Welcome to Wrap Up, every Monday this season, The Athletic discusses the three biggest questions in football over the weekend.
This time around, Manchester United and Chelsea stumbled again, Barcelona played a game they haven’t seen in a while, and Tottenham and Arsenal continued their winning ways to set up an exciting North London derby next Sunday.
Here we ask whether Manchester United manager Erik ten Haag is improving his career, why Chelsea fans are booing his team at the start of a new era and whether Mikel Arteta has a point when he says he wants to turn Arsenal’s goalkeepers.
Is ten hags inevitably making work harder?
If you want to protect Erik Ten Haag, there are many things you can handle.
His first season in charge of Manchester United in 2022-23, for example, brought in a trophy and returned to a Champions League place, and it actually went as expected.
The buzz around United has gone deaf at the best of times, but now with the club dealing with the Mason Greenwood situation, the allegations against Anthony, Jadon Sancho’s sacking, fan protests, the ongoing management job: managing a proper football team must be impossible amid all of it.
In addition, Alex Ferguson And there have been no convincing title challenges between them in the past decade. Who can succeed at the club as it is, with senior management and an unconvincing leadership on whether the current owners want to sell?
All of these mitigating factors must be taken into account when evaluating the work Ten Hag is doing.
But a boy can’t help himself sometimes. Especially with some of the things he says in public.
After Saturday’s convincing 3-1 home defeat by Brighton, take the comments that the visitors “spent money” when it came to the cost of the team.
It may not have been the actual cost of their respective XIs, but even if Brighton didn’t realize it was around £18m, less than what United paid for Diogo Dalot alone, he could tell there was a difference. He made himself funny by being strong and drawing attention to himself.
Then we can go back to when he lamented the offside call on Alejandro Garnacho after Arsenal’s defeat earlier this month, using a “wrong camera angle”. He was sentenced.
And with Sancho: some say he was giving a direct answer to the question of why the English winger wasn’t in the squad for that Arsenal game, some Dutchmen have a reputation for directness and even candor. He may be Dutch, but Ten Haag is no fool: he must know that criticizing an individual player in public can lead to trouble.
There are other examples, including trying to say that United played well against Brighton, which had a good take on the game.
Ten Hag has an incredibly tough job. Close to impossible, you might say. But he is making it harder on himself than it needs to be.
Eric Ten Hag’s progress at Manchester United has stopped
Should Chelsea fans be impatient?
For the second game in a row, Chelsea were held to a 0-0 draw against Bournemouth on Sunday in their fifth game.
This wasn’t just bad internet content, this was hardcore, traveling support, with few able to get an away ticket at the Premier League’s smallest ground (yes, slightly smaller than Luton’s Kenilworth Road).
The instinct is to step back, Chelsea didn’t even lose to a good Bournemouth team and think it wasn’t that bad. Not good, but not terrible.
This team is still getting used to each other with three transfer windows put together by an investor recruiting financial assets first and footballers second. Only three of the nine players have made senior appearances for the club, two left-backs and Cole Palmer, who scored 28 minutes for Chelsea in an injury-riddled squad. .
Of course, some patience is required. Of course, getting on the back of a new manager who has been given a big job, considering the money spent on the players at hand, must be offensive. Of course there is some recognition that this is a ‘project’, which will require time.
But Chelsea fans will understand that they are not exactly set up for such situations.
Jose Mourinho (version 1.0) won the Premier League in each of his first two seasons. Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked only in February. Carlo Ancelotti won twice in his first season; Andre Villas-Boas was fired in March for the only season; Roberto Di Matteo won the Champions League on an interim basis, then was appointed permanent manager in the summer but left in November.
Jose 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 his only season in the Europa League but still had to listen to his own fans chanting “F*** Sarriball”. Frank Lampard had little patience for the club and the situation in which he was playing big, Thomas Tuchel won the Champions League after five months in charge, then added the Club World Cup the following season, but he was gone after seven months; Graham Potter stayed for seven months.
