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Reassessing what a “success” looks like

Happy holidays to those that this applies to. I hope everyone is well and as happy as can be. I, myself, am in the throws of holiday season. It’s an odd holiday given the pandemic, but that isn’t stopping us from making it as successful as it can be.

Usually, around this time it’s about loading up the car with goods and foods, spending days with family and friends, and enjoying a bit of time off to recover from the year and remedy any burnout. This year, despite hopes that something like that would be possible, it’s simply not. It’s been a tough thing to accept for many. I think many love their holiday traditions. But in the face of the current global situation, we will adjust the plans and do what we can to make the holiday season a success. After all, everyone has their health, and fortunately those close to me that have tested positive, have recovered.

But this isn’t a blog about my holidays, it’s an Arsenal blog, and this reframing of holiday success is not the only case of altering goals needed at this time.

See where I’m going? wink wink. Flawless transition! You love it, you love it.

Arsenal currently sit in 15th place, their run of form has gone beyond atrocious to a word that doesn’t even exist – it’s dia-troci-ckening (diabolical, atrocious, sickening?). And it’s put Arsenal in a place where a comeback is essentially out of the question. A 4-2-8 record, -6 goal differential, 14 matches in it’s reaching the point where the table levels itself out and major swings are hard to come by — is fourth place impossible? No. Is it going happen? No.

What would that take? Immense spending in January, deals completed early, the right fits, all done in time and bedded comfortably into the team in time for Arsenal to win the rest of their games starting with Southampton on January 26th? That also is under the assumption that they get a good amount of points with their current squad against Brighton, West Brom, Crystal Palace, and Newcastle.

To put an end to those fantasies, James Benge tweeted that Arsenal aren’t expecting a replacement for Huss Fahmy who left back in October. Either Arsenal are really searching for the perfect candidate or it just dawned on them that they may need a contract-man to do January contracts. In the meantime, it’s in the hands of Edu… the same Edu that no one is really sold on at the moment? Yes. That Edu. Time to shine and show us what you can do!

But what’s this, “the plan is still to recruit a new head of football operations”? Yes, but one that reports to Edu and is basically just another middle-man. If you are looking at it positively, you could believe this person would handle some of the tasks Arteta has been doing since becoming manager, which will allow Mikel to refocus on the team. But in reality, this seems like a plug in the middle that doesn’t solve Arsenal’s issues up top at an executive level, nor on a playing staff/manager level, so I find myself pretty unimpressed by it.

Not only am I unimpressed, I believe this news foreshadows exactly how difficult this January window is going to be for Arsenal. They have an immense amount of work to do, and it will be up to Edu to do it all. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

I’m ready to be proven wrong. I LOVE to be proven wrong when I doubt Arsenal, but will I be?

Which brings us to the sobering moment that often comes with sport – reframing what “success” looks like.

Maybe success isn’t the right word since Arsenal have fallen flat when it comes to achieving anywhere close to the initial club goals. It would be one thing if you looked back and the goals were “win the league, take the treble, and get into Champions League”, but they weren’t. They were reasonable aspirations. So any goals reached after reassessment hardly makes the season a “success”. It simply makes the second half of the season passable. Makes the most of the situation they are have put themselves in. So what does that that look like?

Obviously, if Arsenal win the Europa League all of this is moot because that achieves Arsenal’s goal of making the Champions League and is undoubtedly a success, but I won’t hold my breath.

List of goals:

  • Bring in an established Technical Director, Director of Football, or Chief Executive that comes with a footballing background
  • Begin to sell or remove the immense amount of players that the club needs to move on from
  • Purchase 1, maybe 2, club-minded purchases that fit the direction the club want, not just Arteta, in case Arteta doesn’t last
  • Truly dedicate efforts and minutes to involve younger players like Willock, Smith Rowe, Saka, Balogun, and even Pepe
  • Limit or eliminate the minutes being given to players that aren’t, or shouldn’t be, a part of the long term future of the club – Willian, Luiz, etc.
  • Pick a direction with Saliba. If he is being loaned, do it and be done. If he is in the side, he needs to be in the side every day. This ‘at the club but never involved’ approach is one of the worst man management situations I can remember
  • If possible, determine Partey’s midfield partner or the role Arteta sees him playing for the foreseeable future and stick with it
  • Reestablish a clear scouting operation
  • Openly acknowledge the mistakes that were made earlier this year, lay them bare, and transparently atone
  • Place no lower than 12th, top 10 preferred

Asking too much of the side? Too little? Probably a bit of both. These are not the goals of a club with Arsenal’s stature, but it’s certainly a laundry list of lengthy projects. Some about the team itself, many about the club structure, few about Arteta in or out.

I plan on doing a separate piece around Mikel, but essentially my current stance is that as long as Arsenal aren’t relegated, Arsenal should be putting more emphasis on club structure and player overhaul to support Arteta, or another future manager, during a season that has fallen short of the mark.

I realize that some of these goals are unlikely. The first one contradicts Vinai’s statement earlier this month that Arsenal won’t replace Raul, and it flies in the face of James Benge’s tweet, but I still believe it’s something Arsenal need to do.

The rest of the season is going to feel long. It’s going to be tough. Chances are, Arsenal will lose a fair few, fickle fans along the way – good riddance. If this is a season result that was a long time in the making, as it seems, then continuing to look for short cuts or ways to push it out needs to stop.

That’s my list. It will probably be adjusted as things go, and results will obviously dictate that in a major way. I believe they are achievable, I believe it would help set up for next year and, as sad as it is, setting up for next year may be the best thing Arsenal can do for themselves.

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