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July 2021
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Bellerin reveals how the revolution at Arsenal came about

by Tony Attwood

You’ll perhaps know that the central theme on this blog this summer is that Arsenal underwent a revolution last season, dramatically changing the style of play of the team, and that as a result the last two thirds of the season saw a dramatic improvement in form.    The argument has been put that this improvement was a myth caused by the fact that we only played lower grade teams in the latter part of the season.   That story is totally untrue as we showed in the piece Arsenal only did well after Xmas because the fixtures were much easier.

But what was this transformation that the club effected – and which the media utterly refuse to mention?  Statistically it is easy to see (although 99.99% of all known journalists still can’t grasp it).  Arsenal dramatically changed their approach to tackling, and as a result cut their yellow card figure by almost half – something no other club managed to do.

Now we have some more hints, most notably by Hector Bellerin who, speaking to the High Performance Podcast, said, “I think, personally, at Arsenal, [the emphasis on small details] is something which has changed a lot,” he said.   “The ethics and the way [we] work since Mikel has been the manager of the club have completely changed.”

He didn’t mention the tackles / fouls / yellow card analysis, which is the outward sign of the change (and which I am not surprised to find, as I suspect the players have been told not to mention it), but instead spoke about, “the way we run back or the way we create space for a player.”

In particular he spoke of the way a player can move to get an opposition player to change where he is, saying, “Sometimes a goal is created not by the player who passes the ball or the player who scores, but by the player that actually created that space and did what he had to do at that time.

“Many people among the fans, in the stands or even pundits sometimes, they won’t see that. But, truly, that’s what we’ve practised, that’s what the coach has asked and, by the player doing that, we were able to score that goal.  Even sometimes for the players it’s hard to see, when other teams do it…”

He also picked up on the allegation that Arsenal were not cutting it against the top six, noting that Arsenal beat Chelsea twice, beat Manchester United and drew against them, and beat Tottenham at home.  “It’s only City and Liverpool that I feel are that level ahead of us,” he added.

So we come back to the old question: why is it that the media and bloggers cannot bring themselves to accept that Arsenal went through a revolution last year and came out with all flags flying.

Certainly from what we have seen there is a tendency of journalists and bloggers simply to copy what someone else has said, without checking the facts.  This has two impacts.  First, stories do obviously get repeated without being true.  But secondly, because everyone is saying the same thing (that Arsenal had a dreadful season is repeated) it becomes accepted, and is never investigated.

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Thus 90% of articles and blogs start with words along the line, “Arsenal had a terrible season”.

And in fact, that opener can be found in articles all the way through the last decade – a decade in which we won the FA Cup four times in seven seasons, something no other club has ever done.  The previous record of four in eight was also held by Arsenal.

Yes of course it is true that since finishing second in 2016 the league position has been very disappointing, but it is not unknown for top clubs to slip for a while.  But at least we have not slipped as much as Manchester City did one time, winning the league one season and being relegated the next.   But looked at afresh, denying the recovery last season does seem like a solid desire to knock Arsenal )(as well as appallingly lazy journalism).

However the reason is simple: the media publishes what the media publishes – meaning the media simply won’t step out of line from what everyone else is saying.  So bloggers who feel that they ought to copy the media (rather than point out that it is wrong 95% of the time, as Untold does) just repeat the stories over the over.

Then, sports journalists, who read the blogs, see that most of the bloggers are saying how awful Arsenal were last season, and so tell us that 2020/1 was a season to forget.  When of course it wasn’t.

Coming soon: The Lazy Journalist Award 2021

The Glorious 2021 Revolution

 

 

7 comments to Bellerin reveals how the revolution at Arsenal came about

  • Hasty

    If finishing 8th for the second season running isnt a terrible season i dont know what is. Remember the club told us 15 years ago we would be competing with Bayern and Real Madrid we now compete with Palace

  • Two issues there Hasty. First, in my definition a terrible season would be finishing 8th, and the results in the latter part of the season being just as bad as in the earlier part. Plus there being no sign of a reworking of the playing model to create the improvement. So I guess that’s the difference between us – I know what a terrible season is: it is having poor results but not devising a way out of this. The technical changes that resulted in almost cutting in half the number of yellow cards was one part.
    As for the competing with Bayern, I don’t recall that comment, but I’ll take your word for it, and suspect it was made before the decision was taken to build the new stadium. That’s where all the money went, and it was part of the Hill-Wood exit plan. The value of the club was greatly increased by having the new stadium, and those they got much more for their shares when they sold out, than if they had kept Highbury and been competing with Bayern.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Most people do not realise what a good thing they have now , untill they lose it all . Again this does apply in the case of Arsenal . We have a great club , but mostly not bright and demanding fans . They do not realise what we have now , as compared to a many years ago.

    But then again , others too have gained much more and have thus move forwards too. The Covid 19 pandemic has stemmed some teams advance , but is yet to be reflected. Be sure that there is going to teams that will soon be left behind. Teams that have spent recently on stadium improvements , may start feeling the pinch.

    We were just a few minutes away from celebrating St. Totteringham’s Day at the last match of the season.

  • Coach Kerr

    I don’t think Arsenal had a ‘revolution’ in the second half of last season. But our discipline certainly improved alongside the collective defending, which was pretty solid all campaign.

    Ultimately, I haven’t seen a consistent playing style from the team in or out of possession. With the amount of talented attackers here, we have underachieved in relation to scoring goals and chance creation. This is predominantly down to the managers tactical limitations and general managerial inexperience.

    Obviously the bloggers and mainstream media never highlight any improvement because of the Anti-Arsenal agenda that persists.

  • porter

    In particular he spoke of the way a player can move to get an opposition player to change where he is, saying, “Sometimes a goal is created not by the player who passes the ball or the player who scores, but by the player that actually created that space and did what he had to do at that time.

    “Many people among the fans, in the stands or even pundits sometimes, they won’t see that. But, truly, that’s what we’ve practised, that’s what the coach has asked and, by the player doing that, we were able to score that goal. Even sometimes for the players it’s hard to see, when other teams do it…”

    Not exactly new though and if kids are not taught this at the outset of their careers then something is wrong .

    My school team were taken to Wembley by our coach and he got us tickets in the upper tier behind the goal . His instructions were to watch Bobby Moore and follow his movement off the ball then study Alan Ball and do the same .

    This part of understanding is missed by so many that just see the end result and this includes the referees who only see the reaction and never seem to appreciate the initial cause , especially the off the ball incident that caused it in the first place.

  • Coach Kerr – I’m taking my view from the radical change in the number of tackles which led to cutting the yellow cards in half across the year. That I think changed the style of play completely. Obviously can’t prove it, but Arsenal were up to something with that change, and it coincided with the great improvement in our results in the last two thirds of the season.

  • Nitram

    Porter

    I tend to agree.

    ‘Running off the ball’ ‘Making a dummy run’ ‘Creating space’ (for yourself or others) ‘drawing the defender out of position’ are all phrases any footballer will be aware of, as you say, from a very early stage in their footballing career, no matter what level, so what he is saying is hardly revolutionary.

    All I would say is that Bellerin has worked under other coaches, including Wenger, so he’s been well coached and must of been coached in these techniques before, so I assume Arteta must either be doing something different or just putting much more emphasis on it, just as some coaches may put more emphasis on ‘The press’ or crosses or shape or whatever, otherwise it’s all something and nothing.

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