Is Arteta-ball a Combination of the Best of the Wenger Years?

Were Arsenal ever really a soft touch? I don’t think so, but I have no doubt that referees allowed opposing teams to ‘give it to us’ without consequences and then dish out cards to our, Wenger-mostly-foreign players, left, right and centre. Wenger’s first teams were full of strong, hard, athletic players who were perfect at combining strength, speed, intelligence, touch and finesse. It was total bliss.

Then came the Fabregas years and we exchanged physicallity and speed for touch, quick passing and elaborate, beautifully crafted team goals; a trend I think continued till last summer. It was good to watch but it wasn’t enough.

Having watched the Watford game again yesterday, I was wondering whether Arteta is effectively combining the two big eras of the last 25 years into one: power, speed, touch and team-finesse at the highest level. Is this the real Arteta-ball, ready to make us competitive again?

The new signings all appear to have a good first touch, pass the ball round well AND are strong and fast.

Lokonga has Vieira physicality and engine. Tavares has the speed, power and menace of Ashley Cole.

We all know about Big Gab’s Soll Campbell like qualities and Ben White is bossed by nobody.

Tomiyasu is as keen and physical as Lauren.

Partey is pure power and physicallity, and all our attackers put themselves about and don’t shy away from a physical battle. Even Young Emile and Bukayo stand their ground and cannot be bullied. A powerful CF may well be next arriving at the Home of football, even though Laca is giving his all every time he is donning the famous shirt.

Yet all these players are comfortable with the ball in tight spaces, have a good touch and pass the ball round well. I have no doubt Arteta/Edu will get a few more players like this in the coming transfer windows, and only those of the squad will survive who are able to combine touch, intelligence and power to the max.

Arteta-ball remains a work in progress, but are we now able to see what it will look like? Nobody bullies us anymore, we give away few chances, work for each other all over the pitch, start to create more chances, keep clean sheets and more than occasionally play some good passing football.

What’s not to like at this stage?

By TotalArsenal

47 thoughts on “Is Arteta-ball a Combination of the Best of the Wenger Years?

  • Thank you for the post Total.

    The team are now fully engaged instead of being separate parts and it shows in the results. We can also see how much they are enjoying playing under Arteta’s guidance. We still have a way to go before we are the complete article but the level of improvement is obvious for all to see. The next game up against Liverpool will really show what we are made of and how close or far we are from top four contention.

  • Cheers GN5, agreed on the full engagement of the team. It is great to see.

    I think an away game after an interlull is always hard anyway and they don’t come harder than a Pool away game .. so my expectations are low. I hope we will play as a unit and stick to our guns and give them a game in all areas, but i expect a Pool win unfortunately.

  • A loss is the most likely result Total – and the one that most people expect. I think that we will give them a good game and not be embarrassed and hopefully come back home with a point.

  • There are other important qualities that Arteta has added. We are now starting games more positively and confidently and heads don’t drop when we concede. We have a much stronger team spirit which I think that more vocal newbies, like Aaron, have helped to foster.

    The next step for me is to be more ruthless when we have been dominating a game, when in front of goal and when we are ahead. If we are 2-0 up at the moment we seem to relax, and with such a long season, I understand that but it only serves to put us under undue pressure at the end of matches. This will allow us to improve our goal difference and take pressure off our defence at the same time.

  • Responding to a post in the previous thread (started, but got distracted, only to see “New post” notification when I returned)…

    Kev, I also feel great relief about missing out on that one because you could see right away, he wasn’t an upgrade on what we have.

    The click-bait merchants just need to create news headlines to attract Arsenal fans to the site, thinking there is something in it. Vlahovic may be seeking a new club or an extension with his club on better terms.

  • TA, your article is one to ponder and the timing is right, seeing as the international break can give time for stock taking; to reflect on what we have just witnessed (3 losses on the bounce and a run of 7 games undefeated in the league) after 10 games in the EPL. That is the stuff of fairytales and one must give credit to the management team for believing, and to the players for staying the course, bonding well and interpreting the manager’s instructions in play.

