Friday, May 24, 2024

Vinai talks ‘values’, backs Arteta, is excited about young players

Morning all, it’s Saturday, a day on which we used to play football games. Remember that? Those were fun times. Now we have to wait all weekend, all the way through ‘Super Sunday’ before we play tomorrow night in the cursed, wretched 7.15pm slot.

It feels like a disproportionate amount of our games take place in this one, but I guess we have bigger things to worry about. Such as scoring some goals, winning some matches, not losing some matches, being less crap, and all that. On the complaints board, they’re a bit higher up than where Sky have chosen to broadcast the game.

I’ll save the preview for the Burnley game tomorrow, but obviously it will be filled with words and phrases like:

– Get back on track
– Response
– Kickstart
– Can someone please lock Willian in his car?

And so on, and so forth. For this morning, Vinai Venkatesham did an interview with Henry Winter in The Times, celebrating the fact that during very difficult times, Arsenal have worked with Islington Council to provide 500,000 meals for people struggling, because of Covid-19. That is hugely admirable, and the work the club does in the local community and beyond is undoubtedly commendable.

Obviously though, things turn to towards broader aspects of the way the club is run, the new Chief Executive is keen to talk about the club’s values. He says:

Our values are ‘be together’, which is all about being part of the team, supporting, sticking up for each other; ‘act with class’, which is all about doing an excellent job, doing the right thing when no one’s looking; and ‘always move forward’, which is about being a pioneer, never being afraid to take a risk, never being afraid to do things first.

He then applies those to what we do on the pitch, saying:

‘Be together’ is about a solid foundation. ‘Act with class’ is that quality and elegance that you need in midfield and ‘always moving forward’ is in the attacking part of the pitch.

Based on what we’ve seen so far in the Premier League season, you might be forgiven for thinking the values are ‘Occasional competence’, ‘Never learn your lesson’, and ‘Forever firing blanks’.

It’s difficult to talk about values in a year when we’ve seen those appear somewhat fluid, to say the least. Unquestionably the club does fantastic work in the community, its commitment to backing issues of equality knowing that it will enrage certain sections of the fanbase is something I’ll always be proud of, but this is the same club owned by a billionaire that laid off 55 people in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic, and sacked a cuddly dinosaur. I know there are always justifications for decisions made at a corporate level, but maybe an additional value might be ‘Hire a competent PR team’.

Where the interview is a bit more interesting is when he talks about the football side of things. There’s very public backing for Arteta:

The team he’s formed with Edu, and also his technical staff, is really, really strong. You’ve got a guy who is absolutely driven to succeed and be successful on the pitch, but doing it in a way that respects our history and traditions. So I think with him we have got a really, really powerful individual.

That ‘power’ is probably a jumping off point for a longer discussion but one I think can wait for another day. I think Vinai is probably right when he talks about the need to remember that a run of good results doesn’t make us the best team in the world, nor does a run of bad ones make us the worst, but you have a hard time convincing people of that when the team lies 15th and has just lost the North London derby in a fairly stupid way.

There’s genuine excitement when he talks about the young talent and the players the Academy are producing:

Have a look at Miguel Azeez’s interview yesterday. He’s bursting with pride. He loves this club and he has been at this football club for years and he knows what it means to be an Arsenal fan. He knows what we stand for.

To me this is interesting, because if you were to position Arsenal as a club which genuinely positioned its identity around fostering and developing the best young talent, there’d be a lot more patience for what we were trying to do – and even some poor results as part of the … er … process. Of course you have to find a balance between youth and experience, but right now we’re caught between two stools. We do give chances to young players, but the pathways to first team action for others are complicated by the presence of players who just aren’t producing what we need in the short term.

Miguel Azeez ‘knows what it means’, but what IT is to him, and what IT is to someone who signs a lucrative contract as they head into their mid-30s to wind down their career in a nice, comfortable environment in which there appear to be few consequences for continued under-performance are very different things. This is where I think we need to think very carefully about our strategy, our plan for the rebuild, and if it revolves much more about a youthful approach than the hodge-podge of what we’re seeing now, I think we’d be much better off.

Read the full interview here (£).

Right, I’ll leave it there for this morning. A quick reminder that there’s a Burnley preview podcast for Patreon Members here.

Remember too that Arsebiz is the first place to look when you’re doing Christmas shopping online. A repository of hundreds of small Arsenal fan run small businesses/enterprises, many with discount codes, who could use your support if you can give it.

And you can still order the ‘Goodly Christmas’ card, with all the takings going to the Arsenal Foundation.

Till tomorrow!

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