In particular, the business and management of the club, from its corporate strategy to its financial performance to its brand strategy to its management of its human capital, were aspects that I could shed some light on.
I’ve thought a lot and helped others think about such matters over the course of my career. Examining and synthesizing them for such an admirable enterprise as Arsenal Football Club seemed like a worthwhile undertaking.
Today, I’m not going to say that assessment was wrong – this is supposed to be a match preview, not a navel-gazey blog post. But too many of us are paying attention to the business and management of the club at the expense of the actual sporting endeavor.
This week provides an excellent example. Instead of relishing the emergence of Eddie Nketiah, the 18-year-old savior of Arsenal’s Carabao Cup run, the story turned to the conduct of the Annual General Meeting of Arsenal Shareholders. Which, capitalism being what it is, meant absolutely nothing.
What will mean something is the Gunners’ next Premier League match, against Swansea City at Emirates Stadium.
May I suggest, though, that this meaning has little to do with Arsenal’s prospects for the near term, as the team tries to establish consistent performance before some challenging November fixtures? Or with its ultimate position in the 2017-18 Premier League table? Or with the futures of star men Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil? Or with the collective desire of 14 professional athletes who would never have reached the pinnacle of their profession without desire?
Those will doubtless be storylines peddled by paid and amateur analysts during and after the match. And they will largely miss the point of sport.
To me, an observer who's ruminated on the bigger picture for some time, the point now is the enjoyment of sublime athleticism, the appreciation of genius, the surprise at the unexpected. The minute developments or actions that I have never seen before and will likely never see again.
If you view the story through that composite lens, you’ll avoid the jaded, hackneyed, “same old Arsenal” perspective that seems to drive some people near insanity.
You also might appreciate the speed and guile of the Gunners’ attackers against a Swansea defense set up to stymie them, the subtle orchestration of midfielders Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey, the dynamism of wingbacks Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin, and the timely aggressiveness and attention to transition of the team’s defenders and goalkeeper.
Trends to WatchSee above, in particular the timing of Ramsey’s runs to join the attack. Last weekend against Everton, the Welshman synchronized his moves almost perfectly with those of Özil, Alexis, and Alexandre Lacazette. Swansea may be more diligent opponents, but the interactions of Arsenal’s four attackers can be unstoppable.
How the Match Plays OutThis was not a straightforward affair last season, owing primarily to the unjustified dismissal of Xhaka. I expect him to avoid such a fate on Saturday and to dictate the play from the base of Arsenal’s midfield. Farther forward, the Swans may be more resolute than Everton was. Still, I don’t see them resisting the athleticism, skill, and synchronicity of Arsenal’s attack.
Players to WatchArsenal. Mesut Özil. After his display at Everton, the German playmaker looks primed to dominate matches with his skill and vision. As Swansea set up to thwart him, he’ll need to move and think just as quickly.
Bournemouth. Lucasz Fabianski. The former Arsenal man between Swansea’s sticks has a worldy in him; he also has a clanger. He’ll be busy.