ll hope that Arteta himself must have learnt a lot from last season, especially in getting the balance of tactical blueprints and players’ improvisation and initiatives correct. He has a tendency to over-orchestrate, it will help if he builds a collective way of playing where players can find solutions to problems on the pitch on their own.

    Given no mid-week European interruptions every weekend match should be treated by the team as must-win and every defeat must sting. We are quickly becoming irrelevant in the top tier European football and any more absences from the CL will see our brand value continue to decrease and recruiting quality players more and more difficult. Mikel has all the fundamentals to become a great managers, hope the club bother supports him but also holds him accountable.

  10. 10
    OsakaMatt says:

    @8 yes, agreed Ned. Though in
    general the officiating has been
    quite good in the 7 or 8 matches
    I’ve seen.
    The use of VAR seems quicker too,
    though I might be imagining that
    as I’m less invested than our matches
    – when it sometimes seems like an
    eternity 😃

  11. 11
    BtM says:

    Very good, TTG. We’re aligned.

    I recall there were many in the “extremely volatile and fickle fans, who represent a depressingly high proportion of the Arsenal fanbase” who preferred Ancelotti and were certain that Everton had done much better in appointing him. Worked out well, didn’t it?

  12. 12
    Countryman100 says:

    Nice to see you in the bar BtM. Have a pint on me. Sorry about Scotland.

  13. 13
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@10: I agree that on the whole the refereeing at the Euros has been of a high standard.

  14. 14
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Donyell Malen starts for the Dutch. Just like Gnabry another one we should have kept.

  15. 15
    Bathgooner says:

    An excellently argued case, TTG. I fully concur.

    One could almost imagine that you have some experience in weighing up the merits and demerits of placing trust in an individual whose record contains clear errors but who clearly also exhibits promise of better things.

    I agree with suggestions that early season results in the period to December may be crucial to his ‘project’ being given more than an additional 6 months but in addition KSE backing their manager with intelligent signings in key midfield roles and an improvement in the viewing experience for fans are two additional factors that are equally crucial to MA8’s survival.

    KT3’s statement on signing his contract extension does suggest that there is considerable positivity within the dressing room.

  16. 16
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent VAR decision to give De Ligt the red.
    De Boer is a limited coach, making the Dutch play so unimaginatively.

  17. 17
    TTG says:

    Lovely to hear from you Btm . I laughed when Ancelotti jumped ship after a less than satisfactory end to the season . Arteta would have been murdered by our fanbase after a season like that . And we gave them six points!
    I think most of us accept this is not a cut and dried case and Arteta’s side has to perform from the getgo. I concur with Bath’s point that I think morale at the club is high. KT3 could go anywhere he wants to in Europe . There are very few left-backs of his quality but he appears to have bought into the culture at Arsenal. Arteta sells the club well.
    The BIG question is if Silent Stan is prepared to loosen the purse strings . Unless he does I just don’t think Arteta ( or anyone ) can turn it around . But unless the PR machine is winding us all up ( at season ticket renewal time- surely not!) there appears to be some serious business going on . But few cash sales looking likely

  18. 18
    Countryman100 says:

  19. 19
    TTG says:

    I looked at the Belgian defence before the game and was astonished that Vertonghen and Vermaelen are still getting caps . I thought over the 90 minutes the better side lost . If KDB and Hazard are badly injured ( both limped off with nasty looking injuries ) they haven’t got the depth to win this and superb goal apart I thought they were very uninspiring but defended well even with North London Vets making up the back line

  20. 20
    North Bank Ned says:

    I guess Belgium’s quarter final against Italy will be the test of their mettle, TTG.

  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    C100@18: there is not enough Fabreeze in the world to get the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road to come up smelling of roses.

  22. 22
  23. 23
    North Bank Ned says:

    Dr F@14: A counterfactual question for you: If Donyell Malen and Serge Gnabry had not left Arsenal, would they now be first-team regulars?

  24. 24
  25. 25
    North Bank Ned says:

    Arsenal Women have hired Jonas Eidevall to succeed Joe Montemurro as head coach.


  26. 26
    ClockEndRider says:

    Gnabry -yes.
    Malen – highly unlikely.
    Really have to look at Wenger and wonder whether he was trying to drive Gnabry out by sending him on loan to play rugby league for Pulis. Quite ridiculous decision.