    For now, I won’t give it any label as “Arteta-Ball” or some combo of any “-ball” for that matter. I see it as plain pragmatism resulting in team bonding and a desire to fight for the club/manager/careers (the adversity quotient, playing out after a bad start and social media blowback), resulting in them starting to find themselves and knowing how good they are, or can be. Whatever the case, it is working and evolving. The back 5 now play with grit and hate conceding goals; the players seem to know their individual roles now and work harder for the right to play, the team is harder to beat now and we have a keeper who just exudes confidence and charm (still can’t get over him turning to the home fans, away to Leicester, and singing along with them as he took a goal kick) at the same time. A keeper who talks to the players around him and takes responsibility for his own area.

    For a fact, nobody bullies us anymore (still have to take care of the Refs, though), the boys work for each other all over the pitch and we are creating more chances and the passing game is better too. The next phase should focus on taking a majority of the chances we create so we can put teams to the sword, ruthlessly. That goal difference needs to improve, or it may come back to bite us and be the difference between a place in the CL or the Europa league. Happy days.

  • I am preparing to leave Boston for Toronto, after the program I attended out there. It was engaging and very intense. Hopefully, some free time from tomorrow, for about a week.

  • Take it easy, Erismus.

    Yes the attack remains our main area of improvement. Am thinking of writing something about it, so will keep schtum for now.

  • TA, thanks to your positive attitude it seems to have rubbed on this blog and some to players mate.
    We still have a way to go before we can relax and enjoy the football. The general mood going to Liverpool away explains that. Nobody expects us to win but everyone expects us to give them a good day. A lot will be answered if we are in the game for 90 mins. Pool seems to have injury concerns as I see today Mane seems to have had an injury.
    For me the way fullback have performed has been a absolute joy. Tomi and Taverez has just strengthened our back line so much. Absence of Tierney last season created chaos but now hardly anyone notices it.
    Absence of Xhaka is barely noticeable as AMN and Sambi have slotted in nicely. I thought we missed a trick on not integrating AMN last season as Elnenys minites could have been shared with AMN. But those concerns are gone and AMN looks like a proverbial new signing.
    Just hope that we sort out our striker issues come Jan. ESR is putting both our strikers to shame and has put Pepes arsenal career to jeopardy. We need Auba to be on fire against the pool. May be the last game of Auba will make him eager and sharper for Pool.
    Certainly an enjoyable time to be gooner and God I hate this two week break. Happy days fellow gooners.

  • Thanks Madhu, great comment. I also like our two new beasts of full backs and AMN has been impressive indeed.

    How is life in Bangalore and the world of It these days?

  • Against Liverpool, I have always worried that Arteta’s teams have, so far, approached them with too much respect, already defeated before the kick of the ball. But this side are developing the character which could see them come away with something, even if it turns out to be one point.

    Of course, Liverpool and Klopp would be looking to hit some team really bad, after that defeat to the Hammers. Maybe, it is that same anxiety we can take advantage of to frustrate them and nick it late on. Liverpool will be fragile in confidence and if we can hold them off long into the game, the nerves may be transmitted by the fans to the players. Either way, it helps that the general expectation for us is a loss.

  • GN5 can u pls send the link for the documentary
    TA, life is going on. Corona seems to have taken a back seat. It’s been raining cats and dogs. It’s been cold and damp all day for a week now. Work is hectic and enjoying the football. So happy times :).

  • GN5 link for the documentary please.
    TA, it’s been busy work is hectic. Covid seems to have taken a back seat. Life has returned to normalcy but iam still working from home which saves me lot of driving. It’s been cold and damp for a week which is a surprise. Enjoying the arsenal football so happy days 😊

  • Thanks for the personal update, Madhu. Glad to hear you’re experiencing normalcy and can be a lot at home with family whilst doing your job. I hope it warms up for you soon. 🤗

  • Good post Total and I’ve only really read your early exchanges with GN5 so I hope I’m not being repetitive of anyone else, but I think that as long as we can visit Anfield with our best team available then I think we can definitely leave Scouseland with a good positive result.

