Why don’t you start your own blog? That was the question I used to get when I was writing for Goal and Calcio 2000, ages ago. Why not, indeed.
Back in 2011 I decided to start this blog and try to gather all the Italian-speaking Gooners into one single place, where we could all cheer and moan about the Arsenal.
It’s easier said than done so, as I felt I was at a crossroad, I sought advice from the best.
Today I had the pleasure and privilege to talk to Andrew Mangan, the heart and soul of Arseblog.
We’ve spent almost one hour talking about his website, the beginnings, its growth and all the ups and downs of blogging; it’s been an enlightening chat and I would really like to thank Andrew for his time.
We talked integrity, click-baiting, the importance of staying true to your principles and faithful to your audience; we also talked football, of course, as Andrew shared his expectations for this season, his thoughts about Unai Emery and opinions about current and former players.
Andrew comes across exactly as you’d expect him to do – or at least how I did expect him to be: kind, nice and very open.
What stood out for me during our conversation was his integrity: no click-baiting, no sensational headlines, no autoplay video and pop-up ads – just content.
In a moment in time when even traditional media are giving it up to easy clicks for revenues, Andrew and his team are not buying into that, well-aware that quality wins readers over, although on a much longer run.
You’ve got to appreciate that, especially when you know the troubles he went through with Arseblog and how easy it could have been to chose the wrong way; the good news is, Arsenal fans are recognizing his huge commitment and massively supported Andrew through Patreon – something I invite you to do, if you are not already a member.
When I asked what is the first memory or feeling related to the birth of his website, you could not ignore the sense of pride in Andrew’s answer, recalling his time in Spain and the tiny room where it all began – initially as a web-designing exercise before the pleasure of writing took over, eventually.
Although it started in a more news-bulletin format, Arseblog evolved in something more complex and with that came lots of demands and hard-work, a word that came back several times during our very chat.
Andrew will never complaint about the huge amount of time and energy he and his team put into providing all of us with a daily blog, fresh news, pre and post-match content and live updates during games, which is much to his credit; it is a full-time job and definitely not the typical 9 to 5, Monday to Friday kind of job, but it really came across as a sort of mission, to stay loyal and faithful to Arseblog audience and – in a broader way – to the Arsenal fans.
Speaking of loyalty and faithfulness, it was very interesting to hear Andrew explaining how he wanted to separate opinions from news and how he subsequently created the Arseblog News section within the website; he resisted the temptation to follow the be-there-first mode, find a catchy headline to capture clicks and potentially drive an agenda, but went for the essential instead: bare news, pure facts and, in a separate section and in a more articulated way, opinions about the latest news.
It’s kind of reassuring, in a world where you’re dragged left and right by cynical editors and misleading headlines: you get what you see, there’s no hidden message in there but only facts. Quality wins over sensationalism, at Arseblog.
This is not meant to be a full transcription of our chat but hopefully the story of how blogging can be pleasant, smart, thoughtful and STILL popular – in spite of the right-here-right-now culture and the appalling extremism that permeates from social media; Andrew and I talked about it and it’s refreshing to hear that there’s a whole world of sensible, balanced Arsenal fans willing to talk about a defeat, dissect it and even take some positives from it, instead of shouting insults everywhere.
Let me be a bit self-centric here and tell you what I am taking away from this chat: a reinvigorated will to provide quality content to any Italian-speaking Gooner out there, because this is what I like to do and I got the ultimate proof that it pays off – if you stay loyal to yourself and your audience.
It’s hard work but it’s definitely worth it.
Alright, I’m done with all this nonsense about blogging – we can move to football and the Arsenal!
I’ve asked Andrew five purely football-related questions, here are his answers.
What are your feelings about the upcoming season? What do you expect from the team?
I think we are going to finish in the top four, shall we not get into it than this season should be considered a failure.
What did you make of Unai Emery, so far?
I want him to be braver and play some attacking football. We have three fantastic forwards and a good midfield, hence we should be playing to our strengths and be less conservative. Last season has been difficult for him, for various reasons, and we’re only three weeks into this season so I’ll hold my judgment a bit more.
Who was the one player you were completely wrong about?
Philippe Senderos. People forgot he had a great start at the Arsenal and I expected him to become a very good defender for us, unfortunately things didn’t really go to plan.
What player exceeded your expectations?
Robin van Persie, I could not see him being such a great striker. His qualities were obvious and perhaps it took a bit too long for him to get there but I could not imagine him being so good upfront.
Beside Robert Pirès, whose former player are you missing the most?
From a purely football perspective, I would say Cesc Fàbregas; looking at our current situation and the issues were having at the moment, I say Tony Adams: we could use his leadership, charisma and influence at the back, on top of his defensive skills.