    Male, I think is very average. Scoring in a weak league like the Eredivisie is all very well but from what I saw last night he would really struggle in the PL.

  27. 27
    Cynic says:

    Another ESR bid from a club clearly getting ideas above their station.

    Aston Villa are like the flies round a cow’s arsehole aren’t they.

  28. 28
    North Bank Ned says:

    CER@26: I am not sure Wenger wanted to get rid of Gnabry. He offered the winger a new contract, but Gnabry thought his first-team options were limited and signed for Werder Bremen when his existing contract expired in 2016.

    Gnabry was another teenager whose Arsenal career was blighted by injury. He broke into the first team in 2012-13/2013-14, but his progress came to a full stop in 2014-15, missing nearly the entire season with a knee injury. The loan to West Brom was meant to get him back to full match fitness after the long lay-off, but Pulis, ever the fine judge of talent, didn’t rate him and didn’t play him. If Gnabry had stayed and made the right-wing spot his own, where would Saka be playing now?

    You may be right about Malen, but he was quick and a sufficiently prolific goalscorer for the Academy to be compared to TH14.

  29. 29
    Countryman100 says:

    Ornstein and gunnerblog say we have cooled on James Maddison because he is just too expensive. I knew it was too good to be true.

  30. 30
    bathgooner says:

    Cynic @27, that analogy certainly doesn’t flatter either ESR or Arsenal! You may however be using a scatological analogy quite appropriately.

    If we were to sell ESR to Villa or indeed to any PL team, it would speak volumes about a criminal lack of ambition of the owners. I would expect a subsequent exodus of other talent and many fans.

    Selling a key player can be dressed up as being because of severe financial pressures as was claimed when Shitteh asset stripped much of our talent in the early Emirates years. A point at which our new Merkin investor could have won the (relatively) undying love of the fanbase by providing the cash injection that would have preserved squad quality, lessened the perception of our talented first team players that they had toleave to compete more effectively elsewhere and averted the steady decline in talent and competitiveness that has landed us in the midtable mediocrity that we now ‘enjoy’. Moreover, it would have been a relatively small sum to tide us through those early years compared to that now required to put us back on track and it may well have averted some of the subsequent desperate and, as a result, extremely poor financial decisions, purchases and contract mismanagement that we have seen in recent years in a forlorn attempt to engineer a short term fix. It can reasonably be argued that at the critical point at which we were being systematically asset stripped, the said Merkin was only a majority shareholder rather than an outright owner but a man with the club’s interests at heart could surely have engineered a board agreement to tide the club over the years of financial penury without leaving himself totally exposed financially? Abramovich does it through low interest loans.

    I await developments. It may not simply be Villa anticipating a wad of Grealish cash burning a hole in their pocket and spying another opportunity to pick up a bargain from the haplessly managed club from which they acquired their goalkeeping bargain. Someone may be giving them some encouragement whether inadvertently or by design.

  31. 31
    OsakaMatt says:

    Spain’s keeper has had a nightmare.

    Did we sell Shitteh Clichy, Nasri and Adebayor? Am I forgetting someone?

  32. 32
    OsakaMatt says:

    Yes I am, Kolo and Bacary.

  33. 33
    OsakaMatt says:

    Entertaining 1st half in the Croatia / Spain game.

    Dr F and Bath’s posts made me wonder who we actually regret losing out of the many we’ve sold.

  34. 34
    TTG says:

    When you look back at our successful youth teams we lose very few that come back to haunt us . Gnabry is definitely one I would have loved to have kept but I agree with CER’s assessment on Malen . Luke Ayling at Leeds might have saved us a few bob but he’s not a world beater and Glen Kamara wouldn’t be my choice as a holding midfield player for the first team . Hayden at Newcastle hasn’t pulled up too many trees either .
    The player I miss hugely is Martinez . I definitely feel we should have kept him . Some teams lose players like KDB and Salah and still go on to win the Champions League but having a billionaire owner who actively bankrolls the team helps you recover !

  35. 35
    bathgooner says:

    Matt @32, correct.

