“For me, the standards you need to play for this club, it cannot be eight out of 10, it has to be 10 out of 10. When you cannot deliver that, it is not good enough.
Sometimes people get away with it. Inside myself, my gut wasn’t clean and when you are like this, I prefer to make the decision myself.”
– Mikel Arteta
Before I share with you my thoughts about how Arsenal should look like next season, let me pay tribute to a couple of players who will leave the Club: Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini.
I’m intentionally ignoring Tomas Rosicky departure because I still get too emotional when I think about Little Mozart leaving but also because others have already paid tribute to this wonderful footballer.
In Mikel Arteta a Mathieu Flamini, we are losing two great characters and important figures of the dressing room; don’t get fooled by the fact that both became peripheral members of the team and didn’t really meet our expectations when called up, these two experienced players were contributing much more than we could think of.
People, including myself, were often mocking Mathieu Flamini’s pointing and shouting, while others questioned Mikel Arteta’s leadership skills – mainly because of his style, always very quiet – but truth is that we are about to lose two leaders, although very different to each other.
On one hand we had the passionate, irrational, two-footed tackle loving defensive midfielder who was always shouting at teammates, always making sure that everyone around him was “up for it” and ready to put a shift in; on the other hand, we had a silent leader, a footballer whose vision, anticipation and experience were understated as were his desire and passion.
Always thriving to surpass himself, Mikel Arteta has been – or should have been – an example to many players in the dressing room.I agree with the fact that it didn’t always work out for these players but replacing them won’t be easy.
We have plenty of skilled and talented players but we lack personality – Jack Wilshere and Francis Coquelin being the only names that spring to my mind when I think about strong characters in the team.
Santi Cazorla is not a leader nor are Aaron Ramsey or Mesut Özil, therefore it looks evident how badly we need someone with these qualities.
Arsène Wenger first mission will be to find the right people to fill this gap of experience and personality and, in this Granit Xhaka’s arrival – if confirmed – could be a good move.
Least but not last, Mikel Arteta’s departure also leaves the captain role open – who will take over?
My money is on Per Mertesacker, who I feel will still be an important member of the team and will claim his place back, alongside Laurent Koscielny.
What happens if I’m wrong, then? Should we have yet another non-playing captain? No thanks.
Should Per Mertesacker not be a pillar of our team next term, then the only option I can think of is Petr Čech. Experienced, very good at organizing and excellent at communication, the Czech fits the bill more than anyone else.
In parallel, Arsène Wenger should think about adding creativity to this team.
Despite having the player who set two new records in the history of the Premier League, we are behind Spurs (at least they can finish above us on this…), Liverpool and Manchester City for chances created – which seems strange for a team blessed with so many technical players.
Have we been over-reliant on Mesut Özil? Yes, but perhaps unintentionally.
The injury suffered by Santi Cazorla combined with Tomas Rosicky’s never-ending fitness issues and Alexis Sanchez’s erratic form, have deprived the Arsenal of the three great options, going forward – leaving the team short of ideas and Mesut Özil as the only man capable of producing goalscoring opportunities. The unexpected emergence of Alex Iwobi gave some freshness, movement and flair to our football but, overall, we were a one-man team when it was time to create dangers in the final third.
Also, not having a proper alternative to Olivier Giroud’s old fashioned style of play made us very predictable at times – as defenders knew what to expect from us.
For long periods we looked static and slow, while we should be playing exciting football and let our players deploy their speed and technique. Danny Welbeck could have been the bi-dimensional striker we need so badly, if it wasn’t for the injuries, while Theo Walcott could have been a lethal weapon, if it wasn’t for the fact that he is…Theo Walcott.
Get your replica wall clock here
Adding a player with vision, mobility and technique – basically a younger version of Tomas Rosicky – would make a big difference next season; a second source of ideas, an additional threat for our opponents and a new trick up our sleeves could prove to be invaluable when the games become decisive.
There’s a starting spot up for grabs on the left-wing, who will take it? Could it be the position where Jack Wilshere can finally establish himself? Or would a new face come in?
There some work to do, Arsène – much more than the second place in the league might suggest.