An extension cord is being installed at Arsenal’s training ground. The speakers are brought to the edge of the pitch. Mikel Arteta has chosen the soundtrack as she prepares for a trip to Anfield. And so You’ll never Walk Alone sounds in London Colney. With Arsenal duly losing 4-0, he might have been better off just going for Kieran Tierney rather than the accident-prone Nuno Tavares.
He is doing better loaning Stuart MacFarlane, the club photographer and lifelong fan, to have a team chat ahead of the north London derby. Arsenal duly demolish Tottenham. Perhaps the inspiration didn’t come from the camera, however, but from a drawing, like Arteta’s Pictionary-style sketch of someone waving an Arsenal scarf, with a massive heart and brain on either side. It could have made all the difference. Although Nuno Espirito Santo may have gotten his tactics so terribly wrong by failing to have proper midfield that the shenanigans were entirely irrelevant other than what they say about Arsenal’s obsessive manager.
All or nothing: Arsenal offers insight into Arteta’s methods and thinks Arsenal is an appropriate title for a documentary about a season that ultimately left Arsenal without both: bottom and goalless after three games, while Alexandre Lacazette wondered if they were having the worst start in Premier League history they stormed into the Champions League only to finish fifth.
But a more accurate name might be be Mikel Arteta. He endures screaming fans as he tries to drive away from August’s defeat by Chelsea and tells his team about the open-heart surgery he had as a toddler to save his life. The Amazon show gets in his head as he tries to get into the minds of his players; or at least go to the dressing room to discover some odd motivational techniques (although oddly, for example, immediately after the 5-0 loss to Manchester City, there’s no footage and airbrushing means certain issues aren’t addressed). .
Maybe the cameras will turn any manager into David Brent or Michael Scott. Chances are Arteta, who can exude a cold, clinical air, didn’t start out that way. A tactician and esteemed coach – Granit Xhaka calls him “a freak, but he sees details in a positive way” – is trying to develop into a sociable person and manager. “I can’t treat players like numbers,” he said. “They are human. I also need to understand them emotionally about what’s going on in their life.” Arteta cites Pep Guardiola’s advice – “it’s the loneliest profession” – and his group chats can seem forced, as if he’s rethought his tricks in a nod to his mentor, to to mobilize a whole team. Sometimes they offer themselves for ridicule.
“If he develops a little closer relationship with the players, he can go to another level,” says the director of Football Edu, noting the progress made during the unbeaten fall series when the Spaniard seems more relaxed, although the fourth episode is due to detail the dramatic Decision to exile its captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It could be a testament to Arteta’s recklessness to offset the slightly artificial attempts at cuddles.
Three months before Aubameyang’s fall, club director Josh Kroenke, who eventually approved the write-off of millions in transfer fees and salaries for the banished captain, and no mention of Mesut Özil, who left the previous year, said: “I was upset that we were like that many people trying to break up the group. Sometimes everyone needs an arm around their shoulders.”
Some might think Kroenke is coming out of this suspiciously well; As always, the question of the extent of editorial independence arises. The American seems to be a supportive presence, texting Bukayo Saka after his missed penalty at Euro 2020 and backing Arteta amid pre-season defeats. Arsenal owners have long felt enigmatic, but at least ‘Silent Stan’ Kroenke’s son is talkative Josh, whose beard makes him look like a friendly Romanov.
Aubameyang plays only a minor role as the focus shifts to another generation. There are signs of a connection between a revamped, younger Arsenal side that is Arteta’s construct. The decision to invest in youth seems justified by looking at some of their characters.
The exuberant, loveable Saka is the star of the show and the team. “Imagine you score in the North London Derby, bro,” he tells Emile Smith Rowe. “Best thing ever.” Both do. He confuses Lacazette by asking him if he’s been to Thorpe Park. He complains when he is seen in the shops despite the mask and hood. He had only dreamed of being a footballer, not of being famous.
Down-to-earth Tierney reveals that when he came to London his mother, a waitress and cleaner, was concerned he would become a celebrity rather than a footballer. He greeted Martin Odegaard as the Norwegian signed a permanent contract, saying: “I heard what your wages are and I was like, ‘Damn it’.”
Saka, Tierney and the sympathetically open Aaron Ramsdale exude authenticity. “It’s bloody embarrassing,” yelled the goalkeeper after Everton scored an injury-time winner. “That cost me the bastard clean sheet,” he exclaims after a late concession marred the win over Aston Villa.
However, maybe it’s easier for them to be natural. Players have an individual development coach. Arteta seems to be his own and is struggling at the low points. “You question yourself, you have fears,” he said. “Difficult things happen in your head: can I reverse it? Do I have the energy to go back tomorrow and deliver what I need to deliver? Are people going to believe in what we’re doing?’ They often do, although it could help on his next trip to Anfield if he devotes more time to Klopp and the goalscorers and less to Gerry and the pacemakers.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/arsenal-all-or-nothing-documentary-amazon-arteta-b2136344.html All or Nothing: Arsenal documentary reveals Mikel Arteta’s coaching gimmicks