  36. 36
    bathgooner says:

    I regretted the sales of Jon Sammels, Charlie George, Liam Brady, Frank Stapleton, Rocky Rocastle, Manu Petit, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Robin van Perse and Serge Gnabry. I would be deeply disappointed if we were to sell either ESR or Saka in the near future. It would fully confirm that we had become a club of limmited ambition.

  37. 37
    ClockEndRider says:

    The point I was trying to make is why would you send a footballer like Gnabry out on loan to a bloke who, if he could, would pick a goalkeeper and 10 rugby no 8’s? The man has played 1950s Hackney marshes football all his life. I can’t think of a player less likely to fit into a managers style of play than Gnabry for Pulis. Wenger was massively at fault there. If you had been sent to play for that clown , you might well be encouraged to think that your club don’t rate you and look to clear off, I would suggest.

  38. 38
    ClockEndRider says:

    In other news apparently we are in for Tavares. Personally I think we should look to sign Stylistics or Detroit Spinners.

  39. 39
    Cynic says:

    Bath – Just meant they’re as irritating as said flies, but I realise how it came across.

    But we’re hopefully selling the actual cow’s arsehole to Roma.

  40. 40
    TTG says:

    CER @38
    Nice reference ! 70s Shite Music that if I recall was part of the soundtrack to The Stud . Not that I watched it of course 😡
    Your point about Gnabry / Pulis / Wenger was well made . Arsene was losing it then and the debacle around Gnabry and his sale was evidence of it .
    To Bath’s list of sales I regret may I add Joe Baker , George Eastham and Frank Mclintock . They were acts of sacrilege

  41. 41
    Countryman100 says:

    Allez les blues – or should that be au revoir les blues …..

  42. 42
    North Bank Ned says:

    CER@37: Fair point.

  43. 43
    OsakaMatt says:

    I’d probably add Ray Parlour and delete Samir Nasri from Bath and TTG’s lists, just because I loved Parlour as a player but could take or leave Nasri.
    But actually my post was unclear and I meant we as The Arsenal in this case rather than ourselves as supporters. So, for example, Cole, who had several good seasons at the Chavski damn him, rather than the Romford Pele, who had one fairly iffy one at Boro from memory, was a bigger loss to the club.
    The club list is shorter really as we had the best of several of the regrettable departures – Pires, PV, Thierry, Frank Mc, David Seaman and talking of those to Shitteh I’d add Adebayor, Kolo, Bacary, and arguably Clichy. None of them were as good again, other than in brief flashes I think (hmmm, Thierry did win a lot of medals) All in all we haven’t done a bad job of selling players over the 50 years I have been watching.
    Gnabry is probably one to add and there’s no doubt the decision to loan him to WBA/Pulís was a very left field one for AW. I can only guess that AW thought Gnabry might benefit from some tough love. Whatever the reason it didn’t work, though whether that had a bearing on him leaving more than the fact that Feo and The Ox were ahead of him on the right wing is impossible to know I guess.

  44. 44
    TTG says:

    Social media is great isn’t it ?
    Lots of fans apparently having second thoughts because Xhaka has had one good game ( in which he was invisible for parts ). The lad did play well but that doesn’t negate five years of meh . The left-back Zuber looked very tasty and Seferovic and the lad who came on to get the equaliser were effective . But France will be kicking themselves at letting a 3-1 lead slip

  45. 45
    Countryman100 says:

    Ornstein reports that Patrick Viera will be appointed manager of Crystal Palace today or tomorrow. Good luck Paddy.

  46. 46
    OsakaMatt says:

    Each game the Swiss win should be an extra 3m on the fee for Xhaka😁

  47. 47
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Ned@23: Good question, and it is indeed difficult to confirm how their development trajectory would have played out in Arsenal. With Gnabry the answer is more affirmative given that he had already started to play and impress in the first team. Let us hope that Balogun will evolve quickly to fulfill the tremendous promise he has shown.

    About all these bids by Villa for ESR, I wonder why we cannot quickly extend his contract and give him the pay rise he richly deserves. Probably we are working on the length of this extension.

  48. 48
    OsakaMatt says:

    Just read Michael Butler (who he?) in The Guardian saying he can’t understand why Palace wouldn’t go for Dyche instead of Paddy. Oh how I laughed.

  49. 49
    Countryman100 says:

    Matt @48 does the Japan Times have a view on the matter?

