Initially, Mikel Arteta managed to cast a spell on the players left behind by Unai Emery and after securing two trophies, signing Thomas Partey and extending the contract for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, things looked as if they were on track at Arsenal.
Fast forward 10 games into the new season and Arsenal look less likely than ever of challenging for a trophy this term. More disappointingly, Partey is injured and Aubameyang looks like he could score if the goal was twice the size and the general standard of performances have been dire.
All this is resolvable, it’s football and the ups and downs that come with the turf but Mikel Arteta may have to stop looking at his players and examine his decisions and tactics. This is not an anti-Arteta piece, I think he’s doing an amazing job under the circumstances but he will need to look at why the team has suffered such a catastrophic dip in form that sees them languishing at 14th position in the Premier League.
No Heart In Midfield:
Looking closely at all three home defeats to Aston Villa, Leicester City and Wolves show that the team aren’t able to compete in midfield creatively and that’s a big issue. They simply don’t have a reliable, dominant, and inventive midfielder to pick out the runs of Saka, Willian, Nelson, or Pepe, let alone provide the chances for Aubameyang, Lacazette, or Nketiah.
In January, Arsenal have no choice but to find one or two players for that role. As Arteta would say ‘it’s non-negotiable.’ Either that or promote and persevere with young talents such as Joe Willock, Miguel Azeez, or Emile Smith Rowe. What’s the worst that can happen.
Mikel Arteta also needs to look at the structure of the Arsenal side which has recently become more about defense and less about the attack. Some players can’t and shouldn’t be expected to fill a defensive role, Ozil is one such player but there are others like Pepe, Willian, Aubameyang, and Saka.
Strikers make poor defenders and often give away needless free-kicks and penalties. If you want defenders, buy defenders, if you want defensive midfielders buy them! Defenders are there to defend, strikers to attack, but I don’t rule out players that naturally combine both.
As for Pepe, Saka, and Aubameyang, perhaps Arteta can let one of them, preferably Aubameyang, roam around the pitch. Aubameyang looked lost upfront but had he been allowed the freedom, he may have increased his contribution during the game. Wenger allowed Henry the roaming role which worked incredibly well for the club and the player and it was a move that gave Arsenal the flexibility in attack.
The rotation of the team seems to be a curiously modern disease, but successful teams normally consist of at least one rigid area, normally in defence. Talking of which, I’m not a fan of Holding with Bellerin on the right. Holding lacks pace and finesse and Bellerin has lost a yard, maybe two after his injury.
Motivation Instead Of Reputation:
If a player isn’t delivering, bench him. There’s no room for sentiment or misplaced loyalty with Arsenal’s lack of spark and points. If players aren’t performing to the best of their ability or the high standards of the club, they need to move on or be forced out.
Arsenal are lost, their brand of football used to be the envy of the football world but recently, they have become bland and ordinary. Are the tactics wrong or is it that the players just can’t deliver? It might be a combination of both but let’s be clear, this is not Arteta’s fault and the club’s current position has been at least ten years in the making.
Due to that undeniable fact, it won’t be resolved within a season or two and it won’t be cheap. To replace and bolster this very poor Arsenal side, Mikel Arteta would need between £200 and £300m over the next three years. This is under the assumption that Arsenal want to challenge for top honours and that their owners are as interested in trophies as they are in profit.
The figures above could be less if Arteta finds a way to incorporate the best of the academy. However, those players need to find their feet and perform consistently when an opportunity comes their way.
This was never going to be an easy job for an incoming manager and Arsenal are not in a position to seek the services of some of the names associated with the manager’s job at the Emirates. Besides, there’s no vacancy and even if there were Allegri, Tuchel, Vieira, and Henry, they would all have the same problem.
Fans need to realise that the club has major issues and they are now no more than an average side with four exceptional players on their books. Arsenal will start winning again soon and once one result comes good, there will be more, it’s the inevitability of football. It’s a tough period to be an Arsenal manager, player, and fan, but the club has been through worse. It will come again.