Good morning everyone, happy Saturday to you.
There were some interesting excerpts from Mikel Arteta’s press conference yesterday. As we prepare for a busy summer in the transfer market with lots of comings and goings, the manager has been asked if his squad – as it stands – is ready for the double challenge of the Premier League and Champions League (not to mention cup competitions).
His answer was very sincere:
Today? At the level we want, no. We couldn’t do that in the Europa League. We have made many good steps, strong steps on this journey. We must continue. It never ends. We have to be better. The rest will be better. The requirements will be higher. We need to start living by these standards, improve them, and be smarter.
Of course, one of the ways we do this will be adding to the roster by bringing in players from other places. The season isn’t even over with so many names floating around and when you consider that at least half a dozen players are linked with a departure from the club, it’s going to take a lot of effort to add the depth and quality we need. Some of it will have to be internal, and Arteta continued:
It doesn’t just mean signing contracts with players. This is to improve our players. There are players we haven’t played well with this season. Our job is to improve them because there are some players who didn’t have minutes or performances and we need to look for those players who will give us a different advantage. It’s not just about buying players. It’s about resources, staffing, and improving certain things that can be done better, more efficiently, or smarter.
The players I immediately thought of were Emile Smith Rowe and Fabio Vieira. The former had a very depressing season, which was obviously affected by the surgery, but since returning from the game (and after a minor glitch kept him out of action for several weeks), he’s only played 99 of the 1,260 minutes he’s available for. . Some of Arteta’s comments about him seemed like a challenge to elicit a response from him. Maybe he never got the response he was hoping for, or maybe it was due to the season being even, but he just wasn’t playing.
This has led to speculation about his departure, which is perfectly normal in football. If it is the case that the manager has lost faith in the player, there is usually only one course of action. But we know what Smith Rowe can do, even if he hasn’t done it this season, and when you think of players who didn’t get minutes, he’s basically at the top of the list for me. When you think of a player who could make a positive contribution, you have evidence of what he has done before – even if I share some of Tim’s concerns about how he could fit into this team now.
So does Viera. We’ve seen glimpses of what he can do. That goal against Brentford was a very promising sign at the start of the season, but like Smith Rowe, and as the season went on, he didn’t play anywhere near as much as you’d like. After starting against Bournemouth ahead of Granit Xhaka (an interesting choice for various reasons), he played just 79 of the next 900 available minutes. Spending £35m on him last summer is significant, there’s no way you can get anything close to that now, and I think he’s another one that fits neatly into the category of someone who can do better and who can be improved.
Clearly there is a physical element to it and it is not uncommon for a player to take time to get used to the Premier League and its challenges. The arrival injured didn’t help him, and in the 22nd time he is definitely on his side. Nevertheless, his first season was disappointing, there’s no doubt about it.
So it will be fascinating to see what happens to these two in particular. We’ve seen players like Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and to some extent Eddie Nketiah improve under this manager and his coach. That doesn’t mean Smith Rowe and Vieira will completely repeat their trajectories, but if Arteta sees them as players he can count on, there’s still a lot of work to be done in preparation for next season.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the story about a training dog, a chocolate Labrador named “Win”. I believe its owner is a staff member who is there most days instead of having a free range dog that only poodles (no pun intended) all day every day. says Artetta:
We always talk about family and being connected. A big family, like in a club, and I feel like we are a family, we need a dog to represent this family. I think there are still things at the club that you can do to connect with people. Be more caring towards people, show love.
The response from players and staff has been amazing, she’s one of us. He will be with us on this journey. It’s something that changes your mood like this (snaps fingers). He gives you all the love and suddenly you feel the energy of the place. It’s just beautiful and these things are very important to me.
Regular readers of this blog know that I am a very dog person. When the site started, we had Opus, an Arseblog Basset Hound, and now I have two German Shepherds, Archer and Lana.
For me, dogs just make things better. I’m 51 and still get a little dizzy when I see a dog in a pub. Pub dogs are so great. And I just love the idea that this training dog will greet players with a tail wag every day when they come to work. Will this make a difference in our tactical approach to tough European matches next season? Absolutely not.
But will there be a dog? Yes, yes it will, and it’s a scientific fact that a good dog makes any seat 34.325% better. I read this in a scientific paper from esteemed dogologist Professor Godfrey Twatschlock published in the Scientific Journal of Science, so QED as they say.
Or rather, “wow”.
The last thing for today is of course our trip to Nottingham Forest. We don’t have Gabriel Martinelli so there will be at least one attacking change, you assume it will be Leandro Trossard, but let’s see. Other than that, I don’t see many other differences. In terms of approach, we need to have an attitude that something crazy could happen elsewhere – even if it’s very unlikely – and that has to inform how seriously we take it. Forest will be up for it in the final home game of the season and still need points to avoid relegation, so it could be scrap.
In the meantime, have a nice Saturday. I’ll catch you later for the game – and don’t forget we have podcast preview for you on Patreon now.