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10 Things We Learned From “All or Nothing: Arsenal”

All eight episodes of “All or Nothing: Arsenal” are out and available to watch. The series sees cameras go behind the scenes and capture moments throughout Arsenal’s 2021-22 season. At London Colney, in dressing rooms, and even at players’ homes, much is revealed about the club.

1) Josh Kroenke

Josh Kroenke served as emotional support in critical moments early on in the season. His first appearance sees him visit the players at London Colney, where he checks in on Bukayo Saka. The club’s No. 7 had seen his penalty for England saved in the Euro 2020 final, and had faced widespread abuse in the wake of that disappointing moment.

Kroenke tells him, “I meant what I said in that text message. Shake that shit off, you’ve got a bright future, man. It’s going to be fun.” In addition to his text and in-person chat with Saka, Kroenke also consoles Mikel Arteta after Arsenal’s dismal start to the season. In the club’s canteen at one point in the first episode, Kroenke emphasizes his trust in Arteta and indicates that the leadership group must avoid being fractured by those not in the room with them.

josh Kroenke

2) Carlos Cuesta a significant figure at the club.

Carlos Cuesta is also another surprisingly significant figure at the club. Throughout the show, the 27-year-old individual development coach plays something of a Wendy Rhoades-esque role, taking players aside and affecting performance through informal, off-field counseling.

This mainly involved digging into players’ emotional states and providing nuggets of encouragement. For instance, Cuesta tells Saka in the first episode that despite Euro 2020’s final hanging over him, “[t]he only thing that you need to do is to play, to enjoy, to be yourself.”

Carlos Cuesta

Following a 4-0 defeat at Liverpool, Cuesta also has a session with Nuno Tavares in the third episode. In that session, Cuesta asks the young Portuguese left-back about the up-and-down nature of his performances to start the season. He tells Tavares that it’s normal to make mistakes, that they will correct those mistakes and keep going, and that the young defender has everything needed to “be a champion.” Tavares, who reveals that it had been hard for him to leave home and play in a foreign league, goes on to state that Cuesta is so helpful because he is also young and understands what players face at that age.

The young coach also sits down with Ben White later on in the series, telling the Englishman that he has what it takes to be one of the best defenders in the world. Cuesta plays a seemingly important role.

3) Arteta wise to keep records for Aubameyang

Arteta kept a dossier containing records of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s violations and indiscretions. Midway through the series, the manager tells communications director Mark Gonnella, “That’s why I have everything documented with the dates, the times, when it happened, how it happened. He has been late apart from all the issues many times.”

This shows that Arteta anticipated the matter could escalate how it did, and wanted to be prepared in the event he needed to justify a decision to axe Aubameyang. In the end, this may have proved wise.

Additionally, this revelation might shed some light on comparable situations in the past. Perhaps with Özil and Guendouzi, Arteta also expected and/or received pushback when he forced them out and therefore kept similar records. We will never know for sure, but it does appear that Arteta does not take these decisions likely. Keeping the dossier on Aubameyang indicates that Arteta can be challenged on such decisions. This is encouraging, particularly in light of accusations by segments of the Arsenal faithful that he can behave like a “dictator”.

4) Members of the hierarchy disagree with Arteta’s decision.

Indeed, members of the hierarchy did disagree with Arteta’s decision to excommunicate Aubameyang. In a meeting with Vinai Venkatesham and Richard Garlick regarding the situation, Edu states, “We have to talk to Aubameyang and to Mikel… he has to come back to the squad and help us until the end of the season.” Vinai concurs, adding, “We are going to have to reintegrate him, we have to.”

While Arsenal maintained a united front publicly, the internal situation demonstrates that the manager and execs did not initially see eye to eye on the matter.

5) Arsenal always planned for Saliba’s return.

Arsenal always planned for Saliba’s return. In the fourth episode of the show, there is a scene during which Gabriel Martinelli visits Edu in his office. In that background, eagle-eyed fans noticed that on the whiteboard in the technical director’s office, a depth chart had been laid out containing names of players in the squad. One of those names was that of William Saliba, who was listed as the backup to Gabriel despite being on loan with Marseille at the time.

