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By Tony Attwood
There is an article in the Guardian headlined, “Mikel Arteta is the new Sir Alex Ferguson.” And this extraordinary notion emerges from the simplistic belief that both Ferguson and Arteta struggled in their early days and that “neither looked look like a revolutionary figure when at risk of losing his job in December 2020.”
And yet Arteta most certainly was a revolutionary manager at that time – as revolutionary as Chapman and Wenger. But somehow these “journalists” missed it.
For the revolution that Arteta implemented was there for all to see, and can still be seen in the statistics. But as we know, Guardian football correspondents, in common with most of the rest of the media, don’t like two things: statistics and hard work.
So here’s a simple version of what happened. Arteta adopted the Manchester City model of playing the game the way the referees dictated, not the way the rules stipulated. As a result the number of tackles Arsenal’s defenders put in were cut, and so the crippling number of yellow cards that Arsenal was receiving was chopped.
The simple fact, there for all to see, is that between 2017/18 and 2019/20 Arsenal’s cards went up by over 50% – a figure that was crippling the team as players were suspended and then after suspension were targetted by opposition attackers who, knowing their reputation, would fall over the moment a defender came near them. As a result in 2019/20 Arsenal’s yellow card total was more than double the number of cards that had been shown against the team in 2015/16.
Arteta clearly knew this and so in 2020/21 chopped the yellow card total virtually in half, taking it back down to the lowest since 2015/16, simply by cutting the tackling.
Now clearly that action of changing the playing style so that no matter what excuses PGMO used, Arsenal’s yellow card total would sink, had a major impact on Arsenal’s performance. The players had to learn how to defend without conceding more and more goals.
Between 2016/17 and 2018/19 Manchester City had adopted the same approach reducing their yellow card total by 62% from 71 to 44. So Arteta’s reduction of Arsenal’s yellow card total, was a replica of the Manchester City approach. And it would be insane to imagine that the Arsenal management didn’t talk with Arteta about his plan. Indeed anyone watching the games could see it happening – but the journalists who like to work “en masse” refused to see.
Of course many journalists (possibly including Jacob Steinberg) are told by their editors to “lay off the statistics” and instead, knowing how much Arsenal fans dislike Ferguson, to go for approaches such as “Mikel Arteta is the new Sir Alex Ferguson,” as a wind up.
So when the journalist Steinberg says, “We can praise Arsenal, who are closing in on a first Premier League title since 2004, for having the courage to stick by their man,” that sentence is misleading in that it contains no reference to the fact of WHY Arsenal stood by their man. And the reason was that Arteta was doing what he promised in his job interview. Using the Manchester City approach that was working with such effect. An approach which could be summarised as “take back control of the game from the PGMO”.
However, we might ask, why have Arsenal not got their yellow cards down to Manchester City’s level yet? (Arsenal have 39 this season, Manchester City had 31, the lowest number in the league). The answer is that new players take a while to learn. Jorginho who joined this year aged 31 has received four. Same for Gabriel Jesus.
Additionally, we might note that Martinelli (3 cards), Saka (5) and Saliba (4) are all 21 years old, and still learning to adapt to the PL and its refereeing ways. (We only have to watch Martinelli getting sent off against Wolverhampton to see how bemused he was by what the ref got up to).
It is because the media doesn’t get any of this, what the Guardian says, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. For example, they claim, “Chelsea’s owners admire how Arsenal treated Arteta,” adding, “Potter drew parallels with Amazon’s All or Nothing documentary on Arsenal, pointing out that everyone thought Arteta was a “disaster” two years ago.”
And that’s the key point. No, not everyone thought Arteta was a disaster two years ago. Untold Arsenal constantly ran the story that although Arsenal sank to 15th after the first third of the 2020/21 season, they were second across the whole of the last two thirds of that season. And I know from a zoom meeting I attended with a club director, they knew exactly what was going on.
Yet football journalists with their anti-Arsenal prejudice and total lack of ability to read statistics or undertake serious analyses missed this, even though it was being published week after week on Untold, and the whole story is still available on this site.
But as we have seen so often before, if the story doesn’t fit the media’s pre-conceived ideas, they simply won’t use it.
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2 Replies to “Why the media’s view of the foundations of Arteta’s success is as wrong as ever”
A bit off topic, Go Reiss Nelson. What a strike, so pleased for him to see it go in.
Go Arsenal women Conti cup winners.
Seen from Germany tonight, after the dismal failure of Manure, comments about Arsenal.
– the youngest team but they just never give up – look at the games decided in the last minutes.
– how could that first Bournemouth goal stand VAR review ? The kick-off was not correct, 2 players not in their half, what is this kind of refereeing ?
– Reiss-Nelson…he is so far a bit player, but yet scores the important goal. Shows hos close knit the team is, how important each player is and believes he is
– City must start to worry as Arsenal always find a way to come back
Maybe we ought to start talking about goals being scored in Arteta time : scored in the last minutes and in added time ?