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Keeping the momentum while developing the production: the Arsenal Way

By Tony Attwood

It is not impossible, but it is quite rare for a club to go through a whole season without a bad run.  Most of the time, for most clubs, the aim is not so much never to have a blip, but rather to come out of it as fast as possible.

Arsenal’s problem last season, seen from this point of view, was that in the bad run which followed the 0-5 slaughter of Southampton in the FA Cup, we lost seven games out of 12.  True by the end we still got the number of points that in any other season would have gained fourth place in the league – but this time around it didn’t, and that was the cost of the run of 12 games.

After that of course we did rather well, as you might recall with nine wins in ten, including victories over Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United.

This season we’ve had the wobbles again with Stoke and Liverpool away, conceding five goals, and at that moment I feared that if the breakdown lasted anything like as long as last season’s blip that would become a beep that would become a howl of anguish, and we’d be in trouble.  Not in trouble in terms of the league position so much, because there was a lot of the season left, but rather in terms of the gruesome alliance of media and some crowd members.

But Arsenal has recovered.  True, only in one of the six subsequent matches have we played a top side, but even so, the likes of Bournemouth and West Brom still have to be beaten – as we did, and the performance against Chelsea in particular was most encouraging.

Date Game Res Score Competition
09 Sep 17 Arsenal v Bournemouth W 3-0 Premier League
14 Sep 17 Arsenal v 1.FC Köln W 3-1 Europa League
17 Sep 17 Chelsea v Arsenal D 0-0 Premier League
20 Sep 17 Arsenal v Doncaster R W 1-0 League Cup
25 Sep 17 Arsenal v West Brom W 2-0 Premier League
28 Sep 17 FC BATE  v Arsenal W 2-4 Europa League

Meanwhile as Everton is currently showing through a masterclass of its own, club collapses can happen very quickly indeed, especially with a misplaced policy in the transfer window.

Everton won one, drew one and lost three of their last five at the end of last season, and this campaign have won just six in 14.  Add the end of last season to the start of this and you’ve got seven wins in 19.

Of course the two clubs are quite different; Arsenal regularly expect trophies, and indeed get them: three FA Cups in four years isn’t too bad.  Could be better, but still isn’t too bad.

But the approach through the summer was quite different: Everton bought in 13 players plus one on a loan deal, and sold four for your actual cash.   Arsenal brought in two and sold six.  Our approach seems to have worked better.

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And as last night showed there is more to the side than this.  Just pause for a moment if you will and consider a few of the players we saw last night.

Rob Holding hardly raised expectations when he came in for £3m, indeed many derided the transfer, but he’s turning into an extraordinary player as a 22 year old.

Per Mertesacker – a world cup winner of course, who seemingly will take on any role given to him without any complaint.  Suddenly not just play in the FA Cup final after a year of not playing and become man of the match?  No problem.  Marshall a team of kiddies in a game in eastern Europe?  Sure thing.  And to think there were comments a while back from supposed Arsenal fans who, when asked how to change the team around said, “get rid of Mertesacker for a start”.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles – we saw him last season and he’s now been involved in 14 games for Arsenal.  Still got a lot to learn, as every 20 year old defender has, but most certainly a player who is going to be of great value to the club – hopefully for a long time.

But just think what he has had to deal with.  Yes Holding had the “£3m from Bolton – is this what Arsenal are reduced to?” headlines but that was nothing compared with…

  • Arsenal ban Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s mother over assault
  • Ainsley Maitland-Niles exiled at Ipswich Town…
  • Arsenal loanee Ainsley Maitland-Niles has not been included in Ipswich Town’s matchday squad since his mother – and agent – is believed to ..
  • Arsenal news: Ainsely Maitland-Niles’ mum ruins his career – for the second time

And those headlines were not in the little bloggettas, but the Metro and in national newspapers

Joe Willock so far seems to have had an easier ride from “fans” and the degenerate media and even the Metro had to admit there is one hell of a player here saying…

Willock’s best attribute appears to be his physicality, as he dominated the middle of the park alongside Mohamed Elneny, who is of similar style.    

It was a mature, composed and assured performance from Willock who, like Nelson, was only looking forward when in possession, hoping to set one of the forwards on their way.   A solid start to life in the starting XI for the 18-year-old.

Reiss Nelson got even more positive reviews in the same source:

Despite being just 17 years old, Nelson approaches the game like a model professional.   Playing at right wing back, he provides an effective outlet down the flanks as he constantly looks to make runs towards the back post.

And we have hardly seen enough of Marcus McGuane and Eddie Nketiah to know how good they will be on the big stage, but I wouldn’t bet against them.  Indeed I’d argue this bunch of youngsters that we have now is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a lifetime at Arsenal.

In the old, old, old days we used to get the occasional one or two coming through, but this looks more like a production line.