  50. 50
    Countryman100 says:

    So with Viera moving to Palace, bang goes the Daniel Ek consortium

  51. 51
    TTG says:

    Bukayo starts but my sense is that we will find it very hard to create with two holding midfielders and a back three . We have five gems – young gifted attacking midfielders . Of these Sancho, Grealish , Foden and Mount start on the bench . I fear Southgate’s caution may be our undoing but pray I am wrong .

  52. 52
  53. 53
    OsakaMatt says:

    Being slightly to the right of Attila,
    The Japan Times would hate Dyche
    😃 Though I must admit it’s been many
    years since I read it

  54. 54
    TTG says:

    C100 – perhaps he will buy Palace now ! 😃
    Interesting that PSG are buying Hakimi from Inter for £70 m but Inter who apparently want Hector to replace him can’t afford to pay £20 m ! No team on the continent other than PSG has the proverbial pot to piss in it seems . If KSE are prepared to outbid these teams for talent will they be prepared to wait for a season to get cash for these players ? There won’t be much cash coming in even if we save a lot on salaries .

  55. 55
    OsakaMatt says:

    Agree TTG, a very negative set up
    from Southgate. Going for the grind
    it out 1-0 win I suppose, let’s hope
    the Germans don’t score early

  56. 56
    North Bank Ned says:

    Inter are a special case even among cash-strapped European clubs because of the dire financial condition of their Chinese owner, the Suning electronics retailing group, which is shedding non-core assets as fast as it can but has been told by Chinese authorities it can’t just shut down Inter as it did its Chinese league team because of the dent that would put in China’s national prestige. But Inter’s budget is being slashed, and a face-saving bid to buy it would probably be accepted. Perhaps KSE should acquire it as our feeder team. Or would it be the other way around? 🙂

  57. 57
    North Bank Ned says:

    I fear we may get a reminder today that football is a game of two halves that the Germans win on penalties.

  58. 58
    Countryman100 says:

    First ten all Germany

  59. 59
    OsakaMatt says:

    Rice lucky to only get yellow I thought.
    We haven’t settled in the first ten at all

  60. 60
    Countryman100 says:

    Our midfield is non existent, except as a supplementary defence. Hence our front three haven’t had a kick.

  61. 61
    Countryman100 says:

    Rudinger thinks he’s playing ice hockey

  62. 62
    OsakaMatt says:

    Better 2nd 10 though, Saka and Sterling getting into the game.
    The front three will have to create for themselves

  63. 63
    Countryman100 says:

    Saka playing well.

  64. 64
    Countryman100 says:

    Maguire has to do better there

  65. 65
    OsakaMatt says:

    Yeah, Saka doing well, Kane two touches in 30 minutes.

  66. 66
    OsakaMatt says:

    Pickford did well there, our CBs look static.
    Fortunately they have started Werner

  67. 67
    Countryman100 says:

    I still think Grealish would be making more of the possession that Rice and Peters are having.

  68. 68
    Countryman100 says:

    Both DMs now booked.

  69. 69
    OsakaMatt says:

    Rice and Philips both booked now.
    Aargh should have scored

  70. 70
    Countryman100 says:

    Kane misses a sitter. Control lacking.

  71. 71
    Countryman100 says:

    Thinking back on Rice’s yellow card that would probably have been a red in the Prem. Stamp on the ankle. You’ve got to feel that both of these DMs are a little out of their depth and that we could be down to ten men before long.

  72. 72
    OsakaMatt says:

    Not a bad first half after a poor first ten.
    We need to go for it at some stage, so I expect
    to see Mount, Foden or Grealish come on.

  73. 73
    OsakaMatt says:

    My first thought was that’s a red for Rice C100, would have been a disaster so early in the game. But do you mean Philips one at the end of the half?

  74. 74
    Countryman100 says:

    Sorry yes of course. Confusing my DMs! But Phillips was out of control and high on the shin. As the saying goes, I’ve seen them given. I didn’t think Rice’s was a red, too many other players around him and clearly trying to play the ball.

  75. 75
    Countryman100 says:

    Great save from Pickford! Havertz hit that really hard.

  76. 76
    OsakaMatt says:

    I’ve just noticed Calvert-Lewin
    isn’t even on the bench.
    Some woeful crossing and the
    game has got very tight.

