To win pretty, or not to win at all: that is the question.

Or to put it another way,

“Dear Bill, apologies for purloining the opening line of your soliloquy and updating it for Arsenal and a cheap gag somewhere along the line.” 

Petr Cech put the cat among the pigeons after the win over Everton by observing that Arsenal lost the psychological edge needed to win trophies. In essence, we forgot how to win the title.

When a club wins titles, it means you have a team with the know-how to finish it off and you can see it in any sport. I take Tiger Woods. It’s been some years since he won a Major tournament and the longer it goes on, the harder it becomes.

This club hasn’t won the league for over 10 years so obviously, you need to get back to knowing how to do it.

Petr Cech, the righteous brother, claims Arsenal lost that winning feeling, Woah-Woah-Woah

That’s no surprise. It’s the manifestation of accepting a top-four finish as the benchmark of success. Aim low and miss, you finish lower; aim high and miss? At least you’ve got a good chance of winning.

The root cause of that situation was breaking up the Invincibles too quickly and in doing so, not replacing them with players of sufficient quality. Project Youth became a tarnished phrase, spat out with venom as a succession of talented young players aimed for the moon, missed, and then went onto other clubs to land successfully. 

We were left with some talented young players, inconsistent journeymen who veered from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of 90 seconds, and players in whom experience was misidentified as a winning mentality.

That ground was well-trodden in the past, causing fissures in the fanbase which will take generations to heal.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Read the Message

Cech spoke of the difference at the club under Emery.

“What we lacked in the past – I would say the ‘Arsenal way’ was more important than getting the points sometimes and this is not how you win the league.

“Sometimes you need to make sure you win an ugly game when you are not playing completely well but you just dig deep, close the back door and win 1-0 no matter how.

“I think this is what we lacked over the last three years since I arrived.”

Cech on Wenger vs Emery

Inevitably, Cech was slated for being disloyal to the previous manager. But not praised for being loyal to a manager previous to the previous manager. Winning ugly? One-nil to the Arsenal? Suits you, Mister Graham.

While that grabbed the headlines, Cech merely said exactly the same as Bellerin, Mustafi, Mkhitaryan and others. We’re better prepared because Unai Emery is more thorough in his coaching. Or to put it another way, footballers like order, they like to be told about their opposition. Emery does that. Stops short of Don Revie’s dossiers but readies the team for their opponents.

Arsene didn’t, which we know is true. Underpinning his philosophy in the beautiful game was an unshakeable belief in the quality of his players. The preparations for games centred on them being the best they could and that was good enough to win the match. Except when they weren’t good enough, we didn’t learn.

The displeasure at Cech’s words boils down to the messenger. When Bellerin speaks, a set of fans, i.e. his critics, gets upset. Mustafi, Mkhitaryan, now Cech; someone is always upset by the messenger because they don’t like or rate them – usually both. The message remains the same which is where the focus must surely lie? Apparently not.

The Good, The Bad and the…

Emery and Wenger’s approach to matches is completely different with the Spaniard more in line with the traditional La Liga mindset. Nacho Monreal said recently that tactical thinking in the lead-up to a match was the main difference between coaching in the two countries. Given the different paths he and Wenger trod in arriving at Arsenal, there should be no surprise their coaching methods are radically different.

Will it be better under Emery? Possibly, but the only guarantee we have is that it will be different. The outcome isn’t going to be seen just in this season but over a number of seasons; Emery can’t undo and rebuild in one year, possibly not even two. The habits of the old regime are too well ingrained, particularly after 20+ years of one man at the helm.

Defining what is a successful season for Arsenal in 2018/19 is not an easy task. There are the tangibles – trophies, league placings – but so much of what the club needs to happen is now able to. Not just in Wenger’s departure but also in Gazidis’, with the clear demarcation of lines between the business and football sides of the club. Nobody has a foot in both camps, allowing clearly defined focus. That can only be a good thing. Or maybe less bad than before...