Yes, I have actually noticed that we are only 7th in the League and not playing in the Champions League, but I suppose this is what marks out different people.  I can still take huge pleasure from what I have seen from the youngsters, and from witnessing the start of another run in the league – and hope the run continues in the coming weeks.  Of course I’d love us to be top of the league, but I can stay take huge pleasure in what I am seeing.

The post match post

Arsenal in wartime

13 comments to Keeping the momentum while developing the production: the Arsenal Way

  • Jax

    It’s worth noting that around three fifths of our academy squad (including some of those referenced here)) are recruited from within the London & Home Counties area; something I’ve not noticed at Arsenal since George Graham’s time.
    For regular match going supporters (not me anymore) this must make identifying with the team such a delight.
    Andrew follows them regularly, so probably knows more than most on this subject. Love to see his input on this.

  • Chris

    I am starting to believe that this EL may end up being a Godsend.
    I mean, when could we otherwise expect to foster these young Guns with such intensity ? They are learning big time at warp speed right now.

    And for another player this is I believe what he was missing : Wilshere.
    His firs half, I felt, was brilliant, his radar definitely is still on and he can deliver millimeter passes.
    Yet you could see thst in the second half he was starting to tire.
    How in the world could he make a comeback in the PL without being clobbered by medias and stupid onlookers, not to talk about players ?
    This is exactly what he needs. Constant games, yet not the whole bunch of pressure and intensity of the PL.

    He will come back and revive his Arsenal career, I am convinced of this – and I wish him (and us Arsenal fans) at least that.
    The combinations are incredible when putting together Wilshere, Ozil, Ramsey, Alexis, Lacazette/Giroud…and there are a few missing there.
    Say what you want, I believe we’ve got the deepest squad in Arsenal’s history.

    And they are starting to look much more like a team, with the added incredible ‘next man up’ interchangeability.

  • Hisham

    Great result Gunners. Never an easy assignment playing in a “remote” location. Not sure to expect, but we can take comfort that we have enough players to form two “playable” teams.

    And what’s this with the letter “W”! Is it because the manager has one that now we see more players with the letter W making the grade !). First it was Walcott, then Wilshere, Welbeck. And now emerges Willock!! Hope these turn to a W (win) every time we play ?

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Marcus McGuane is the nearest thing to a genuine old fashioned defensive midfielder that Arsenal have in any team, mind you he is also quite competent in front of goal.

    Eddie Nketiah scores goals – lots and lots of them and has done at every level since he joined us as a 14 year old when Chelsea released him (apparently for being too short). I have noticed that each time he steps up a level he takes a game or two to settle but when he does his goal scoring resumes at its previous level. He will never be a Giroud in stature, more a Lacazette.

    Joe Willock, the only one of three brothers still at Arsenal, benefitted last night by being played in his correct position. Physically the largest of the three although the youngest he showed what he can do at this level. He didn’t look out of place at all.

    Reiss Nelson clearly has a fantastic future, he did a very creditable job again at wing back but for the U23s is usually played wide left in attack. Only 17 he is a potential megastar. Give him another year and he will probably be pushing for Alexis’s position as an automatic starter.

    Ainsley Maitland-Niles can seemingly play in any position in midfield or defence. Best used as one of a two man midfield, he has the energy to cover the whole field for the entire 90 minutes which is why he is getting so much gametime at the moment. Left wingback really isn’t his best position but he still managed to do a reasonably solid job there last night. His performance in the League Cup after he switched to his normal midfield role is a better indicator of what he can actually do.

    A midfield three of McGuane, Maitland-Niles and Wilshere (when/if fully fit) would seem to me to present very exciting possibilities in the next year or so – and wouldn’t cost us a penny in transfer fees.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    I’ve heard is said a few times now that the scouts from all of the clubs spend a lot of time around the London football cages that exist in all of the municipal parks looking for the youngsters with promise. Alex Scott our Women’s Captain credits that upbringing as a major factor in her development. She joined the Arsenal academy aged 8.

  • Seydlitz

    I was of the understanding that their are defined areas where clubs may recruit youngsters,so teams from i.e. Manchester may only recruit around the northwest and newcastle around the northeast Southampton the south coast, am I wrong.

  • Josif

    Arsenal have Iwobi who can make a great career if he adds final product to his game. He has everything and his football genes are special (his uncle was a real wizard with the ball).

    Ainsley Maitland-Niles can make a great career as well due to his incredible engine (Andrew has already pointed that out) and I guess his games on the wide positions will serve him well in the same way Ramsey’s matches on the right wing helped him for his midfield game. I would like to see him in the central midfield – either as a box-to-box midfielder or as a part of the shield that protects our back four/three.

    Rob Holding looks like a real deal and here is a funny story about him. I hadn’t seen too much of him before he joined Arsenal but the biggest praise of him I had read came from the biggest WOB in Bosnia who usually mocks all Arsene’s signings (previous exceptions were Čech, Alexis, Özil and…Chambers). In fact, when we signed Mustafi, he was pissed because he wanted Holding to play as he sees him as a player with much bigger potential than Mustafi. I guess broken clock is indeed correct twice per day.