    As for the uneven handed ness of officials during the early Wenger years there is no doubt in my mind that Arsenal were treated unfairly by referees, I lost count of how many red cards we received when our players, after intense provocation, reacted and were dismissed whilst the original sinners escaped retribution, it was actually a measure of our talent that we overcame the obvious bias – and yes, as an Englishman I absolutely believe that there was an undercurrent of lets gets ‘Johnny Foreigner’ from both the FA, Premier League and Referees Association who saw Arsenal as a foreign team led by a foreign manager.

    You know, those damned foreigners like Ray Parlour and Tony Adams etc.
    (And a foreign manager the FA wanted as the England team manager ironically)…

  • Eris, with Vlahovic in mind I saw a short vid, well I watched only part of it really because I have other things to do and spend enough of my life on Arsenal as it is, not that I regret that… 😉

    Yes, the vid Eris, it was of the Swedish guy Isak, who if I’m honest, didn’t really impress me in the Euros, but I’ve looked again and he’s just what this Arsenal team needs, a physical focal point, he’s quite pacy for a big man, has a nice Kanu type style with his big ‘plates of meat’ and is pretty economical in front of goal. Much better that the guy from Serbia.

  • Oops, I hope I haven’t usurped any of your planned post on strikers Total, I shall move on swiftly…

    Good to see Tierney playing for Scotland and getting match fit for Anfield – if selected?
    Pleased to see Miguel Azeez score his first goal for Portsmouth.
    Delighted for Smithy, glad he only got a few minutes and that Saka sat it out.

    Fingers, legs, eyes, arms all crossed that the rest of our squad returns fighting fit…

    Just been watching a great series on the Vietnam war by Ken Burns

  • Kola has apparently suffered a season-ending injury. Auba scored a penalty in the Ghana match and was taken off near the end. That probably means that he will leave us next summer on a free transfer.

    As he was running around at the end celebrating a victory with his teammates so if he was injured it doesn’t sound serious. Ghana can’t qualify now despite that win so, let’s hope that Auba comes through their next match unscathed and if he has suffered a knock I would like to think that would rest him.

  • Xhaka back in some level of training. I said to quote me that he’d be back in November instead of January like everyone was worried. He won’t make November I’m sure, but he’ll be close. That’s the iron man.

    I did love Ainsley last week. And Partey was finally what I expected vs Leicester. What is the mystery injury now, has anyone heard?

  • GunnerOX10, I am guessing you were referring to Gabon there. Ghana can still qualify, mathematically speaking, but have to beat South Africa by a lot of goals. Partey must be gutted he couldn’t be there to help in the draw against Ethiopia.

  • Kev, Ta and other gooners Pls help me undertand this. During wengers time the narrative was that arsenal were a French team and that they don’t English players a chance. Even though there were players like sol, Cole and others like Jeffers etal the narrative was set. You could see the bias with the officials. I believe that the Invincibles were less celebrated due tot his bias.
    But today Arsenal team is made of atleast 5 British players and potentially more coming. But still the commentary that hear in india witj the likes of Jim Beglin, Peter Drury, Andy Townsend is so one sided. Arsenal can do no right. Even the most blatant kick on Saka an England regular doesn’t get even a legitimate condemning. Whereas the liverpool, Manc, Chelsea and Manu can do no wrong. The frothing on liverpool players is unbelievable.
    Help me understand this is there a historical context to this animosity to Arsenal? Is that I reading too much in to this? I feel there is no objectivity to the commentary.

  • Hey TA

    Coming up for air… Let me give you a Chase-ism: “own the field and own the mind, and victory is always possible” (implication: no matter the odds).

    What I see for Pool and in general:

    A. Better field management and control via ESR, Saka, and Partey + Lokomga – own the field

    B. Far tougher defenders with added Adams-esque and Campbell-esque hitting power to create (remember my first post?) “Presence!” … for the first time in forever we have Presence! Note the capital “P” and “!”… Own the mind.