’til Tomorrow

14 thoughts on “To win pretty, or not to win at all: that is the question.

  1. Cech is saying what we all knew. Wenger was way past his ‘sell by’ date and the Club had gone rotten to the core. Now that He has gone there is an optimism around the club that hasn’t been there for at least 5 years.

  2. Good stuff Yogi.

    Wabt ti be compared to Liverpool and Citeh in their first years under Klopp and Pep…..Pep said he valued the style over silverware in his first season because he believed if his players learned and fully bought in to Pep and his style, silverware would come. Klopp, I know its great and they are building but to also be fair, they have a style after 3 years (sure he has 2 European Finals but hasn’t actually won anything).

    Emery will need time and having watched him and his clubs for all these years, he is very tactical but also wants to win playing great looking futbol but is willing to play good possession futbol on the counter.

  3. Great post yogi

    I have been camping and didn’t have internet for a while and then traveling back to Texas. I have read a few of your posts but I have been the absentee blogger. I have not seen anything more then a couple of highlights from any of the games. The last 4 league games have been a nice run of results and hopefully we can keep winning. I agree with the sentiment Cech was discussing. Its nicer to be able to play the way you like but pragmatism and winning (even if it’s ugly) trumps style points 100% of the time. We should have sacked Arsene many years ago.

  4. Really hope to see the likes of Nketiah, Smith-Rowe, Willock get a run out. With Sead back in full training, I wonder if he will get a runout or if it will be the U23’s LB Bola.

  5. I would have preferred Cech to have made those comments when Arsene was in situ but you can’t go wrong with a nice bit of sucking up to a new manager.

    We may well be in transition & a work in progress for some time but I’m quite enjoying seeing even the smallest changes to attitude / style / tactics in contrast to the last decade of monotony.

  6. I hear what all the players are saying but personally I think Cech’s comments are actually a bit different than those of Mustafi, Bellerin and the lot because they are talking about preparation, tactics and the culture of the club…Cech seems to be saying Arsene sent out teams to play and wanted style over substance and didn’t want to win. I’m not Arsene apologist and think he was well past it but I also think Cech, even last season I remeber chatting with Bob, needs to stop talking and focus on his job and how to help the team. Arsene brought him in to be a leader and help instill that winning mentality and he hasn’t and actually has been part of the problem outside his first season.

  7. Refreshing bit of honesty from Cech about the past. I wonder if he will be as honest about the future, but more power to him. If changing the manager is what was required to get honesty from the players then changing the manager should have been done sooner. On the other hand I would pick trophies over honesty so I must sort that one.

  8. Excellent article. Having watched Cech’s interview, I’m not sure why he’s drawn so many adverse comments. He described the differences under the two managers but did so without any rancour, I thought. And he was correct in what he said. Most, if not all, fans would like to see their teams win with elan but the bottom line is, as Al Davis famously said, “Just win, baby”. It’s to be hoped that we are entering into an era where Arsenal do indeed win consistently (although it will not happen overnight.)

  9. I feel Cech spoke so because a weight was lifted off his shoulder and he got his first clean sheet of the season. I have been plainly anti AW and its because like Cech said, sometimes you need to compromise beauty to achieve the set goal.

    Same AW who peddled the 4th place trophy talk, same guy who had his side beating other teams namely 7-0, but gets beaten 8-2.The man wasted our time, resources and felt we had no right to question him.

    I’m happy Cech said this and I sure want to see more grit and style in our play. It’s time to regain the fear factor effect the Invincibles had on their opponents. The sooner we click the better.

  10. thanks for the post, not the best win over the weekend but i’ll take it. On Sokratis/Mustafi, Mustafi should have fookin hoofed it. There were a few plays earlier on, Sokratis could have been fancy but he just cleared it out of bounds. Reset the D and carry on. Let the advanced players take fancy touches, if you are near 18yd box please get that shit out of here.

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