So, I have been given the honour to read and review Charles Watt’s book about Mikel Arteta and Arsenal, called “Revolution”, before it’s officially released.
Many of you will be familiar with Watts due to his work on the BBC and interactions with Gooners on social media.
During that time, he’s sat in the majority of Arteta’s press conferences, hearing inspirational words from our manager and observing the Spaniard’s mind ticking over.
He credits this book as the first to truly analyse Mikel Arteta, the manager.
You know how Amazon’s All or Nothing Documentary painted Arteta in a positive light? This is the literature version.
Before the Wolves fixture, having spent the week healing, the 43-year-old was asked one word to sum up how he felt knowing his team had finished second in a league they had topped for the majority of the competition?
That his chosen word was ‘Connected’ sums up the intellect he possesses.
Maybe his press officer knew the question was coming?
Yet at his lowest ebb, Arteta was able to put a positive spin on a difficult month and give hope for the future. When he spoke …the room listened.
When you read this book …you listen.
The sale date of course is timed specifically for the start of the season. By the time you can read this book, Arsenal will have played Forest, Palace and Fulham.
I also feel it’s an ideal time for me to review where the club currently stands under the current regime.
We have just returned to the Champions League for the first time in 6 years, but our fan base seemed divided in what stance to take.
Will our youngsters only get better from the experience of being in a title race or did we just blow a golden opportunity which might not come around again in years?
Watts believes the first, and writes with such passion that this isn’t a man who’s writing what people want to hear, by the time you finished dissecting his passionate introduction, you have goosebumps, hairs are standing up on your arms and you are excited for the future.
If nothing else, read the introduction the night before a fixture and your left pumping your chest.
I still think we lack the experience to finish above Man City, but if you wanted a counter argument, you won’t get one more persuasive than Watts’ masterpiece.
Then we smartly jump from the current day to Arteta’s final game as a player.
Our former captain was in tears as he retired, admitting that in his final two years he was lucky to still be in North London. His mind was willing, but his body was not and for him that meant he had to walk away, because Arsenal deserved the highest standards.
That’s the standout to takeaway, Arteta doesn’t just talk about non-negotiables because we happened to be the club to give him his first managerial job, he’s always wanted to match the values set by those who came before him in the red and white shirt.
From how he convinced Everton to sell him after their initial refusals, to being Mr. Wenger’s teacher’s pet, to being the big brother to Jack Wilshere, Arteta was proud to wear the armband. By all accounts the standards he has as a coach were the same he had as a player in training.
That wasn’t always obvious at the time.
He wasn’t a great captain nor a great player for us, evidently. Yet this book details the influence he had on our training pitch, how he was a role model to youngsters, the man who went between the dressing room and those in charge.
Did Arsenal intentionally keep that away from the public?
Were there so few leaders that the players didn’t want to undermine their boss?
What made him so reserved?
We learnt more about his character since his return than when he last played for us.
Yet going as far back to his time at Rangers, Alex Mcleish saw signs of a future coach.
The challenge to any reflective piece is to teach your readers something they don’t know.
That’s hard because the assumption must be that your customers have knowledge of the subject, or else they wouldn’t have made the purchase in the first place.
Watts is able to add stories that he must have been keeping to himself for years.
Tales include Watts attending an empty Wembley Stadium and that being the day he truly realised how much the sport missed fans due to lockdown, walking up Wembley way for a semi-Final like a ghost town, when in any other year it would have been a sea of red and blue.
Other stories include how Arsenal trained during COVID, a job offer from Spurs and how Guardiola at Barcelona would ring Arteta for advice on Chelsea’s tactics, the real reason of what Guendouzi did to offend his boss, oh and how Everton’s staff had to do the medical to make his switch to us a reality!
If you’re not old enough to know why I don’t rate the Kroenke Family, read the chapter on how having sold Fabregas and Nasri, it took an 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford for us to even think about doing any business. Instead of our owners insisting on a shortlist of targets this confirms how little ambition we had at the time.
It’s crazy that we would lose two of our best players and suffer one of the biggest defeats in our history and yet not have a medical team arranged to be in Liverpool!
That’s where Watts earned my respect.
He puts any connections to one side and gives both sides of an argument.
Other journalists would have feared impacting on their relationships with the club and/or Arteta but Watts doesn’t only write what those two want to hear.
For example, he strongly implies the belief held by many that Ozil was dropped for non-football reasons, giving strong facts to back up that theory.
I won’t give spoilers but it’s fascinating how essentially on Zoom the squad were asked to agree to a wage reduction to save staff jobs in the pandemic. When Arsenal couldn’t get the 75 percent agreement they needed (Arteta steps in and convinces some to change their mind), Watts asks why was Ozil the only name leaked to the press?
He bravely points out that Arsenal lied, 55 staff were still made redundant despite their employer being worth 6.3 billion!
He also questions the reasons why Matt Smith was on the bench in the Cup Final at the expense of Ozil purely for footballing reasons? (Smith would never kick a ball for our first team).
Equally, he recalls the final time the German was on a bench for us (the famous umbrella at Southampton) and how he sat, not interacting with his peers, not celebrating any goals and walking straight down the tunnel the moment he heard the final whistle.
Watts though isn’t afraid to equally recall scenarios that don’t paint our players in the best light.
He recalls watching Arsenal train the night before Unai Emery’s last game as our manager, and saying how he and his peers could see through the players’ body language that they were no longer listening to their coach.
Any Gooner who is feeling concerned by our start to the season or still hurting from our last season ended, read this book!
Watts’ beautiful writing style while not designed to change any minds or alter opinions, he offers a beautiful defense of Arteta’s body of work.
Having had the honour of being asked to read the manuscript before its release date, I can say I knew more about Arteta than I did before I started reading.
The test of a good book.
Maybe Arteta ends our trophy drought, maybe he doesn’t.
What is clear is he cares deeply about our crest.
Given how many of our best players wanted to leave or cancel their contracts.
Given the constant fan channels who have told us for years everything that is wrong with us.
Given how low our owners allowed standards to fall ……
Being led by someone who clearly has fallen in love with the club? I don’t take that for granted.
Revolution Is available now!
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