According to reports in the press (yes, I know) Mikel Arteta called a team meeting on Tuesday to try and get to grips with our terrible Premier League form.
After going over a number of issues he left the players to talk among themselves.
Apparently there was much finger-pointing and heated words were exchanged, but the meeting ended up with the air having been cleared and much hugging all round.
This brings to mind the events of December 1997 when, following a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers, the players had a meeting in which the ‘old hands’ like Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon laid into their recently arrived French colleagues (Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit) for not offering the defence enough protection.
The French lads got the message and Arsenal won their next 10 league games on the way to clinching Arsene Wenger’s first league title at the club in 1998. We also won the FA Cup that season.
Now, I am not suggesting that the current crop of Arsenal boys are going to go unbeaten and win the league (although hey, you never know). Sadly we don’t these days have players of the caliber of that famous back five, or of Petit and Vieira in midfield, or Bergkamp, Anelka, Overmars and Wrighty up front.
But if the 2020 version of a clear-the-air December meeting has any kind of positive effect we can at least hope for an improvement in performance, starting on Sunday at the Armitage Shanks Arena.
It’s a football fact of life that no matter how good a manager is, there are some things that can best be sorted out among the players themselves.
Any of us who’ve played (or still play) club football at a park or local level will have experienced some version of this phenomenon: you’ve had some disappointing results, people are blaming each other, factions are forming, it’s even got physical at times… but eventually it all bursts out into the open, you have a great big barney and then you’re all best mates again. In the next game you’re all suddenly trying that bit harder for each other and offering encouragement instead of criticism when someone makes a mistake.
There was certainly an added exuberance about our Europa League performance on Thursday night and that could be taken as evidence of a change of attitude following Tuesday’s get-together.
Yes, we have been generally performing OK in that competition (although not as well as we did on Thursday), yes the opposition weren’t up to much and yes, there was a live crowd for the first time in ages, but the performance of many of the players – Lacazette in particular – makes me feel the lads were particularly fired up.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we can get a helping of that tomorrow.