Welcome to The Briefing, where every Monday this season, The Athletic will discuss three of the biggest football questions of the weekend.
This time, manchester united and Chelsea stumbled again, Barcelona played with a style that had not been seen for a long time and Tottenham and Arsenal continued their winning streak to set up an exciting derby in north London next Sunday..
Here we will ask ourselves if manchester united Manager Erik ten Hag is making his job difficult, why? Chelsea Fans are booing his team so early in a new era and if Mikel Arteta is right when he says he wants to rotate his Arsenal goalkeepers.
Is Ten Hag making an almost impossible job even more difficult?
If you wanted to defend Erik ten Hag, there are many things you could latch onto.
His undeniably positive 2022-23 debut season in charge of Manchester United, for example, which brought him a trophy and a return to the Champions League places and went as well as could realistically be expected.
The noise around United is deafening. at best, but now even more so with the The club’s terrible handling of the Mason Greenwood situationthe accusations against Antonio, the exile of Jadon Sanchofan protests, the ongoing takeover saga – running a real football team must be near impossible amidst all that.
Then there is the fact that no one has been able to understand United since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013: David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, José Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ralf Rangnick and Ten Hag have conjured four trophies, two second places. and there have been no compelling title challenges between them in the last decade. Who could succeed when the club is set up the way it is, with unconvincing leadership from senior management and apathetic owners currently wavering about whether they want to sell?
All of those mitigating factors must be taken into account when judging the job Ten Hag is doing.
But boy, boy, sometimes he doesn’t help himself. Especially with some of the things he says in public.
Take his comment, after being convincingly beaten 3-1 at home to Brighton on Saturday that the visitors “also spend money” when they asked him about the cost of his squad.
Maybe you didn’t know the exact cost of the respective starting XI, but even if you didn’t know Brighton’s were put together for around £18 million, which is less than what United paid. Diogo Dalot alone, he would have known that the disparity was marked and that by calling attention to it he would make himself ridiculous.
We can then go back to Arsenal’s defeat earlier this month, when they lamented the use of the “wrong camera angle” to determine an offside strike. Alejandro Garnachoas if that has anything to do with how offside is judged.
And with Sancho: some say he was simply giving a direct answer to a question when asked why England The winger was not in the team for that game against Arsenal, who some Dutch people have a reputation for being direct and even direct. He may be Dutch, but Ten Hag is no idiot: he must have known that criticizing a player in public would get him in trouble.
There are other examples, including the attempt to claim that United had actually played well against Brighton, which was, at best, an optimistic assessment of the game.
Ten Hag has an incredibly difficult job. Almost impossible, you could say. But he’s making it harder than necessary.
Are Chelsea fans conditioned to be impatient?
For the second game in a row, in only their fifth game of the season, Chelsea were booed at the end of the 0-0 draw away to Bournemouth on Sunday.
It wasn’t just the discontented people on the Internet, but the toughest ones, the traveling supporters, the few who were able to get a one-way ticket to the smallest stadium in the world. first division (yes, it’s a little smaller than Luton’s Kenilworth Road).
The instinct is to recoil, to think that Chelsea didn’t even lose against a decent Bournemouth team and that they weren’t that bad. It’s not good, but it’s not terrible either.
This is a team that is still getting used to each other, created in three transfer windows by an investor who has recruited financial assets first and footballers later. Furthermore, it is a squad with so many injuries that only three of its nine substitutes had played with the senior team at the club, two of whom are left backs and the other is Cole Palmerwith a full 28 minutes to his name in Chelsea colours.
Some patience is surely required. Surely it must be counterproductive to so quickly attack a new coach who has been given a mammoth task, even considering the money spent on the players he has at his disposal. Surely there is some recognition that this is a “project” that will take time.
But then you realize that Chelsea fans aren’t really conditioned for circumstances like this.
Since Roman Abramovich arrived in 2003, his permanent managers have essentially been divided into two categories: 1) those who won something fairly quickly and 2) those who lasted about five minutes.
José Mourinho (Version 1.0) won the Premier League in each of his first two seasons; Luiz Felipe Scolari was fired in February of his only season; Carlo Ancelotti achieved the double in his first season; Andre Villas-Boas was fired in March of his only season; Roberto Di Matteo won the Champions League as caretaker manager, then was named permanent manager that summer, but was gone by November.