    Let’s not forget Hector Bellerin is still a youngster as well. He needs to improve his crossing technique and then he can joke about that on the social networks as much as he wants.

    Reiss Nelson – aaah. Every time he touches the ball, he oozes class. I hope we will see him exclusively in the attacking roles as that’s where his talent will flourish. I reckon Arsene wants to teach him a few lessons about defending as well before he gets a place in the attacking three/four.

    Finally, let’s not write off Calum Chambers. He may have had quite a few set-backs during his Arsenal career but he is too young and too good to be thrown down the water. Players of his size and qualities don’t grow on the trees.

    Speaking of our current place on the table, I wouldn’t be bothered/too confident on the place of any 20 clubs in Premiership. Last-placed Crystal Palace have been going through a really crappy period, have already sacked their manager, replaced him with an experienced yet…hm…English manager, haven’t picked a single point and have lost their best striker for a while but they are still just four points off the safety zone.

    Same goes for the teams with higher standards. We are six points off the top spot after an armed robbery in Stoke and a shameful performance in Liverpool.

    Yes, momentum, quality, consistency at both ends of the pitch…all those factors should not be neglected but things change fast.

    For instance, United have lost Pogba to injury while City lost their only natural left full-back (Mendy) for a season, their best central defender has been regularly injured for years and their best striker was injured in a car accident and will miss two months of football (according to first predictions). United are yet to play against a team that they are not favourites to win against (as I have predicted before the season started, their opening matches are suspiciously light with their first test coming in Week 8 at Anfield) and Man City will have a tough task to repeat our achievement or better it at Stamford Bridge this weekend. Chelsea have lost at home to Burnley and drawn against us, Tottenham have already spilled more points at home in three games (7) than they did during whole last season (4), Liverpool…are Liverpool – incredible attack with a pathetic defence, especially at set-pieces.

  • Gord

    OT: Nitpicking has a lead-in article to the Ladies upcoming game against Man$ity. Wonderful article, but ….

    We see that the game starts at 12:30pm (UK time), but which day of the weekend is not mentioned nor the day of month (its Saturday, Sept 30). It is mentioned that they are providing updates via twitter, and they give the account name at twitter. But it isn’t a URL. The link is

  • Wenger warrior

    Nelson and Willock have huge futures and what is more exciting is next season we will hopefully get to see Coyle and Rowe nearer the first team both brilliant prospects!

    Nketiah reminds me of Defoe maybe needs a loan at a championship club like Leeds or Bristol

    Hopefully Nwakali gets his work permit next season because he looks brilliant!

    The future is really bright

  • Wenger warrior

    Agree with everything you said Josif apart from the Man City Mendy issue! They will only struggle for a couple of months then use oil money to go pay 50 million for a replacement. I have no issue with Man City who I think will win the EPL this year, they really do look fantastic going forward! However if it keeps the EPL out of Chelsea, Tottenham and Man united hands… Good luck to them

  • Wonderful performance, the conceeding is probably a good thing as it doesnt gloss the nights work.

    The EL will provide a very good platform for the youngsters to cut their teeh and for the squad players to get their confidence and fitness back. Wilshere showed with the opening assist exactly what he brings in terms of transiuon, and final delivery. At full fitness he will be challenging both Ramsey and Xaka to improve. Perfect.

    The young guns showed just why the AFC academy cannot be overlooked. And with squad births available there is a definite onus on these kids to focus and set their targets high this season.

    In terms of league position, city host Chelsea and will be missing the unlucky Sergio A as much as United are likely to miss Paul who is sidelined indefinitely at present. I wish no one injury buy these two unavailable has definitely given us reason to be optimistic over the next 2 months.

    Back to back victories is Serbia will give us the group win and leave us free to focus on domestic matters early on.

  • goonersince72

    I agree with you on the kids. Their future and the future of the club is bright. Every season I want AFC to win the EPL and FA Cup and UCL. Recently it’s been 3 FA Cups in 4 seasons. Very satisfying to me because I absolutely love that competition. Best of any country. While it will be great when Arsenal win the League or maybe even a UCL Cup, I’ll just enjoy the football until they do. I’m only disappointed when they don’t show up with the effort and desire required, i.e., Liverpool. With it’s resources and stature, the club should be competitive every season. Show up for every match, play great football, win a Cup here and there and keep to the values of the club. Mertesacker to the Academy will ensure this, in my opinion. And, as I’m typing this, I realise that bitter taste in the back of my mouth since Liverpool is gone. Up the Gunners!

  • Damilare

    Wondering if G. Zalalem would ever become the player we thought he could become. Any info on Jeff Rein-Adelaide?