Inspired by Arteta’s Arsenal with quality and vibes

It’s been a while since I wrote about football for pleasure. As a teenager, through university and then into the early years of working life, I was regularly writing and podcasting either for my own site or on ESPN FC. But getting older, other life stuff became more important. Plus Arsenal’s transition into the post-Arsene Wenger world didn’t bring much footballistic joy.

But with ten games to go in the 2022-23 season, and in the middle of the international break with a chance to reflect before launching into the run-in, I’ve found myself drawn to the laptop keyboard to splurge out some #content.

Does this make me a fair-weather blogger? Quite possibly. But I’m happy to dig out my posts following the 8-2 at Man Utd or the League Cup final defeat to Birmingham.

I felt the need to document thoughts / feelings / general musings at what is going on at Arsenal currently, in what is the most exciting season I’ve experienced since the move to the Emirates. While that is obviously driven by being top of the league for virtually the entire season, it also comes from the style of play and the vibes I’ve felt going to games.

Earlier in the season after wins against Tottenham and Liverpool, when being top of the table felt like a novelty, it seemed as if it was just vibes that were keeping Arsenal at the summit. The atmosphere was buzzing at the Emirates. You could see on people’s faces how happy and excited everyone was to come and watch this team play. For the first time in the history of the stadium, there felt like there was a fear factor for the opposition because of the positive atmosphere and how good the vibes were.

But while those vibes have continued throughout the season, to just credit Arsenal’s form this season to something intangible like that would be a disservice to the incredible team that has been produced by Mikel Arteta and his coaching staff. As a fan, you can get lost in the emotion of a game and the desperation to win, but on re-watching matches, it becomes clear how the patterns of play, the technical quality and the character of this Arsenal team is different to what we’ve become accustomed to since the stadium move.

Arsenal’s growing habit of late winning goals might not seem like a sustainable run of form for the team and for the hearts of the supporters, but all the late goals have been deserved due to the quality and intensity of Arsenal’s play. The last 20 minutes at home against Manchester United saw Arsenal pin the opposition in, generate wave after wave of attack and commit players forward to create opportunities. This was all done while sticking to the team’s strengths and not just tossing hopeful crosses into the box.

The same was true in the comeback against Bournemouth. The winning goal itself might have come from a headed clearance landing perfectly for Reiss Nelson on the edge of the box, but the whole of the half before that had seen Arsenal trust their ability to build-up play, work the openings, stress the defence and the chances eventually came.

In the aftermath of the Reiss Nelson moment against Bournemouth, when attempting to consume all the content about that game, I spotted myself in this run of images from @norwegianshutter on Instagram.

Scroll along to image four in the post. Ignoring me in the burgundy cap jumping a mile in the air, I love looking at the faces in the crowd, captured in the split second that the ball has hit the net. There’s a range of ages of people in their Arsenal-supporting life, with youngsters building a love for their club in their formative years, through to older supporters clinging on to the dream of a title that they thought they might not see Arsenal compete for again.

The other reason this image stands out to me is how it seems to bring together what Arteta really wanted to build at Arsenal. Coming at the end of a game where Arsenal had to rely on their technical quality and detailed coaching, the comeback also fed off an atmosphere that was relentlessly positive despite the adversity in the game, ending in the raw emotion from fans and players alike. His famous passion, clarity, energy doodle played out in front of us.

During the grim behind-closed-doors season of 2020-21, Arteta regularly spoke about missing the supporters. Given how meagre the atmosphere had been for a long time at the Emirates up until the lockdown in March 2020, it was hard to envisage how much of a difference the fans would make. But with a more engaged crowd since the return to stadiums at the start of 2021-22, Arteta’s calls for fans to get involved and create energy don’t just feel like a manager trying to say nice things to get onside with supporters. The vibes have been a fundamental part in the identity of this team, making the exceptional technical and tactical work come to life and take on a fresh meaning for the players.

Whatever happens in this run-in, this season has seen an elite Arsenal team emerge and has strengthened my own fan relationship with the club. I feel so connected to the team and the culture that Mikel Arteta has built. But amidst the stress, tension and desperation of wanting to see Arsenal win a first title in 19 years, I’m trying really hard to open my eyes and take in the high quality football that’s being played. This Arsenal team are smooth, connected, dynamic and determined, and adding the good vibes into that mix gives us hope of an almighty party in N5 at the end of May.

*Sincere apologies in advance if me blogging again jinxes Arsenal’s end to the season in any way. For all of the clarity and quality that Arteta’s team play with, like many other fans, I’m sure to be doing some weird superstitious stuff between now and the end of May!


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