We’ve heard all about the process which we’ve been encouraged to embrace and trust, and we’ve been signed up for the Arsenal journey and rebuilding process which is almost instinctive as a devoted fan. However, at the end of this most unusual and unpredictable season, the cracks are starting to show after the worst campaign in living memory. In the middle of this mayhem, Arsenal under Mikel Arteta are trying to find their identity, if not their soul, but it’s not the easiest journey of discovery from an entertainment perspective as the art form is sacrificed for points.
The problem is that through the eyes of its fans, Arsenal is a much slicker football entity than what’s currently on offer. The expectations for a well-defined arty style are, rightly or wrongly, ‘non-negotiable’ with those that follow the club come rain or shine.
There is another ‘non-negotiable’ that isn’t as difficult to achieve and it’s one that any fan expects bare minimum. Most Arsenal fans that I know will tolerate a loss if they see that the players are committed and passionate, but that has been something sadly lacking throughout this campaign.
At this moment in time, not only is Mikel Arteta lacking the necessary quality in his squad but he’s lost the core value of any potentially successful side as he attempts to take Arsenal forward. You can train players to fine-tune their skills and improve their fitness, but if a team lacks desire, motivation, and ambition, there is something fundamentally wrong at the basement level.
If a player isn’t motivated for the prestigious games or willing to put everything at stake, then the fault lies with the player, his manager, or both. Not that players should need reminding about the importance of a semi-final second-leg that’s balanced on a knife-edge, such as the Europa League game with Villareal where they barely put in a shift across the two legs.
I was told from a source inside the Emirates that “big changes need to take place in the summer because Arteta has realised that the side hasn’t progressed as he had expected”. Now that’s not a surprising statement, but at least, it sounds as if Arteta has conceded that the well has run dry and needs urgent intervention.
The false dawn of an FA Cup and Community Shield victories may have clouded the manager’s judgement or resulted in the belief that the side could compete at the highest level, but over a torturous season, it’s become abundantly clear that there are major holes in a side more used to mediocrity and underachievement.
Arsenal need five or six players cut from a different cloth and that means convincing miserly Stan to part with some big bucks to the tune of around £170-£200m, either that or Mikel Arteta brings in three players funded by his summer fire sale and promotes upcoming stars such as Miguel Azeez, Catalin Cirjan, Omari Hutchinson or Ben Cottrell into the heart of this tattered, disjointed and rudderless group of players.
There are some positive aspects such as the trio of Saka, Smith Rowe, and Tierney, but everyone else is expendable as they have proven by their lack of effort or failure to perform. In fairness, Xhaka has been reasonably consistent and Lacazette has given what he has, but everyone else has been incredibly poor in my opinion.
When your three best players are kids, you know there are big problems at the heart of the side which require urgent major surgery. The much-heralded arrival of Thomas Partey has been like a 1920’s theatrical striptease, with glimpses of excitement through the overly large feathers of the ordinariness.
He has overloaded the imagination but simply hasn’t given us the full show and next season is pivotal to his career in the Premiership and at the Emirates. One could say that the futures of Arteta and Partey are entwined because another season such as this will surely see them both move on without much fuss.