Morning all from a particularly miserable Dublin. This has not been a great summer anyway, but today is taking the absolute mickey. The rain is biblical.
Mikel Arteta held his pre-Community Shield press conference yesterday, and in truth there wasn’t anything particularly stand-out from it. He talked about the size of the squad, and trimming it down a bit:
We are in the process. We are working on a few things. We have to make a few decisions. There is still time to do that. We are very happy with the squad that we have, that’s for sure. But as well we have to make sure that we can share the minutes in the right way for the team to have healthy competition within the squad and we are working on that.
There was some chat about Declan Rice and beating Man City to his signing, which we’ve basically heard before. I did think his comments on Kai Havertz and where he’s going to play were interesting. He said:
Well, he’s played the majority of the moment as an attacking midfielder on the left, but he can play on the right, he can play as a winger coming inside as a nine, as a false nine so we will see. We are seeing a lot of things, I think the team gives you a lot of information every day and some connections and some relationships that you didn’t expect and you feel and look at what is happening there and it’s natural.
We have to have the eyes open to that and don’t just close the door to something because sometimes it’s not the best thing to do.
For me this isn’t about Havertz per se, as much as it is about what lies ahead this season. If I have a slight concern, it’s that our ‘success’, if you want to call it that, has come from Arteta working with a relatively small group of players within the confines of a very well defined system. This time around, it’s a much bigger squad – because it has to be, he said that himself – with new players settling in, as well as a need for greater variation in how we play.
It’s something the manager himself spoke about a couple of weeks ago:
The idea is to be more unpredictable every year and be more difficult for the opponents to stop and nullify what we want to do. That’s what we have now, especially at the back and in the midfield the options we have, to open up the spaces, we have many more options than we had last year.
We have to start doing the right things in preseason to get the best possible preparation and get that chemistry and cohesion in the team.
Understandably, that could take time. Those new relationships don’t come fully formed, they have to develop, and yet we’re in a league where even just a couple of bad results – and a bad result can be a draw, let’s not forget – leaves you playing a very difficult game of catch-up. So, that’s the challenge for the manager. Implement new ideas with some new players, but maintain the consistency we showed for most of last season. I don’t think it’s going to be plain sailing, so how we navigate the opening part of the season is going to fascinating.
Speaking of which, Arteta was asked about how he dealt with the way last season panned out, having led for so long, only to be overtaken by City at the end. He said:
The first few weeks, very tough. The first thing you have to do is look in the mirror and understand – is there something that you should have done better or differently? If that is the case then learn from it.
And then judge yourself – ‘are you still the right person to drive the club, the team, forwards in the way that you want and do you have that energy and that belief that you want to do it?’.
It took a big reflection, but the answer is yes and I feel with a lot of energy and positiveness. I don’t like losing, and it takes me a while, and that was a tough moment.
As ever, honest and forthright from Arteta. When he says he’ll learn from it, you don’t really doubt him, because he has demonstrated that capacity previously. Where we have fallen short, we’ve gotten up again and improved. Like all of you, I hope that it’s the case again this time around, because if it is, we’ll be challenging again, and fingers crossed we can take it one step further.
Right, that’s as much as I’ve got. I need more coffee and to check if everything else hasn’t been blown/rained away by this storm. We’ll have a Community Shield preview podcast for you over on Patreon this morning so join us for that.
Have a great Saturday folks.