Ahead of last season’s north London derby at Emirates Stadium, Mikel Arteta called on long-standing club photographer Stuart MacFarlane to do the pre-game team talk.
The aim was simple. To make sure the players fully understood the emotion of the occasion.
It did just the trick. By half time, we were three goals to the good and the stadium was rocking like never before.
On the eve of another showdown with our neighbours, the manager, unsurprisingly, was asked if anyone else from the backroom staff might be called up to deliver a similarly stirring speech.
“It depends on the moment but obviously we have so many people here that have been here much longer than us,” said Arteta.
“Their feelings toward the club are even deeper than ours, and I felt in that moment it was the right thing to do.
“For someone that is with us every day, that knows the players, and knows what it means, to express how he was feeling about it.”
While working the players into a lather paid dividends at home, it’s probably fair to say emotions weren’t channelled in the right way for the return game at White Hart Lane.
Rob Holding, in particular, was overzealous in the opening 45 minutes and took an early bath as we fell to a horribly damaging defeat in the closing weeks of the season.
Arteta says his players will learn from the experience.
“We went into that game with many different circumstances in terms of players that were available to play that game, and what happened during the game. You take the lesson, you learn from it and you move on.”
Given top spot in the Premier League is up for grabs in addition to derby day bragging rights, Arteta came across as remarkably calm about tomorrow’s clash. We’ve certainly never heard any previous manager (from either side of the divide) use the word ‘nice’ to describe a clash between Arsenal and Sp*rs.
“I just think it’s all about emotion and willingness to get to that moment and have enjoyment,” he said.
“It’s the nicest game of the season by a mile, for what it means to our supporters, for the history of it. And now as well, because looking at the table and where both teams want to be, it becomes a really important match. I think the word is excitement.”
We’ll have some of what Mikel is smoking.
Stuart’s pre-derby speech…
“This is my club, I fucking love this football club and I fucking love all of you. In 30 years, I’ve photographed some unbelievable players, some world class players, some great teams and I look at you lot and this is a great team. This is a great team. I’ve been a fan all my life. This is what we have to do, we have to go out and win. This is me, I’m a fan, this lot outside, they would do anything to fucking win today. Look at them, when you go out, first fucking tackle, listen to the crowd. They will fucking be on you straight away. Win any tackle, when you score look in their faces, look at the emotion, look how much they love you and show them how much you love them. Ok?”
This speech from Arsenal fan and official club photographer Stuart MacFarlane to the players before their North London Derby with Spurs is magic.
I cannot wait to watch this series.
— HLTCO (@HLTCO) August 3, 2022