It is not on the strength of a documentary ‘truth’ on the Arsenal 2021-22 season that we will venture to make predictions on what awaits the Gunners in 2022-2023. The first three episodes of All Or Nothing (‘Tout au rien’), the series that Amazon released on the eve of the Premier League curtain raiser, are not without any lessons, however.
. And the first of these lessons, despite how staged and contrived the exercise may be, is that Mikel Arteta, after hesitant first steps, learned to walk, and when he does, his players follow him. . Most of them, anyway.
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No, Arsenal will not be champions. The bookmakers who are quoting them 40 to 1 for the title can rest easy: it is more than unlikely that they will be forced to reward the optimism of some fans. Manchester City and Liverpool have distanced themselves from the rest of the squad for a few seasons now, and if one of them stumbles, you can bet it would be to the benefit of the other. But behind, who knows?
Is Arsenal able to grab the Top 4?
Chelsea, whose management has been reduced since the forced departure of Petr Cech and Marina Granovskaya, lost Lukaku, Christiansen and Rüdiger, but gained Sterling, Koulibaly, Cucurella (it seems) and the very promising Carney Chukwuemeka , while knowing how to keep their captain César Azpilicueta, who has just signed a new two-year contract. A more than reasonable record for a club that knows how to find itself in a transition phase, and whose manager Thomas Tuchel will enjoy a freedom of maneuver that many of his colleagues must envy him.
We expect a lot from Tottenham, and rightly so. Antonio Conte and his sporting director Fabio Paratici hit hard during this transfer window, with the arrival of Ivan Perisic, Richarlison, Yves Bissouma and Djed Spence, the coveted right-back from Middlesbrough and the English U21s. Without forgetting the renewed loans of Cristian Romero and Dejan Kusulevski and that, new, of Clément Lenglet. Given the quality of the recruitment and the technical support in place, finishing outside the Top 4 would be a real failure for the Spurs.
Credit: Getty Images
No more is known of Ten Hag’s Manchester United than what is known of the Red Devils before the start of each season since Sir Alex has been gone. In other words: almost nothing. Lisandro Martinez will do good for an often shaky central defense last season, just as Christian Eriksen will bring his creativity to a midfielder who sometimes seemed unaware of the existence of this word – even if we cannot assume the charge work that the Dane will be able to take on for his first real season since his Euro 2020 heart attack. For the rest, as United continue to chase Frenkie de Jong and Cristiano Ronaldo finally returned without leaving , because no one wanted him, we will wait. Maybe Ten Hag will manage to mount his Ajax 2.0 at Old Trafford. But maybe not.
Arteta, the man who could change everything
All this doesn’t seem to leave much room – or hope – for Arsenal. As we had no more in them when last year, they found themselves dead last in the championship with zero points after three days, and that many supporters demanded the skin of the manager who had brought them the FA Cup in 2020 And this is where the Amazon documentary gives food for thought, despite all the reservations we must have for what, in the end, remains a public relations exercise for the club, a pastry shop for supporters-consumers.
Of course what we see is what Arsenal want us to see. Obviously there would be enough to make a documentary much more revealing of the personalities present if we used the scraps from the editing room. Obviously this pseudo-verism is woven with lies (because omissions can be). But it is also imbued with truth(s), in the singular and in the plural.
Mikel Arteta is almost painful to see, at times, so much we feel that he is doing violence to himself to reach out to others, so much the intensity of his convictions seems an obstacle to sharing with players of whom he could be the father, so that he is only 39 years old. That’s how young they are. That is to say how different he is from them. “This guy is a freak,” says Granit Xhaka, before adding that this word should be taken in a positive way. Certainly.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta
Credit: Getty Images
And then, over defeats and victories, the man begins to take precedence over the freak. Edu, Arsenal’s sporting director, says he is delighted to see what he thinks is a ‘top tactician’ getting closer to his players. Arteta, in his desire to share, is sometimes rough, often naive, too, but in a touching way. He is fortunate to have a tolerant home crowd – the youngest group of players at a Premier League club, the two most prominent of whom were trained at Arsenal, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe. And it grows with them.
He has inspired moments, like when before the first North London Derby of the season, played at the Emirates, he entrusted the pre-match chat to the club’s photographer, Stuart McFarlane. McFarlane, tattooed red and white, employee of the Gunners for more than thirty years, supporter for much longer, splits a speech in which the fuckings are struck like so many commas in a love poem, declaimed on the verge of tears . Arsenal won 3-1 that day.
He also has borrowed moments, where we perceive what he hides, badly, of fragility in his obsession. They are numerous. They also make it endearing, and, curiously, believable.
An almost perfect summer
The talent is there. No one knows how far new captain Martin Ødegaard can go. For Bukayo Saka, we suspect it. For Gabriel Martinelli, we dare not say it. William Saliba finally returned to the club which never stopped lending him. Gabriel Jesus may well be the club’s most significant transfer since Arteta took over as manager. The pre-season could not have gone better. Apart from the defeat conceded by a version B, or even C, of the Gunners in a friendly match disputed against Brentford at the Colney training center, Arsenal swept everything in their path, including Chelsea (4-0) and Sevilla (6- 0).
Gabriel Jesus at Arsenal
Credit: Getty Images
Roy Keane was able to say that Arsenal’s inconsistency cost them a fourth place in the Premier League last season and that, for this reason, he still found them too ‘soft’ to apply for a place in the Top 4 when they will also have to play in the Europa League this time. The same team that lost to Crystal Palace, Brighton and Southampton in the space of three nightmarish matchdays in April found a way to beat Chelsea, Manchester United, West Ham and Leeds in the following four matches. Before collapsing against Tottenham and Newcastle, it is true.
The could be the Gunners’ joker: no one is too sure what they are capable of. In a championship more respectful of established hierarchies than we want to say, they are the part of the unpredictable, the surprise we expect (there will be one) without knowing where it will come from. It is their youth who want this, which is also the youth of their head coach, the youngest of his profession in the Premier League. Arteta believes in it, like his players, and even like those supporters who wanted us to get rid of him a year and so ago. Neither of them are necessarily wrong.
Amazon had already devoted similar documents to Manchester City (2018), Tottenham (2020) and Juventus (2021), as well as several NFL franchises.
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