Monday, September 25, 2023

Connection

Good morning from London where, it’s fair to say, I have a touch of the *boilk* this morning.

Mikel Arteta met the press yesterday and spoke about the season just gone as well as the game against Wolves tomorrow. I liked his answer when asked if he could use one word to sum up the season, and he said:

Connection. I think the team has connected, I think the club has connected. The departments at the clubs have connected with each other in a really powerful way. The crowd has connected with the team, the club, the ownership and the rest of the world. And I think we have connected again with our DNA: who we are, our way of doing things, and we have to move forward.

That seems right to me. We had some dinner last night, and in chatting to various people about this season, that was a common theme. I can’t remember a having a feeling of missing out in a long time. After we beat Bournemouth in that epic way, I sat on my sofa doing some Arseblog work, and soaking in the fun of it all. The post-game memes, replays, but also people’s videos which showed how much it meant. Obviously I don’t approve of Oleksandr Zinchenko’s horn-tooting because that was what ultimately cost us the title but the rest of it was great.*

I had been over a couple of weeks previously to see the Brentford game, which was a frustrating day, but I felt like I had to get back to experience the atmosphere again. I realise that I am lucky to be able to do that, and don’t take any match day experience for granted, but I wanted some of what the 60,000+ in the stadium felt that day. I got over for the 4-1 win over Crystal Palace a few weeks after. An excellent performance and win, but I had to scratch that itch of seeing this team in person in a positive way.

I don’t know if you can call it routine, but we beat Everton 4-0 a couple of weeks before that, and followed up the Palace win by beating Leeds 4-1 too. We were motoring, and there was a feel good atmosphere around the place. You don’t need me to tell you it went a bit wrong, but it was so palpable and, it’s important to say, different from how things had been in recent years.

Nobody appreciates losing, nobody is singing and dancing about under-performance, nobody is going to wax lyrical about bad decision making from the top to the bottom. That’s what we had been through. And then we hired Mikel Arteta, and he said this was something he was going to address, and did. It took time, but he did it.

He referenced it in his presser, about how as the assistant to Pep Guardiola at Man City he sat on the bench and looked around at a club that was somewhat broken.

It’s very close to the dream I had. Two days before I sat down in the managerial position I was on the other bench, looking at that picture that I wasn’t really happy with.

It’s interesting that despite the marked difference he has made, he drew some parallels with this season, saying:

I had a very similar position in my head of some of the experiences we’ve had this year. Something important is missing – lifting the cup with everybody together. That’s what we have to try to do now.

That’s the next step. It still feels like it’s something the new stadium is missing – the collective celebration of a trophy. Even when we won the FA Cup in 2020, it happened behind closed doors. It’s always good to win the cup, but it wasn’t the same. And so when I think about how we’ve progressed this season, I gain some comfort in the knowledge that Arteta thinks it wasn’t enough. That there’s still work to do (obviously), things to improve, and further progress to be made – while maintaining that connection that has been rebuilt between the club and the fans (and vice versa).

I think Amy Lawrence said it very well on the Arsecast last week:

@thearseblog BELONGING! Amy Lawrence from Arsecast 730 #arsenal ♬ original sound – arseblog

Ok, I’m gonna leave it there for this morning. Tonight, with our friends from the Arsenal Vision podcast, we’ll have our live podcast at Union Chapel in Islington, where we’ll shoot the breeze about the season, and ups and downs, highs and lows, and much more.

We’re all looking forward to seeing those of you who have tickets. If you fancy coming along, I would advise keeping an eye on my Twitter @arseblog and that of @yankeegunner – there do seem to be some spares around so we’ll retweet any we see.

For now, enjoy your Saturday.

* Insert sarcasm font here.

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