Pep’s pandering ahead of the Man City-Arsenal clash.


We’ve been down this road many times, for Pep is a master of the pre-match presser mindgames. He studiously avoids offering any opponent any motivational material and focuses instead on fluffing their pillow, downplaying any compliments to his side and heaping them on his opposite. This seems to reach another level when it involves his former coneman and protégé. At times, it feels like any honour Arteta earns is but the moon reflecting light back to its source.

To be clear, it’s natural on one level for the teacher to feel proud about his student’s achievements, but Pep has mastered the passive-aggressive mindgames. He started by pointing out that Man City’s preseason will finish “two weeks later than Arsenal” and “we start[ed] two weeks later than Arsenal, so we are not in the best best way”. The insinuation there is that we are therefore both better-prepared and better-rested. If such scheduling is indeed so advantageous, one might suspect that a megamind of Guardiola’s stature would insist on similar scheduling. Arteta must have just outwitted him there.

Pep went on to explain that, “in the first part of the [2023-24] season, we have to avoid to drop too much…don’t let opponents…run away.” Setting expectations low, eh? Pretty clever. He probably anticipates a drop-off in intensity within the squad; it can be hard to find the same motivation and intensity after such a glut of trophies, even for a side as recently-successful as this one. Losing Gündoğan and Mahrez may also lead to a drop-off, and Pep would do well to manage expectations. That’s just part of a manager’s job, after all.

Speaking of Man City’s very-quiet transfer business, Pep offered this: “when we lost these type of players, we have to go to the market to buy replacements…[it] doesn’t cost 10 millions, 20, 30, 40, 50…no, it’s more expensive than that.” The emphasis on “market” is his, not mine; it sounded as if Pep was genuinely taken aback at the idea that his club would have to bargain-shopping and could not afford to buy players at more than a £50m fee. That might as a surprise to Shekih Mansour, or it may even reveal that all of those pesky financial violations—sorry, alleged violations—might actually come with some consequences. I would suggest not yet holding your breath, though.

Asked about our signing of Declan Rice and other transfers, Pep said that he “is a really important player. Arsenal bought an incredible incredible player…they bought ‘starting XI’ players, really good all of them.” Here, he did sound just a teensy bit concerned as he pondered Man City’s lack of activity in the transfer market and the fact that we’ve signed, by his own estimation, three players capable of starting for most if not all squads. Is that an objective statement, or one designed to inflate expectations and therefor pressure on those signings to prove they’re worth the money? Something in me inclines me to believe the latter over the former.

In closing, Pep talked about his one-time coneman by saying that “Wenger installed the club in that position [as one of the greatest]…and Mikel brought the club back up in the position it was in all the time.” Stopping short of directly complimenting Mikel, Pep found a way to thread the rock and a hard place of heaping praise on Wenger and shoveling pressure on Mikel, who has apparently already brought this club of ours back to the position that Wenger, “one of the greatest,” brought it to. Those words imply then that if Mikel fails to take the next step of leading Arsenal to real silverware—not just a Community Shield, a League Cup, an FA Cup, but real silverware—would be a massive disappointment.

He’s just doing what he does. The question that remains then is this: what will we do if this season falls short of the massive expectations that already swirl or roil around it?

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9 thoughts on “Pep’s pandering ahead of the Man City-Arsenal clash.

  1. A Simple Truth

    firstly, the Community Shield is a nothing burger of an affair, albeit it’s far more interesting when we’re facing someone of this import…secondly, being Pep’s underling has never been a gateway to managerial success, far from it in fact…most micromanagers don’t make the best of mentors, which is likely why none of Wenger’s former minions ever accomplished jack-squat from a coaching/managerial perspective…as far as this matchup goes, it’s all about baby steps for MA…so far he’s yet to prove that he deserves to be on the same pitch as his former boss…of course, that could all change in due course, but not until we learn how to score at a more consistent rate against this Pep-led side and likewise devise a way to tactically stifle the one-two punch of Rodri and DeBruyne

    1. Mike VW

      Yeah, this is little more than a step up from the Emirates Cup, there’s a trophy involved to be sure but it’s not one anyone is going to invest too much energy in. Jesus’ injury adds a dash of intrigue, because Guardiola won’t know just what Arteta has planned, he won’t know what to prepare for. Like the friendly against Barca, it’s a welcome chance to play a win-win. Win, and we can say we beat Citeh. Lose, and we can say it’s just the community shield so who cares?