José Mourinho (Version 2.0) won the Premier League in his second season; Antonio Conte won the Premier League in his first season; Maurizio Sarri won the European League in its only season, but still had to listen to its own fans sing “F*** Sarriball”; Frank Lampard was a bit of an outlier, he was given a bit more patience due to his status as a great player for the club and the circumstances; Thomas Tuchel won the Champions League after five months in charge, then added the Club World Cup the following season, but left seven months into the latter; Graham Potter lasted seven months.
All that can be said is that Chelsea fans have essentially been conditioned to expect quick success or swift action. For the last 20 years, it’s all they’ve known. They are fans of Pavlov’s football and instinctively react negatively to adversity.
A harsher interpretation is that they have become authoritarian, spoiled by success, lacking patience and unable to accept anything else. But it’s not really his fault. They are a product of their environment.
Perhaps this is a little condescending. Maybe these fans are just tired of their team being bad, after being bad for over a year. Chelsea have won only six games in 2023: against leeds (later relegated), leicester (idem), Borussia Dortmund (that seems fine to me), crystal Palace (in the midst of their latest Patrick-Vieira era funk), London (newly promoted) and AFC Wimbledon (League two).
But even if that were true, given the club’s immediate history, it’s no surprise that this was the reaction.
Is Arteta a disruptive genius or an unnecessary violinist?
Mikel Arteta gave a great answer when asked about his double-goal policy at Arsenal, which only fully manifested itself after David Rayá replaced Aaron Ramsdale for Sunday’s 1-0 victory against Everton:
“I’m a really young coach. I’ve only been on the job for three and a half years and I have few regrets. One of them is that on two occasions, at 60 minutes and 85 minutes, in two games in this period, I felt I had to change the goalkeeper and I didn’t do it. I didn’t have the courage to do it… he was so unhappy.
“Tell me, why not do it? Why not? We have all the qualities in another goalkeeper to do something, something is happening and you want to change the momentum. Do it. It’s a regret I had. And now my feeling is that everyone is committed and has to play on the team, regardless of the competition. That’s my message.”
It’s a great answer in theory.
Arteta appears to be positioning himself as a major disruptor, someone who goes against the orthodoxy that says you must have a first-choice goalkeeper and a clear back-up, that two goalkeepers fighting for a place week after week simply won’t work, because it never worked. in the game before.
It’s fascinating, from the outside, to consider whether this is going to be a success.
Is Arteta a brilliant, innovative thinker, spotting something no one else has and taking advantage of the outdated attitudes of others? Or is he an unnecessary fiddler who changes something for the sake of changing it, without stopping to think that conventional wisdom might actually be right, that the reason almost no one has done this is because it doesn’t really work?
Essentially: is he Steve Jobs, the mastermind behind Apple and any number of gadgets you probably own that have changed the way you live your life? Or is he a much more harmless and likable version of Sam Bankman-Fried, the crypto investor who people thought would change the world but who is about to go on trial for fraud and who recently described himself as “one of the people most hated in the world”?
Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t.
Those of us who are not Arsenal fans have the luxury of just sitting back and watching.
- There is one more Premier League match left, as Nottingham Forest host Burnley tonight (Monday).
- But the really juicy stuff starts on Tuesday, with the return of the Champions League. Newcastle return to the big dance for the first time in two decades, as they travel to a AC Milan team fresh off Saturday’s 5-1 beating at the hands of rival Inter. Other ties include Paris Saint-Germain hosting Borussia Dortmund, Lazio vs Atlético Madrid, Feyenoord vs Celtic and city of manchester starting their defense at home against Red Star Belgrade.
- Wednesday will be the most inherited rivalry of all Champions League legacy rivalries, with Manchester United traveling to Germany to play Bayern Munich and see if they have better luck against Harry Kane that when they faced each other Danny Welbeck on Saturday. Arsenal start at home against PSV Eindhoven. real Madrid play Newcomers Unión Berlin and Inter face a trip to Real society.
- Want more European action? You have it, with the Europa League also back. Thursday sees Liverpool They begin their campaign in Austria against LASK, western ham will host the Serbian team Backa Topola and Brighton will begin its great continental adventure by hosting AEK Athens.
- And there is more! The 2023-24 Europa Conference League also begins on Wednesday, and the only game that night will be Lille against Olimpija Ljubljana of Slovenia, but the following night, Aston Villa It starts with a trip to Legia Warsaw, while if you prefer a little more specialized football, Fenerbahce vs Nordsjaelland could be interesting, as could Genk vs Fiorentina and Eintracht Frankfurt at home in Aberdeen.
(Main photos: Getty Images)