    And they’re consistent, or more so. Thus, Pool will be interesting, but regardless of outcome, I have no fear… and victory is possible. Perhaps not likely, but possible.

    Cheers from a tired JGC

  • It’s hard to tell, Madhu. There was also much admiration for Wenger’s Arsenal and this nation has xenophobic as well as very modern, inclusive people and sports commentators. Sky Sports are v poor re the latter and it shows in their reporting at times, and Arsenal’s past is partly driving the current narrative still. Best to turn the sound off, my friend. 🙂

  • Good to hear from you, Geoff.

    I have always liked your point about presence and I think you are right, we have much more of it now.

    Hope you and family are well?

  • Hi Madhu, it’s a historical antipathy to Arsenal really, it comes initially from the 1930’s when Arsenal were known as the Bank of England club, Arsenal were dominant because our directors had great contacts in the City of London and invested in the team, although it was still generated by the club in terms of big crowds, not subsides as is the case of modern day Chelsea, Man City and even Blackburn.

    Herbert Chapman knew that a successful club in the centre of a city like London could dominate, his ideas are well known and he developed the clubs image, but this came in an era of depression, especially in the north of England and if you come from a northern town where there is high unemployment and poverty, you’re not going to like London or Londoners (streets paved with gold etc) and the one thing you have and can hang onto is your football club.

    Then some fancy big time club from London, where in your mind everyone is wealthy (which wasn’t the case) comes along, buys your star footballers and starts winning everything, you’re going to have a grudge against that club and that’s across the board, the fans, the press, the referees etc.

    It’s kinda grown from that Madhu but it’s had many different faces since the 1930’s.

    English football in 1996 was slow to change and adapt to foreign influences, ironically Herbert Chapman was again ahead of the curve and tried to sign the Austrian national goalkeeper back in the 1930’s but was stopped by the FA. Anyway we had this highly educated, urbane Frenchman coming into ‘our’ game with his ideas on diet and exercise telling us what’s best for us, even Ferguson rubbished him initially before copying him.

    He brought in all these French players, Remi Garde, Patrick Vieira, Gilles Grimaldi, Manu Petit, Nicolas Anelka who alongside Dennis Bergkamp and Marc Overmars blew away England’s finest, it was like the Bank of England club all over again, or the Bank of France perhaps. Then France won the World Cup in 1998 to further rub salt into our wounds. When I say ‘our’, I don’t mean Arsenal fans as I was cheering for France in 1998, it was Arsenal that won it. 😉

    I’m certain that referees, who ostensibly were English football fans, felt a touch of ‘who do these foreigners think they are coming over here and winning everything’…

    Ferguson tapped into that, he was the king of psychology in a football sense, turned media and press against us as well as influenced the referees and we’ve suffered ever since.

    It’s more detailed than that, I’m sure that GN5 has some views on it as well and can add to the answer.
    Hope that helps…

  • Another point Madhu, was that for a period, Wenger put out Arsenal teams made up of XI foreigners with sometimes the bench full of foreigners and that gave the media another stick to beat us with, when instead they should have maybe been more introspective and asking the real reasons why Wenger doesn’t sign English players?

    It wasn’t just price it was availability, there wasn’t any good enough at times during his reign and certainly not worth the fees being demanded.

    That’s all changed now, our coaching is among the best in the world and the English system now develops young players that are as good as anywhere and they are sought after across Europe, but that wasn’t the case 20 years ago Madhu…

    Btw, Chelsea were the first Premier team to field XI foreigners, but that does suit the anti Arsenal narrative so it’s never mentioned…

  • Kev that’s a detailed account. Thanks for that. Makes sense as to why you still feel that antipathy.

  • Hi TA

    All good here, just busy. Kids and family well, and NZ likely had best combo of geographic and economic advantages re: covid.

    Yes, IMO of course, Presence! is real, and translates to how teams approach you mentally. It’s also got some memory. IMO, the last few successful years of Wenger had a bit to do perhaps with people fearing what wasn’t quite there. Perhaps?

    So, me, I’m happy with where they’re at and headed. And, so so young! There is opportunity in this squad going forward.

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