Morning all, a bit of a quick one for you today.
Mikel Arteta meets the press this morning as he and we head into a pivotal eight days or so. Tomorrow we face Olympiacos away; there’s a North London derby at the weekend; then we host the Greek side next week.
I see a lot of talk about how we should prioritise the Europa League, and I can see why that’s something people think, but I just don’t believe we have that luxury. We could win both games in Europe, and a poor showing against Sp*rs would still be damaging. Nobody is going to say ‘Forget it, we’re prioritising Europe’. That’s just not how it works. Regardless of where we are in the league and how difficult it might be to finish in the European places, the manager’s job is to get results on Thursday, then Sunday, then Thursday again, then the following Sunday, then hopefully another Thursday, then … well, you get the idea.
Ultimately his job is to get us out of this godawful Thursday/Sunday routine, which might come from progression this season because of the double-prize of winning the competition, but the best way to do it is to build a team which can challenge for the top four and beyond. We’re still some way away from that, let’s be honest.
That Olympiacos have a 16 point lead at the top of the Greek Super League makes life a lot less complicated for them. They genuinely can make the Arsenal ties a priority, because a) it doesn’t make any real impact on them if they lose their next domestic game, and b) they’re playing bottom of the table Larissa so they’re hardly worried about that fixture anyway.
I did enjoy this from their Portuguese forward Bruma, talking to Charles Watts of Goal about what they’ve learned about Arsenal from former Gunner Sokratis:
“He has told us some secrets, but I won’t tell you about any of them. It’s between us and Sokratis.
“Of course, he knows Arsenal’s locker room better than anyone.”
Arseblog can exclusively reveal that the information came in video format. Sokratis, a man who endured some of Unai Emery’s epic video sessions, knew that he had to be to the point and succinct, otherwise attention spans would waver. So, taking everything he learned from Emery, and during his three or so years with Arsenal, he got all the Olympiacos lads together, got the popcorn out (2 kernels each), and showed them this:
I really should have inserted a low-level bass rumble sound at the start to channel my inner Christopher Nolan, but if you do that you have to fully commit to your art, and who has got time this morning for a four hour movie in which you can’t hear any of the dialogue and whose chronology is based on picking random moments in time and then copying and pasting them together?
It’s an interesting idea though, that a former player could provide information that isn’t already in the public domain. I mean, obviously there’s lots of stuff he could say, but that’d be about individuals and their personalities more than what is clearly identifiable by anyone who has paid even scant attention to us recently.
Olympiacos, for example, don’t need Sokratis to tell them that there are players whose concentration levels can be a problem for us, or some are less press resistant than others.
“So, you’re telling us that if you hassle Granit Xhaka he’ll generally be fine, but every so often he’ll succumb to that pressure? And that if you can cause David Luiz’s otherwise pretty functional brain circuits to wobble for a couple of seconds he might do something stupid? Interesting, very interesting.”
That’s the stuff any functional scouting department, or person with eyes, can tell you. Perhaps there are little details about what certain players choose to do in certain situations, but I don’t really know how much value Sokratis will be to them in the secret-agent department. It’ll be interesting to see if he plays, because he had a couple of iffy moments in an Arsenal shirt (not too many though in fairness), and if he knows us, our players certainly know him.
More on that game tomorrow, and we’ll have all the stories from the press conference on Arseblog News later on.
For some extra reading this morning, Lewis’ latest Tactics Column looks at the ‘direction of travel’, and the improvement since Christmas. As he rightly points out, being relatively pleased with what we’re doing now doesn’t make up for what came before, but we needed better and we’ve been getting it. Check it out here.
Right, I have to leave it there for this morning. Back tomorrow with a preview, the juicy bits from the manager’s press conference, and all the rest.
Until then, take it easy.