I had a whole idea for a post today written in the style of a Seinfeld episode.
Arseblog: I’m at the end of my tether, Jerry. My tether is is finished. I’m right here, at the end, and my tether is keeping me company!
Jerry: Your tether is complete!
But then I realised that I couldn’t be arsed and anyway, I’m not at the end of my tether with anything in particular. I’m generally quite content with how things are going right now, barring my inconsistency with medium/long irons when playing golf, but I don’t really see much point in getting bent out of shape about that. It’s just a ball and if it doesn’t go as far or as accurately as I would like, I’m still out in the fresh air and you can always make up for it with your short game.
I’m also pretty content with Arsenal right now. Of course there are things which could be improved, like our record in so-called ‘big’ games, and with Man City coming up on Saturday, it’d be a nice time to show that. January looks pretty daunting too, and I suspect our patience will be tested, but as I said to James yesterday on the Arsecast Extra, having a team of mostly likeable lads doing good things with the football means I’m likely to be more understanding when we have days when things don’t go right.
Yesterday I saw a clip of a goal we conceded last season or the season before. I think it was on Twitter or maybe on Reddit. It had David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi in it, and I genuinely don’t know how we didn’t all lose our minds during their tenures, the latter in particular. It’s not that defenders have to be flawless or anything like that, but it’s impossible not to feel frustration when an experienced player steadfastly refuses to learn from any of the mistakes they make.
Spiderman got bitten by a spider and could do spider stuff; Superman came from space and was, by his very nature, super; Hellboy had a massive rock fist; Mustafi’s super power was the power of not learning, which he could do better than anyone else.
Imagine him in school.
Teacher: Shkodran, spell ‘Apple’.
Mustafi: A – P – P – U – L
Teacher: No, it’s spelt A – P – P – L – E
Mustafi: Ok. A – P – P – U – L
Teacher: No, A – P – P – L – E
Mustafi: Right. Q – T – V – S …
I don’t know how I’ve ended up here. Ahh, I remember. There was a moment in the Norwich game when Ben White made a bad pass, which we ultimately dealt with, but at the next break in play Mikel Arteta gestured him over for a bit of a chat. You can see White with a bit of a grin on his face, he doesn’t need to be told he’d messed up there, but you get the sense that he’s willing to accept it and do better next time. Not do exactly the same thing, get someone sent off, concede a penalty at the same time, then point at the goalkeeper like it was his fault. I’d love to have seen him try and do that to Jens Lehmann. It’s not that I advocate violence but the idea of one very angry German chasing a terrified compatriot around the pitch is an amusing one all the same.
These young players we have still have plenty to learn and the unfortunate thing about football is that the lessons you get taught are painful and costly. In this media landscape we live in, every second of every game is primed and ready to be a GIF or a meme, things resonate for longer.
I think White is a good example of this. I think he’s been pretty good for the most part. His passing isn’t quite as precise as we’d been led to expect but his range and delivery when he gets it right is seriously impressive at times (that pass for Martinelli at Carrow Road, but the goal was disallowed for offside). There’s a bit of divil to him which I like, and there are aspects of his defending which can improve (he goes to ground a bit often). However, remember that opening game against Brentford when the pundits on Sky (when they weren’t dancing and cavorting with Brentford fans like a pair of giddy schoolboys who’d nicked three bottles of Heineken from the cabinet at home and thought they were pissed but failed to notice it was alcohol free beer) drove home the narrative that he was bad in the air?
That night he lost a few headers all right, 4 of 7, and his Arsenal debut was a difficult one on a difficult day for the team in general. Questions about a £50m centre-half who ‘can’t head’ the ball were sparked off the back of that analysis, of one game. ONE! Now, he averages 3.5 aerial duels per 90 (with a 58% success rate). Gabriel, alongside him, averages 3.81 aerial duels per game (success rate? 50%). Thing is, nobody’s talking about Ben White being bad in the air anymore, because it wasn’t that he was bad in the first place, he just had a high profile bad night. And nobody has ever made that suggestion about Gabriel even though he wins a lower percentage of his duels than White. Since that opening game, he’s obviously done better, worked at that aspect of his game, and it’s no longer an issue or a talking point.
Ben White can spell Apple.
I need some breakfast. The Arsecast Extra is below if you haven’t had a chance to listen yet. For now, take it easy.