Good morning everyone and happy Tuesday.
I enjoyed the post-game comments from Aaron Ramsdale, speaking like a sort of Bob Seger about how there is a ‘fire within’ this Arsenal team after the pain of the way last season ended. I like this, because while it’s intangible, it’s also very real.
I am convinced that the season of Invincible does not happen without the way the 2002-03 season unfolded. For younger readers and newer fans, with four games to go, we were just three points behind Man Utd with a game in hand. We had +1 goal difference compared to theirs, then Sam Allardyce’s Bolton kicked three of our players off the pitch and Martin Keown’s own goal made it 2-2. Then, drawing 2-2 with Leeds at home, Mark Bloody Viduka nabbed a late winner and that was it.
Looking back, Arsenal’s response was immediate. We destroyed Southampton 6-1 in what became the first of 49 unbeaten games, but boy, boy, those Bolton and Leeds games hurt. Especially since a couple of weeks before that, United’s 2-2 draw at Highbury, as the rivalry simmered and bubbled like a volcano about to explode, Sol Campbell was sent off because Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pretended he had been elbowed him in the face.
The frustration and annoyance of that incident played out at Old Trafford a few months later when Ruud van Nistelrooy missed that penalty and chaos ensued and who among us will forget Lauren strangling a terrified Phil Neville? Truly one of the most beautiful moments in football.
But the broader pain that the end of that season caused was, at least in my opinion, a major motivation for the 2003-04 campaign. I’m not saying missing out on fourth place is the same as losing a title you were desperate to defend, especially against a really hated opponent, but it’s all relative, right? Last season we had that in our hands, then we lost to the old enemy. And in many ways, it was in us. We didn’t have the depth to deal with the final part of last season, and the idea that it was, at least in some way, self-inflicted probably hurts a little more.
So if these players and this coach want to use that, then I’m all for it. Soccer is very often a game of fine margins. A failed tackle here, poor positioning there, and that’s all it takes to turn 3 points to 1, or 1 to none. I’m sure there will be a piece or two this week about the video analysis that Mikel Arteta uses to remind his players that sometimes you can get away with it, but if you can dig in and give it a little more, those situations don’t develop. in the same way.
I also liked that Ramsdale talked about how they feel the reaction of the crowd when we concede a goal. There was a moment of silence after Harry Kane scored his inevitable penalty on Saturday (point of order: we should stop giving penalties), but that was followed by a huge cheer from all sides of the pitch to get the team back on track. The Arsenal goalkeeper said:
“Every time something has happened this season, Fulham, Leicester, when we concede a goal, it’s like we’ve scored a goal with the noise the fans make and that gives us a boost. It’s a never say die attitude, the way I would put it is a ‘F*ck-it’ mentality. Who cares that we have conceded?
“We have 10 minutes, 70 minutes, we will play our way. We never run out of time. That is the most important thing for us and for the manager: we do not stop working”.
That ethic was very clear during Todo o nada: what Arteta demands of his players at all times, from training to the matches themselves, is evident. Compare what Ramsdale just said with the mentality of this team just before Arteta took over in 2019. He was at the Emirates as Pep Guardiola’s assistant, and the look on his face as he sat on the away bench spoke volumes. like Man City never had. come out of first gear to beat us 3-0. That was a team that was defeated in the tunnel beforehand, never mind on the field itself.
We have to keep qualifying because it’s ‘only 8 games’ this season, which is absolutely true, but it’s also true that there’s a lot to be excited about because of how we’re playing, what we’re doing and the fact that you’re up the table despite Man City’s terrifying efficiency and quality. Keep going.
Ok, that’s all for this morning. We’ve got a new episode of The 30 on Patreon, in which we do a 30-minute recap of the weekend’s Premier League action, including talks on the North London derby, Haaland, Brighton, lucky Chelsea and much more. plus. You can listen here if you’re a subscriber, and if you’re not, instant access to that and everything else we do on Patreon is only €5 a month.
See you tomorrow!