    2. Jon Shay Post author

      call me crazy but I rate it a bit higher than the League Cup if only because you have to first in the Prem or FA Cup to qualify. It’s still a low-key affair closer to a friendly all the same.

      Arteta has been repeatedly and, I must admit, thoroughly outclassed by Guardiola. Whether that’s down to tactics or to the quality of available playerse is another question for another day. I’ve entertained this thought-experiment with Wenger v. Mourinho: given identical, cloned squads, who would win out between Arteta v. Guardiola?

      1. A Simple Truth

        keep in mind, we neither won the PL nor the FA, but simply qualified because our opponent won both and we finished 2nd

        1. A Simple Truth

          Jon—presently there’s a significant amount of chatter emanating from the cult of personality crew, led by the likes of Pedro and his LeGrove echo chamber puppets, which is attempting to resurrect the same sort of cake and eat it too/lowered expectations narrative that was trotted out during our last two end-of-season cock-ups…some are going so far as to actually suggest that we’re in a “rebuild” mode, whereas others are simply pushing the notion that it could take considerable time to get everyone on the same page, which was then further complicated by the Jesus injury hiccup…by doing so, they’re setting the stage for one of two possible outcomes, one which would provide MA with another built-in excuse, should we fail to properly progress, or conversely, if things stay as they were or regress slightly, they can continue to propagate the notion that MA has exceeded expectations

          this is why it’s so dangerous when a singular individual, especially the manager, becomes bigger than the team…of course we should be well-versed in the obvious pitfalls of this sort of managerial dynamic, in light of what transpired during Wenger’s latter reign, but it’s likewise why we’re so susceptible to it’s siren-like allure…I think you, like myself, believe that there’s no more excuses for not progressing, which can only mean challenging for the PL crown and making a deep run in the CL, but there will be those who will mince words, by replacing higher expectations with more open-ended terms like aspirations, who must not be allowed to win the day…Cheers

  2. jw1

    ‘… what will we do if this season falls short of the massive expectations…’

    A bit open-ended, no? I don’t have massive expectations, but aspirations, hoping to see inspired play from our team.

    Arsenal have built a team to compete on four fronts– the first time we’ve done so at the highest level in perhaps a decade. Be pleased if our manager navigates this well with an expanded number of talented players. Well, would suffice for me at this juncture.

    Besides, it’s early-August. Unless you’ve watched all the games, and have been watching the team train– there’s not much to be gleaned to begin forming expectations yet.

    Excited to see the game on Sunday!

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      It’s been at least a decade since we’ve seen a squad legitimately ready to compete on all four fronts, but we’re also going up against one of the best squads money can buy. All I mean is that our own expectations shouldn’t become a poisoned chalice. We’ve already seen how reactionary some fans can get in the face of short-term setbacks. Some will read this current comment as acceptance of “mediocrity” as if anything less than a domestic double (Prem + FA Cup) is an abject failure, given our summer spend. I almost feel like I’m going out on a creaky limb when I suggest we should enjoy the season to come regardless of outcome.

      1. jw1

        Not unlike last season, or the one before. Having watched the assembly and progress of this team has been a joy. If you have the mindset to manage a project– this one has hit a ton of its own benchmarks and exceeded many that Arteta and KSE have set.

        Finding satisfaction with a club you support (is a rare thing these days)– and often times requires tuning out those who can’t.

        Admit I’ll be thrilled to see Martin Odegaard hoist silverware this season.


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