  77. 77
    OsakaMatt says:

    Looks like Grealish to come on

  78. 78
    OsakaMatt says:

    Unfortunately Werner is going off.
    Saka off for Grealish. I wouldn’t have done that

  79. 79
    Countryman100 says:

    Absolute rubbish. Leave two DMs on and take off the player who was man of the first half. Still seven defensive players plus GK.

  80. 80
    OsakaMatt says:

    Personally I’d have brought Mount on for one of the DMs, anyway let’s hope it works.

  81. 81
    Countryman100 says:

    Get in!!!

  82. 82
    Countryman100 says:

    Lucky England there. Of all the people you thought would take a one on one chance Mueller is that man.

  83. 83
    OsakaMatt says:

    South Gate clearly a genius 🤣

  84. 84
    Countryman100 says:

    Lovely goal. Great build up, good cross by Grealish, simple finish by Kane.

  85. 85
    OsakaMatt says:

    2-0 get in !!!

  86. 86
    Countryman100 says:

    Look at the difference Grealish has made. It’s a results business so hats off to Southgate.

  87. 87
    Countryman100 says:

    Thanks for your company Matt – it’s been fun!

  88. 88
    OsakaMatt says:

    It has!
    England with the better finishers. See you for the quarters.

  89. 89
    Countryman100 says:

    Marvellous. Onwards to Rome. Well played England! Pickford, Maguire, Sterling, Saka all excellent. Credit to the manager when we were all second guessing him.

  90. 90
    Countryman100 says:

    Should also say great cameo by Grealish.

  91. 91
    TTG says:

    I think you got the key men right C100!
    Southgate showed a lot of bottle when we doubted him .
    Pickford was superb

  92. 92
    bt8 says:

    Great news on Palace and PV4. And on England too.

  93. 93
    bt8 says:

    “England have yet to concede a goal in the tournament.”

    A pessimist might focus on the presence of “yet” in that sentence.

  94. 94
    North Bank Ned says:

    They have Pickford to thank in large part for that. Bt8.

  95. 95
    OsakaMatt says:

    Southgate and England got lucky basically, the teams were fairly even and in a game of few chances Kane and Sterling took two, whereas Muller and Werner didn’t. Of course credit to Southgate as he picked the team and we won, just saying it could have gone either way.
    Could have had two sent off and didn’t as well. If it had gone the other way Southgate would have been turnipped. Just a personal opinion but way too much is put on the manager these days, win or lose. He only really had two options and he chose one.

    What was impressive to me was the players persistence, in this match and the Croatia game we really looked like a team that could win ugly in tough games against decent sides, which is a real change from the last World Cup. Sterling is showing a much better side to his character in overcoming a difficult season and lack of form, Kane and Pickford too. The centre of our defense looks static and our midfield dull but they are all willing and eternal fame beckons (or until the next tournament anyway😉)

  96. 96
    OsakaMatt says:

    Should have mentioned that Fatty Shaw did well too.

  97. 97
    bathgooner says:

    Xhaka’s highly praised performance the other night has generated more interest. He’s caught an old lady’s eye. Can’t be bad.

    ESCLUSIVO | Xhaka vuole la Roma, Juventus alla finestra

  98. 98
    Osakamatt says:

    they could have a Ramsey/Xhaka

  99. 99
    North Bank Ned says:

    PSG also interested in Xhaka.


    All this new interest might make Roma up their 15 million euros in fee and bonuses to the 20 million euros in cash that we want for him.

  100. 100
    bathgooner says:

    Curves the ball into the top right corner!

  101. 101
    OsakaMatt says:

    Nice finish Bath 😀

  102. 102
    Countryman100 says:

    Rafa Benitez is the new Everton manager according to BBC Sport

  103. 103
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well in for the ton, bath. Pogbaesque.

    And Everton confirm it, C100

  104. 104
    Mulerise14 says:

    It’s great to be back after some hiatus… great article TTG. This season is pivotal for both Arsenal and Arteta. have we wasted our time with a rookie coach or are to be rewarded for believing in him?. We will know at the end of the season. From the noise emanating from all quarters, the owners are backing him 100%. so the onus is on the coach to get us back to where we belong,or I fear it is the highway a la’ Lampard saga .

