Saturday, June 10, 2023

Arteta on the huge margins of improvement Arsenal can make

Morning all.

There wasn’t a huge amount worth talking about in the live section of Mikel Arteta’s press conference yesterday. As you would expect, he gave nothing away with regards injuries, refusing to confirm the story that it’s season-over for William Saliba and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

I swear, we could live pictures of an Arsenal player being pushed out of a hospital in a wheelchair having had all his limbs amputated because of a horrendous snake bite incident, and he’d say ‘We will assess him tomorrow’. That said, I did think the question about Brighton’s impressive recruitment was interesting. They have brought through excellent players who thrive in a defined system, and Arteta was asked if this was something Arsenal might replicate. He said:

I think the model that Brighton has is great for them, we cannot have the same model, we have to have a different model. I’m sure there are things we can apply to our model that they do extremely well, but it’s a different model, they have different demands, they have a different size of club, and probably a different approach as well, so it would be a mistake in my opinion to try to do that.

Which is obvious really, but when people see something that works for one club, they wonder why others don’t do it. There are some vague parallels in that we have have tried to bring in some younger players who aren’t household names. Think Takehiro Tomiyasu, or even recently Jakub Kiwior, but the expectation levels at Brighton allow you to sign a player like Moises Caicedo or Karou Mitoma, loan them out to get experience, then give them the playing time they need to develop. They do it brilliantly and part of that reality is also selling those players for large profits. See one Ben White as a good example.

Speaking of slightly ‘off piste’ transfer targets, we’re being linked with 23 centre-half Mohamed Simakan.

He’s got an interesting profile in that he has played at right back, right centre-half and even right midfield for RB Leipzig this season. That versatility rings a bell, eh? And those first two positions are areas where you definitely feel we could strengthen next season. He has played as many games at right back as centre-half this season, and sometimes on the outside of the back three (thanks Lewis!). One to keep an eye on as the transfer tittle-tattle increases as we head closer and closer to the off-season.

There were some further quotes from Arteta in the embargoed section of his presser, in which he talked about the work he feels still needs to be done. After a very impressive season, his response to a question about whether or not he feels this team is at its pinnacle should be music to all our ears:

“We are still very, very far. We can be much, much, much better at a lot of things still. Huge margins. We can be much better in our buildup, attacking man-to-man situations, attacking open spaces, defending deep, set pieces.

“We have huge margins to do in terms of game management, a lot of things we can still do much better.”

Perhaps it’s the way of the football fan in that we tend to live in the moment, or the short-term, that it’s easy to think that this season might be as good as we can get. Our best shot at winning a title. In the immediate disappointment of recent dropped points, I understand why frustration can cloud some more longer-term thinking. But as I have written here and spoken about on the podcast, a coping mechanism for me has been the fact I genuinely think we can improve further.

Arteta’s consistent talk of raising the level, raising standards, demanding more from everyone – players, his coaching staff, the club, and himself – gives me a confidence that what we’re building here is based on the kind of solid foundations you need to go further and get better. Which isn’t to say it will be easy, but in the not too distant past the word ‘process’ was often cloaked in derision, and I think only those determined to view in a pejorative sense really feel like that now. The evidence of it has been before our eyes all season, and when you look at the Premier League table. Before the season began, if you’d asked people would that be a decent finish, I’m sure most would have said ‘yes’. That we’re sitting here frustrated about it is all you need to know about our progress.

Right, that’s it for this morning. We have a Brighton preview podcast for you over on Patreon, for now, have a great Saturday.

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