All of this is to say that Chelsea fans are conditioned to expect quick success or quick action. It’s just something they’ve known for the past 20 years. They are fans of Pavlov football, instinctively reacting negatively to adversity.
The harsh interpretation is that they are entitled, spoiled by success, impatient and unable to accept anything else. But of course it’s not their fault. They are a product of their environment.
Maybe this is a little keeper. Maybe these fans are tired of their bad team for over a year. Chelsea won just six games in 2023: at Leeds (later relegated), Leicester (ditto), Borussia Dortmund (fairly), Crystal Palace (mid-back-Patrick-Veira-Funk), Luton (newly promoted) and AFC Wimbledon (League Two).
But even if this is true, given the club’s recent history, this reaction is not surprising.
Is Arteta a genius or a fiddler who doesn’t need it?
When Mikel Arteta was asked about his combination goalkeeping policy at home to Arsenal, David Raya came on as a substitute for Aaron Ramsdale in Sunday’s 1-0 away win over Everton.
“I’m a really young manager. I’ve only been in the job for three and a half years and I don’t have a lot of regrets. One of them was on two occasions after 60 minutes and after 85 minutes in two games in this period when I felt like ‘changing the keeper’ and I didn’t do it. I didn’t have the courage to do it… I was very unhappy. .
“Tell me, why don’t you do it? why not? We have all the attributes in another goalkeeper to do something, something is happening and you want to change the pace. do it. What I experienced was regret. And now my feeling is that everyone should participate and play in the team, regardless of the competition. This is my message.
It’s a good answer in theory.
Arteta seems to be setting himself up as a major disruptor, someone who goes against orthodoxy and you have to have a first-choice goalkeeper and a clear back-up, two ‘keepers fighting week in week out just doesn’t work, because it’s never worked in the game before.
It is fascinating to watch from the outside considering whether this will be successful.
Is Arteta a brilliant creative thinker, using someone else’s outdated thinking to see things that no one else has? Or is he changing something for the sake of changing something, not thinking that conventional wisdom might be right, because no one else has it?
Mainly: It’s Steve Jobs, the brains behind Apple, and what kind of device has changed the way you live your life? Or is he a more innocuous and likable version of Sam Bankman-Fried, who people think will change the world, but is about to be indicted for fraud and who recently described himself as “one of the most hated people in the world.” the world”?
Maybe it will work, maybe not.
Those of us who aren’t Arsenal fans have the luxury of sitting back and watching.
There is one more Premier League game tonight (Monday) as Nottingham Forest host Burnley. But the really juicy stuff starts on Tuesday when the Champions League returns. Newcastle return to the big stage for the first time in two decades, fresh from Saturday’s 5-1 drubbing at the hands of rivals Inter when they travel to AC Milan. Other matches include Paris Saint-Germain v Borussia Dortmund, Lazio v Atletico Madrid, Feyenoord v Celtic and Manchester City’s defense at home to Red Star Belgrade. Wednesday is the biggest legacy of all the Champions League fixtures, with Manchester United heading to Germany to take on Bayern Munich and facing Danny Welbeck on Saturday with Harry Kane at their best chance. Arsenal start at home to PSV Eindhoven, Real Madrid take on new arrivals Union Berlin, and Inter travel to Real Sociedad. Want more Euro action? The Europa League is also back. Liverpool take on LASK in Austria on Thursday, West Ham host Serbia’s Baca Topola and Brighton begin their big continental adventure by hosting AEK Athens. And there’s more! The 2023-24 Europa League also kicks off on Wednesday, with Lille’s only game that night against Slovenia’s Olimpija Ljubljana, but the following day Aston Villa kick things off with a trip to Legia Warsaw. Further away, Fenerbahce vs Nordsjaelland could be interesting, as could Genk vs Fiorentina and Eintracht Frankfurt at home to Aberdeen.
(Top photos: Getty Images)