  105. 105
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@95: I agree that the game against Germany could have gone either way, especially if Muller had taken his chance to equalise late on. Over the 90 mins, England just about deserved their win, without looking world-beaters.

  106. 106
    Silly Second Yella says:


    What does that even mean?

    i know

    Definition of Pogbaesque

    1. A stupid or unpleasant person

    2. A very stupid or unpleasant person, usually a man

    3. Having long legs

    4. Deserving hatred and contempt

    5. Man utD

    6. Unpleasant or very stupid haircut

  107. 107
    Countryman100 says:

    So it’s Nuno for Spurs. Interesting to see if he follows his previous pattern at Wolves where if you hire Nuno you also get Jorge Mendez, the super agent. Doesn’t seem to be Daniel Levy’s way of working.

  108. 108
    Silly Second Yella says:

    bloody google

    7. Bromodosis

  109. 109
    Silly Second Yella says:

    no country for old men?

  110. 110
    Silly Second Yella says:

    gloody boogle

  111. 111
    TTG says:

    Lots of activity on the football front
    I’m delighted with NES at S***s . I thought Wolves were a very flawed side last season and as C100 suggests a super-agent’s toy . Mendes apparently offered NES to us when Emery left . It’s another cock-up by Levy. If Benitez was available he would have been much better but probably more expensive . Money talks for Levy much louder than trophies
    The English transfer market operates on a totally different price parameter to any other in Europe . I genuinely think this is why KSE are prepared to spend money because there has never been a better time to extract value . Only English clubs seem to have any .We will find it hard to sell anyone abroad hence I expect Willock to be sold and Nketiah because they have English suitors who will pay money

  112. 112
    North Bank Ned says:

    SSY@106: None of that sounds like bath.

  113. 113
    North Bank Ned says:

    So what’s the back story to NES getting only a two-year contract? Levy minimising his compensation payment when he sacks him next season?

  114. 114
    OsakaMatt says:

    Two is the new three for managers
    it seems.

  115. 115
    North Bank Ned says:

    The average tenure of a manager in English football is about 1 1/3 years so even 2-year contracts would be triumphs of hope over reality.

  116. 116
    Cynic says:


    Not another Greek centre back?

  117. 117
    Cynic says:

    Looks like we’ve shot ourselves in the face with Willian’s ridiculous contract. Reports that Inter Miami have ended talks to take him on a free because he wants £8.7m a year in wages.

  118. 118
    bathgooner says:

    Cynic @117, that’s terrible news. What idiot agreed that contract on our part? Clearly Inter Miami aren’t as stupid. No sooner have we stopped paying off our German passenger than we acquire a Brazilian one. Through such ineptitude have many formerly highly successful businesses declined to insignificance or bankruptcy.

  119. 119
    North Bank Ned says:

    As I understand Willian’s deal with us, he gets £5.2 million a year in wages plus one-third of a £14 million signing bonus that he is being paid in annual instalments of £4.8 million over the length of his contract and that Arsenal would be on the hook for even if he leaves. So asking for £8.7 million a year — more than double what Inter Miami’s top-paid player is getting — seems like an offer meant to be refused, especially as Inter Miami has just been hit by the MLS with fines for breaking the salary cap rules for its roster players.

  120. 120
    North Bank Ned says:

    You have to remember, of course, that Phil Neville is Inter Miami’s head coach, so Willian may be asking for hardship pay.

  121. 121
    OsakaMatt says:

    Perhaps we can sell them someone else, we seem to have a lot of players to sell.
    Anyway, best of luck to Daniel Ballard who is going to Millwall on loan for a season.

  122. 122
    TTG says:

    The huge challenge for Arsenal is getting underperforming, high- earning players off the books . We have Willian, Torreira , Guendouzi, Bellerin, AMN , Kolasinac , Nketiah , Leno,Lacazette , Willock , Xhaka ( player of the tournament Euro 2021) , Nelson , Runarsson potentially available for sale and Luiz and Ozil who have just left .
    I would estimate that in Annual terms ( Ned can probably get a properly accurate figure ) that is well over £60 million a year in salaries but we will be very unlikely to earn much more than £40 million ( and that’s optimistic ) in transfer fees. Losing fifteen players would normally wreck a club but I doubt we will struggle to replace many of those . What must Tim Lewis think when he surveys that situation ?