In hindsight, this isn’t highly surprising given the Frenchman’s consistent involvement with the first team to start the season. But at a time when Saliba’s Arsenal future was very much in doubt and speculation was rife regarding a falling out between him and Arteta, it is interesting to see the technical director considered him a long-term option.

6) Stuart MacFarlane is a legend

Stuart MacFarlane gave the team talk ahead of the first North London Derby of the 2021-22 season. To motivate the players when Spurs came to the Emirates early in the season, Arteta gave the floor to the club’s chief photographer. MacFarlane proceeded to give an emotional speech to the players about how much the supporters love the club and the players, and told the players to “show them how much you love them.”

The speech seemed to have properly inspired the players, as they roared to a tremendous 3-1 win against the local rivals. After the match, Arteta was seen with an arm around MacFarlane and gleefully pointing at him. At the time, it seemed like Arteta was simply celebrating a big derby win with everyone. But now, we know why the manager made a beeline for the photographer.

7) How Arteta motivate his players

Arteta uses perceived slights against Arsenal to motivate his players. Later in the season when the Gunners hosted Brentford, Arteta put an image on the projector in the dressing room before the match. It was a tweet from Ivan Toney, who had made a dig at Arsenal after Brentford defeated them 2-0 on the opening night of the season.

Ahead of the Gunners’ encounter with Manchester City on New Year’s Day, Arteta reminded his players that the opponents had previously subbed on Mahrez and Sterling to humiliate Arsenal, who were already down 3-0.

It seems that in addition to encouragement and some of the admittedly more unusual tactics Arteta employs to motivate his team, he also uses vengeance to get his side to perform. In both instances, those team talks focusing on revenge inspired Arsenal to improved performances.

8) Arteta introduced the team to “The Angel (North London Forever)”

Arteta introduced the team to “The Angel (North London Forever)” by Louis Dunford. The song became something of an anthem among supporters near the end of last season, and has continued as one in this campaign. In the eighth episode, Arteta played the song for the team during a meeting. He tells them about the meaning of the song and Dunford before asking if they would like the song to be played at their next match against Leeds.

The reveal that Arteta was behind the push to incorporate the song is unsurprising. A major theme of his tenure has been re-establishing a connection with the club faithful. The Spaniard’s involvement with Arsenal’s adoption of “The Angel” is just another instance of his dedication to that pillar of his management at the club.

9) Kieran Tierney did not injure his knee while playing for Scotland.

Kieran Tierney did not injure his knee while playing for Scotland. In the seventh episode, club doctor Gary O’Driscoll informs Arteta and the rest of the first team staff that Tierney had hyperextended his knee during the Wolves match in February, but had not mentioned it.

Tierney had then played the next five matches untroubled. O’Driscoll then explains, “But he then walked out of the shower on Thursday after training, turned the corner and bent his knee, and felt the knee collapse. I am afraid we will not see him again for Arsenal this season.”

This may be one of the biggest surprises of the series. Arsenal supporters had been livid with the Scottish national team for making Tierney play unnecessary minutes. But as it turns out, it was largely Tierney’s decisions that ultimately led to his missing the end of the season.

10) But most importantly….

Most importantly, we learned that the people at Arsenal Football Club are just that — people. They have ambitions, hardships, and emotions just like all of us. Whether it is Saka dealing with abuse, Tierney’s struggles with depression, Tavares’ difficulties adjusting to life in England, Nketiah’s desire to prove himself, Xhaka’s grueling journey to redemption, Sambi’s sadness at not playing much in the second half of the season, or Arteta’s passion for the game and the club, we see more intimate sides of the players and the manager.

We should still hold them to high standards of performance. This group and all who join it still need to take Arsenal back to the pinnacle of European football. But perhaps the biggest takeaway from the show is that perhaps we take for granted what a big ask that is, and what effect it can have on such a young group of athletes. Perhaps the biggest lesson from the series is that a bit more support and a bit more humanity could go a long way for Arteta’s red and white army. That is the role we need to play in Arsenal’s ascension.