20 November 2022

Poor Pep clutches his pearls as Arteta considers poaching more players...

Okay, so it's an unsourced report, but Football Insider claims that "it is now believed that Guardiola’s side will reject any potential further offers from Arsenal for players who would go straight into their team." It has all of the outward appearances of being complete common sense dressed up as a scoop, but it does conjure up some delicious images of Guardiola furrowing his brow as he wonders who among his current squad see the playing time their former teammates are getting at Arsenal and might start to feel a bit restless at being accessories rather than actual players. Whatever Guardiola and others at Man City have or haven't said, it would be more than a bit rich for either to whinge about Arsenal poaching their players.

This is, after all, the club that nicked Adebayor, Kolo Touré, Nasri, Clichy, and Sagna from us in recent years (although it must be admitted that Sagna was essentially encouraged to leave in order to get a chance at a trophy before he retired). If it's Pep himself who's got his knickers in a twist after condoning the sales of Jesus and Zinchenko and losing Arteta to boot, I'll add a few more names to the list: Cesc Fabregas, Ale Hleb, Thierry Henry, Alex Song. Throw in a keeper and another defender, and you'd have a pretty good "poached from Arsenal by Man City and/or Pep" XI.

Now, there haven't been any rumours of City players moving to Arsenal, but the transfer window is only eight weeks away. There's all sorts of rumours that can come out between now and then. Instead, then, I suspect that Pep might be more worked up by another issue entirely: his protégé is doing better at Arsenal than he himself is at Man City—and doing so on a fraction of the amount Pep's spent on his squad and without the stable of world-class players. Since his arrival at Man City, Pep has spent £1.1 billion on new players, reinforcing a squad that already boasted the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Raheem Sterling, and Sergio Agüero, to name just a few. He currently has on his bench the likes of John Stones, Riyad Mahrez, and Jack Grealish, rotating others such Phil Foden in and out. Most of these lads would walk into the starting lineup of just about every club in the Prem, such is the depth Pep has at his disposal.

To add another layer, Pep's tactics really only work when he has world-class players at every position. By contrast, Arteta is implementing similar tactics not only on the cheap but with young, largely unproven players, which begs certain uncomfortable questions about Pep. Do his tactics work because they're good tactics or because he has such high-quality players to implement them? It's probably a little of both, but it's worth pointing out that Arteta's tactics are working—so far, at least—because he's training up young players to play those tactics. 

When Arteta came in, I worried that he would try to instill Pep's tactics with players who were clearly not capable of playing to that level. Instead, Arteta has shown himself to be tactically flexible, adapting his tactics to the players he has available as well as to the opponent we have to face. It's not for nothing that we beat Man City and then Chelsea to win the 2020 FA Cup despite having a squad that would make the Island of Misfit Toys suffer pangs of sympathy—nay, pity. Yes, there has been some heavy investment to rebuild this squad, but it's only a fraction of what Pep has spent, and Arteta has basically replaced every member of the XI he inherited. 

It must get under Pep's skin to see Arteta outclassing him with so few established world-class players. At the rate this young squad is developing, we won't really need to poach anyone else from Man City (although I'm sure we each covet a few here and there...). Maybe what really has Pep  furrowing his brow is the hair. It's gotta be the hair.

Hey, on a last note, if you're still here, please let me know if the new ads are too much of a distraction. I've changed some settings but don't want to put people off with too many ads. 

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