  123. 123
    ClockEndRider says:

    If those numbers are even ball park accurate then it is no surprise that the Spanish crook was let go last year. And frankly, if he starts this season and does as little as he did last season I fear he will wish he had never signed, so great will be the antipathy towards him. And Arteta was fortunate this year that there was no crowd in. I feel he would have been lucky to survive during that period when he was playing Willian every week to discernible negative effect.
    And I’m pro Arteta…,,

  124. 124
    TTG says:

    I have mentioned on here before that well before the pandemic ( maybe Dec 2019) I was contacted by a friend who does a lot of work with players at Chelsea. He mentioned that Willian was ‘ on his way ‘ to Arsenal. Chelsea would only offer him a two year contract whereas Arsenal offered him three and that was key in his decision . Arteta was not in place then .
    My sense was that Edu drove this decision because he was very close to Kia Joorabchian but Arteta was very keen to stress that he was right behind the deal. Was that solidarity ? I agree the figures Ned has quoted are terrifying and just having got the albatross of Ozil’s salary off our back it weighs us down again .
    Hindsight is an easy thing to espouse but I don’t think many of us leapt in the air when this deal was announced at a press conference….at Joorabchian’s house!

  125. 125
    bathgooner says:

    What a preposterous situation into which to have placed ourselves.

    CER is correct that the mood in the ground will be febrile if Willian puts in as unproductive a performance as he did last season or indeed if he is selected over the likes of Saka, ESR or Pépé.

    Does Willian have a thick enough skin to continue to draw his salary for two years while being subjected to opprobium by the fans of the club for which he plays? We have proved so hopeless at offloading unwanted players that I cannot believe that those with the responsibility for crafting our future are going to be successful in kicking him out. Arsenal appear to have simpl becomey a charity for declining Chavs.

    As Private Fraser observed, “We’re DOOMED! Doomed, Ah tell ye! Doomed!”

  126. 126
    Silly Second Yella says:

    Eduuuuuu out!

    We’ll always have Vigo.

  127. 127
    Silly Second Yella says:

  128. 128
    bt8 says:

    Le Marais Bakery in Sanchez Street in San Francisco. All that’s missing is Alexis and the two dogs.

  129. 129
    ClockEndRider says:

    I wasn’t suggesting that Arteta was compliant in the signing of Willian. Nor blaming him for standing by his superior. However his is the responsibility for picking the team and he picked Willian fir too often given his anonymous showings. My point is that should he do so this year with the same result, I suspect he will quickly understand that the crowd ais not nearly as stupid as is generally suspected…..

  130. 130
    bt8 says:

    Well maybe not quite all. Nice spot though.

  131. 131
    TTG says:

    I totally agree and I sympathise with Bath’s view too.
    It’s almost impossible to pick an Arsenal side with Willian in it given the sort of squad we look likely to have . So we either offload him , almost certainly subsidising his enormous salary because nobody else will pay it or we retain him and he doesn’t play. From what I understand he wasn’t a wonderful dressing room influence last season and if he remains on the sidelines he may be very disenchanted .

  132. 132
    bt8 says:

    Willian will turn 33 years of age on August 9, as the season begins. Effectiveness in his position as a winger at this level requires being able to draw upon a reliable burst of pace seldom seen in anyone of his advanced years. One year older than one year ago, I might add, sagely.

  133. 133
    North Bank Ned says:

    TTG@122: The monks reckon it to be an ESR shin-pad shy of £50 million a year in salaries for the first 13 on your list and £68 million with Luiz and Ozil added.

  134. 134
    North Bank Ned says:

    And agreed on Willian. Next season could get toxic as well as expensive.

    Oh for the good old days when Wenger was castigated for refusing to offer players over 30 more than a one-year contract.

  135. 135
    OsakaMatt says:

    Some interesting posts with the morning coffee😀
    Though the ground of Willian, under-performance and poor transfer dealings is well covered I will put a few points for the defense…….

    Not sure how Leno and Lacazette are underperforming or how 5 or 6 of the others are high earning.

    Personally, I didn’t want any of Cech, Luiz or Willian. But Cech and Luiz earned their salaries honestly enough and certainly weren’t charity cases.

