Thursday, January 20, 2022

Wenger on humility and Arsenal style + Arsecast 399

Good morning, welcome to Friday everyone, we’ve made it through another week.

We head towards an Interlull, but prepare this weekend for a trip to Burnley in the Premier League. It’s a game that we should win on paper, especially with the way we’re playing at the moment, but there’s something interesting about the way Arsene Wenger is talking at the moment. He said the obvious stuff about the team needing to maintain its focus and motivation, but also that ‘It also requires humility’.

I don’t know exactly if he’s using it specifically to remind certain individuals of their place, but it’s a word whose meaning is far removed from our perceptions of professional football and footballers.

The quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance.

Footballers, as we know, often have a view of their own worth which is far removed from reality. And yet collectively, these players should know how important what they do is. For the fans who go every week, for the millions who follow around the world for every kick of every ball, for everyone who supports Arsenal the club is importance. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, maybe he’s just saying ‘keep your feet on the ground’, and if so that’s probably wise.

I saw Twitter explode yesterday when Roy Keane made some comments about Theo Walcott. He said:

Listen the guy needs to relax; he’s had a good week. Try playing well for the next seven, eight, nine months when the real crunch games come.

It’s typically Keane, but at the heart of the message is there anything to really argue with? I think he’s had more than a good week this season, but the NOWism we face when it comes to football analysis is worth considering. A player is the next thing since sliced bread after a few good performances, and the worst thing ever after a couple of bad ones. I’m not talking specifically about Walcott here, but in general. Full credit to Walcott for what he’s done so far, but keep it going.

The same applies to teams. Brilliant, the best, fantastic, amazing and wonderful can become rubbish, shit, clueless, useless and pathetic, depending on a few results. There can’t be anyone (bar the perpetually negative souls that exist) who hasn’t enjoyed what we’ve done in the last week. Smashing Chelsea, the way we played against Basel, it was brilliant. But the true measure of a team is over the course of the season, not a couple of games.

There’s a lot to be encouraged about now, and I was particularly interested in something else Wenger said this week. As the team has struggled to find a style and rhythm over the last while, and even the beginning of this campaign, he said:

We know exactly how we want to play football.

I’m glad, because for a while I was unsure about what we were trying to do. I’m a little more convinced about the way we’re playing now and that we’ve performed in a way that people have typically associated with Arsenal is most definitely a positive. It is Wenger’s job to maintain that though, and whether that’s through humility, consistency of team selection, clear ideas or anything else, there’s still some way to go between now and May.

As the 20th anniversary of his time at the club looms, the official date is tomorrow October 1st, there’ll be plenty of think pieces and opinions. I’ll probably write something myself tomorrow. American viewers will get to see an interview tomorrow with Roger Bennett from Men in Blazers which I’ve been lucky enough to see. I thought the manager’s comments about how he has be an optimist were really telling and informative. He said:

Honestly, in my job the main quality is to be an optimist. If you see the future in a negative way you commit suicide in my job. You are responsible for the motivation of all the people around you.

You have to pick up everybody inside the club. You should see what the club is like after a big defeat, it’s like a lost war and everybody is on the floor. You have to be an optimist to say, ‘Come on my friends, we are good enough to pick up and win our next game. We can do this together. Remember how good you are.’

Everybody forgets quickly in life how good he is and how good he can be when things go wrong. I believe my job is to be an optimist.

You can read a bit more of it here. It goes some way to explain why he says certain things that leave us scratching our heads, or frustrated, because we know he must know differently. What he says publicly, in press conferences etc, is often designed to be a kind of shield or distraction, while he gets on with the work of picking people up from disappointment.

It’s a really fascinating interview and while it is ostensibly only available to US viewers of NBCSN, I’m sure the wonders of the Internet will make sure that it won’t be that difficult to find. It’s well worth a watch.

This interview with Arsene Wenger’s brother by Jeremy Wilson is also well worth your time today. It’s just a lovely behind-the-scenes piece that will, perhaps, shed a little light on the human side of a man whose job demands a tough facade that we really only get glimpses behind.

Right then, time now for this week’s Arsecast in which I find it difficult not to laugh at Diego Costa, because who doesn’t want to laugh at Diego Costa? I’m also joined by Rory Smith to discuss this latest iteration of Theo Walcott and how, perhaps, some clarity as to where he plays is helping him perform. We also discuss the fluid front four, and Arsene Wenger as he comes up on 20 years as manager of Arsenal. We touch on his legacy at the club and in English football, and there’s all the usual waffle too.

There’s also one-day Fantasy Football with FanDuel in which you can win real cash. Sign up with FanDuel use the code ‘ARSEBLOG‘ when you do, you can play for free if you like, but if you want to play for some of the big prizes they’ll refund your entry fee if you lose up to £10. Good luck!

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download the Arsecast directly, use the link below the player, and if you are a regular listener via iTunes, if you would be so kind as to leave a review/rating that would be greatly appreciated.

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We’ll have all the news from Arsene Wenger’s pre-Burnley press conference over on Arseblog News throughout the day. For some extra reading, here’s Tim Stillman’s column on Theo Walcott, and the Gent will be here later with his weekly review.

Have a great Friday.

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