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Onward We Go!
Mikel Arteta and how an engaged owner can change everything.
In the first 20 minutes of Amazon’s All Or Nothing documentary, Arsenal Football Club spend £150m on new players, lose the first three games of the new season, and don’t score a goal.
Despite a playing squad worth more than the GDP of some nations, Arsenal sit bottom of the Premier League.
For Mikel Arteta — the youngest head coach in the Premier League — the heat is on.
The producers go to lengths to show the anger amongst the fans.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the raft of behind-the-scenes documentaries is observing the lived experience of the head coach.
You observe the wear and tear of difficult decisions in real-time.
The sleeplessness is visible.
The stress is visceral.
You can also see the support mechanisms (or lack thereof) in place for the coach.
What Coaches Actually Go Through
To his credit, Arteta is willing and able to detail the psychological impacts on him and his own performance, despite being in the middle of a daunting period of the season.
“We are getting hammered, by everybody. It is the biggest challenge that I’ve faced since I joined the club,” Arteta admits in a direct-to-camera moment, before adding:
“In difficult moments, you question yourself. You have fears. Difficult things happen in your mind — Can I turn it around? Do I have the energy today to go back tomorrow and transmit what I have to transmit. Are people believing what we are doing?”
Rather than hide away in his office, the young coach is filmed in a one-on-one meeting with team director Josh Kroenke — heir to the Walmart fortune on his mother’s side of the family, and heir to the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams and Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche on his father’s side of the family.
“You need some stability,” Kroenke tells Arteta, adding, “The only guys you can trust are the ones in the room with you.”
It’s worth pausing here to emphasize that at the club’s lowest low, the owner was down in the cafeteria offering support to the embattled coach.
It can be easy to portray billionaire investors as helicopter parents who are happy to collect the trophies at the end of the hard work, but it’s worth pointing out that many are willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty when things aren’t going to plan.
“At times, everybody needs to have an arm around their shoulder,” Kroenke says to the camera.
To wrap up the meeting, Kroenke smiles and offers one last push to keep Arteta moving forward: “Onward we go!”
After the most difficult three weeks of his career, Arteta fronts up to his team to deliver a team talk before Arsenal play Norwich City, the team sitting second-last on the table.
Rather than try to do it justice in words, you should watch here:
Through immense struggle, the human elements of Mikel Arteta’s performance came to life in front of our eyes.
The emotional struggle.
And in those moments, we also saw how often-overlooked sources of support and inspiration can help us recover from the tough stuff. We often try to internalize the battle and grit out the hardship, but perhaps we need to engage those closest to us.
While these documentaries can be intrusive, there is perhaps no greater vehicle to help humanize our coaches at a time when that’s precisely what we need.