    We also offloaded several unwanted players last season, not with great financial success but they were got out the door. Hardly hopeless.

    Did MA pick Willian too much last season? That seems to be a generally held opinion though Willian only started 16 games and from memory only had 16th most minutes. Did he persevere too long before Xmas with Willian? Maybe 2 or 3 games too long. If he’d dropped him more quickly I am sure some fans would complain he wasn’t given a fair chance.
    Ideally, I’d like us to manage Willian out this summer but I think it unlikely. However, I don’t share the general opinion on his lack of effort, it doesn’t seem noticeably lower than our other wide players but sadly that narrative seems already set and no doubt he will get abuse from the crowd if things don’t go well. It won’t help Willian or more importantly the team.

  136. 136
    bt8 says:

    Thomas will wear the #5 shirt, the same number he wore at Atlético.

    Hope it works like a magic wand that instills the extra degree of confidence he needs to sustain a string of world beater performances.

  137. 137
    TTG says:

    Many thanks tonthe monks Ned.
    A glass of Charteuse for them if allowed .
    That is a heck of a saving but requires an almost complete reset of the club in a few weeks. Can we manage it when so many potential buyers are so cash- strapped ?


  138. 138
    North Bank Ned says:

    Given most clubs’ current financial situation, I would think that it would be nigh impossible to shift even half your list except by loans, free transfers or fire-sale prices, TTG.

  139. 139
    North Bank Ned says:

    I see that Danny Ballard will be joined at Milwall by the much-travelled Benik Afobe, formerly of his parish and another promising youngster whose Academy years were blighted by injury and a mixed-bag of loans.

  140. 140
    Countryman 100 says:

    I think if an Arsenal player had been given a straight red, as the Swiss player was, we’d have been very unhappy. Michael Oliver the referee. For me, a clear yellow but not a straight red.

  141. 141
    North Bank Ned says:

    Switzerland will be kicking themselves. Having made the hard yards in the 120 mins, they go out with some woeful penalty taking.

  142. 142
    Countryman100 says:

    Settling down in front of Belgium v Italy. On paper, should be a cracker. Lukaku already looking threatening.

  143. 143
    TTG says:

    I agree with you , it was a harsh red and it made life so difficult for Switzerland. When Peter Walton said he thought it was a red and Lee Dixon said as a player it was very harsh I know where my sympathies lay ….and it wasn’t with Walton !

  144. 144
    Countryman100 says:

    Three hour wait for a pizza in our town tonight. I wonder why …….

  145. 145
    TTG says:

    We went to a beautiful hotel on the Amalfi Drive in 1986 .On our second night dinner coincided with Italy’s first game in their defence of the World Cup . Table service was shall we say sporadic!
    What a great game Belgium v Italy is

  146. 146
    Countryman100 says:

    Cracking game TTG. Really enjoying this.

  147. 147
    Countryman100 says:

  148. 148
    Countryman100 says:

    I really like the look of Doku. Just 19, super quick, great control. Plays for Rennes.

  149. 149
    TTG says:

    Big tournaments can set the mood for the subsequent seasons in terms of style and spirit . I hope this carries over into next season. This has been a tournament of great left backs .
    Doku was superb but so sad to see Spinazzola injured . He is superb

  150. 150
    Uplympian says:

    What a superb match this evening, the Italians playing some great football all over the pitch with a very well executed high press. They exposed the rather statuesque elderly back three of Belgium whereas the even older Italian centre backs of Chellini & Bonucci attacked any Belgium player that approached their defensive line.
    I’m with you C100 on Doku – he had a great game full of energy & skill. Still only 19 he was only signed by Rennes from Anderlecht a year ago for 26000 euros. I doubt if Rennes will be looking to sell at this moment in time unless a bigly offer was made.
    Very sad for Spinnazola – he was at the top of his game, hoping that he can make a good recovery from a difficult injury.

  151. 151
    ClockEndRider says:

    Italy are the team to beat in this tournament. After years of watching them play various different versions of Catenaccio, it is wonderful to watch such talented players play liberated attacking football, while at the same time executing a fantastically disciplined defensive model. Forza Azzurri!

    Until,they play England. Obviously!

  152. 152
    Bathgooner says: