Thursday, July 18, 2024

Monday thoughts: The Dark Arts + Jorginho

Morning all, welcome to a brand new week.

Obviously I went over the Newcastle game in yesterday’s blog, but I didn’t get a chance to go into much detail when it comes to specific players, so there are just a few things I want to mention this morning. Did I mention Ben White clattering Anthony Gordon? Of course.

And I know that fine well. I just wanted to mention Ben White clattering Anthony Gordon again, because I want as many people as possible to start their week with a smile. What makes it funnier is Gordon had fouled Ben just a minute or two before. It was in the passage of play when Saka and Odegaard combined for the headed chance for Martinelli. Next time the ball came out there, CLATTER. Ref played on, we kept the ball. It’s the little things, you know.

He got him again just before half-time, this time the ref gave a free kick (spoilsport), but it was funny because before the game Mikel Arteta was asked a series of questions about whether or not his players were too nice, or not nasty enough, as well as their need to engage in the so-called ‘dark arts’.

It’s an interesting topic, because I think every great team has to have a measure of cynicism to go with the talent, the tactics, the drive, and all the other things that make them great. There’s that clip from the Man City ‘All Or Nothing’ doc where Arteta himself is instructing players like Kevin de Bruyne to break up opposition attacks with fouls if they win the ball back, so he knows fine well it’s necessary. It’s not a subject he can really expand on in any substantive way publicly, because the first rule of the Dark Arts is that you don’t talk about the Dark Arts, but as he keeps insisting he wants us to be the best team in the world, this is the kind of stuff you have to be good at.

We know that Ben White loves to play football but not watch football, so I don’t know what he’s got planned for his post-game life. It’s unlikely he’ll be a coach or a manager, as that definitely requires watching more football than he would like (any), but perhaps he could set up the ‘Ben White Academy for Footballers Who Can’t Foul Good and Wanna Learn Other Tricks too’.

There was obviously a lot of chat about Jorginho afterwards too, and there’s no question he was excellent. I went back to have a look at what I wrote about him when he signed, and despite the past association and where he came from, it was pretty positive. The best compliment I can pay him now is that I genuinely wish he was a few years younger, because I think he’s got such an interesting role in the squad. The experience is one thing, but his technical ability and the way he can help us control the tempo of the game is superb.

It was also interesting to note how his role against Newcastle was different to the one against Liverpool – which was the previous time he and Declan Rice started in midfield. That day, he kept popping up more towards the left hand side, at times being the furthest forward of the two, whereas on Saturday he allowed Rice to play higher up to great effect.

I thought Rice was excellent on the night, his anticipation and reading of the game allowed him to win the ball high up the pitch, and help us smother Newcastle – especially in that first half hour. It was Jorginho’s security, being that midfield fulcrum, that enabled that to work so well though. Rice had 62 touches of the ball on Saturday, Jorginho had 109. In my mind, Rice was everywhere and involved all the time, so it shows just how influential the Italian was to the way we controlled that game.

There’s been so much talk about Arteta’s side this season, and what he wants from them. The key word has often been control. However, it’s obvious that the manager’s blackboard equation is probably something like: Control + Final Third Efficiency = SUCCESS, and that’s how Saturday played out. In reality we need to do it at least ten more times this season to end up where we want, but it’s both in our hands and within our capability. Which is what makes this run-in so exciting.

Finally for today, can we just to a moment to laugh just at Chelsea? It would be both rude and foolish not to. Thank you.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. We are recording an Arsecast Extra for you relatively this morning, so keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.

Podcast should be out around noon. Until then.

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