A certain then CEO of Arsenal said – “catalyst for change” in 2017.
Most thought this statement was accurate. But he – that is Mr. Gazidis – was widely mocked for it since come the following 17/18 season, little had seemingly changed.
Arsenal was, is, and will be, amongst the biggest and best British football clubs. Nobody can dispute our history, or tradition, or class, or achievements.
But it had, due to years of mismanagement, fallen behind the other big boys. Gazidis was right to say the club needed to change to compete again.
If anything, sides like Liverpool or Man City are showing Arsenal how it should be done. They are run well – and are making strong decision-making in all areas. After slumps in varying guises, both rebooted and became successful.
As of 19/20, and this Coronavirus suspension, have we changed sufficiently? How far are we in our transition and recharging?
There have been changes since Gazidis uttered his now-notorious phrase. He went to AC Milan and is rubbing shoulders with the Swedish “lion”.
Wenger himself went in 2018.
Emery came and went.
Mislintat came and went.
Arteta is in, as are Raul and Edu.
But our results haven’t changed.
Nor has our crap defending.
We need more “catalysts”, clearly.
And essentially a reboot.
The Arsenal OS may have rebooted, but maybe we need to change the hardware and run a thorough anti-virus scan too.
A mere reboot may not be enough to get us to where we want to be.
We’ve seen in the past what has happened when the club has rebooted itself internally.
This happened under George Graham and Wenger, and now needs to happen again.
Under the latter Neill period, and the late Don Howe, we no doubt had top players. But neither manager at that point could get the best tune from them. Graham changed this, instilled the famous back four, and the rest is history.
Wenger changed the diets and fitness regimes – and ended the notorious drinking culture at the club to boot. He brought in sexy football and with the likes of Vieira, Petit. Overmars, etc. he brought us Doubles and the Invincibles.
We need a new template, as this is what will bring us the success we desire.
The double side in 1971 was built on youth products and shrewd signings made under legendary England captain turned manager Billy Wright, and then club legend Bertie Mee.
I’d suggest this template – “a culture of winning, working hard, style, fortitude, grace, never giving less than 100%, and a relentless pursuit of excellence“.
It seems a tall order – but look at Liverpool and Man City. They are winning because they have these factors. We need them too if we’re to win again.
Liverpool under Rodgers was a reasonable side at points. But they lacked the winning mentality and steel to push themselves over the line. Klopp came in and we saw a near-instant change in intensity. But it took further seasons and signings for them to progress, and it’s sad in some measure to see a global pandemic thwart their title charge.
City has been a failing club, it must be said, for much of the past decades. It took a massive reboot to make them what they are today – in terms of ownership, finances, infrastructure, and players. Arsenal doesn’t need anything as drastic but it’s clear that our reboot isn’t progressing as we think.
Even though Wenger and Gazidis have gone, as has Emery, we’re still signing players who are weak mentally.
We need to ensure all of our players have this elite level of concentration and mindsight.
David Luiz has done well since Arteta came in. But we know he’s very error-prone. He is just like our other defenders in this regard, and Wenger and Gazidis cannot be blamed for this. Even if they helped instill the bad culture we persist with.
Of the current players, I cannot see many who meet the stated criteria of excellence. Based on these criteria, this is who I would keep and sell:
Leno – Keep
Martinez – Keep
Macey – Keep
Leno has made mistakes but then so have Allison and Ederson as the prime keepers in the league. So has de Gea, and he was touted as the best in the world a few years ago. Lloris at our good friends has too, and Kepa seems done.
Leno may not be world-class but then he is among the best on offer, and arguably our best keeper since his compatriot Jens Lehmann.
Martinez and Macey seem likable back-ups and have done well in their Europa League/League Cup/FA Cup outings.
Sokratis – Sell
Luiz – Sell
Holding – Sell
Chambers – Keep
Mavropanos – Sell
Mari – Keep
Bellerin – Sell
Tierney – Keep
Kolasinac – Keep
Soares – Keep
Mustafi – Sell
All players make errors. But then our defenders seem to make mistakes the norm and not the exception.
Of those whom I would sell, Luiz, Sokratis, and Mustafi rank here.
Mavropanos, in my view, won’t show the qualities needed. Yes, he had an exceptional game at Old Trafford two years ago. But since when is a player’s value based on one good or bad performance?
Rob Holding is nearly 25, and ordinarily, this should be when a player is fully in his groove. Yes, he’s been injured, but is he at the technical level required? We’ll see. Though at nearly 25, he should have embedded himself well sans injuries.
Chambers offers versatility – at right-back, CB and CM.
Bellerin is 25, and whilst he has been injured, I feel the time is running out for him to excel at Arsenal. His dip in form in 16/17 and 17/18 cost him goodwill, and he could be on thin ice concerning his status at the club.
Mari and Soares need time to be embedded, and Kolasinac isn’t the best defender but adds a different dimension going forward at least. Tierney is our mainstay at left-back and needs time to gel too.
Torreira – Keep
Xhaka – Sell
Guendouzi – Keep
Maitland-Niles – Keep
Ceballos – Return
Smith-Rowe – Keep
Willock – Keep
Nelson – Keep
Mkhitaryan – Sell
Elneny – Sell
Torreira is the best mid we have of his type. We have nobody else who is adept at ball-winning, short-passing, and being combative.
I would sell Xhaka. His temperament is evidently questionable, and I feel we haven’t catered to his needs fully. He’s not a DM of course, but as a regista we have never got the best balance to integrate him.
Guendouzi has a high ceiling, and whilst can be rash at times has top distribution and work-rate.
Maitland-Niles, seemingly, has been demoted in his right-back birth. But we need to see what he can offer in midfield.
Ceballos for me hasn’t performed regularly enough. He has good technical quality, though is flighty.
Willock and Nelson should stay for now. But then both need to step up, and time is expiring for them to do so. The same is true of Smith-Rowe, as he needs to use his Huddersfield experience well.
Mkhitaryan and Elneny have to go – Elneny is not a top-level player in my view. He is not rubbish, but then limited and not what we need. Mkhitaryan came with a big reputation from Germany, but at Manchester United and Arsenal, he’s been poor. I feel he has good technical ability, but his application is limited. If Roma comes with a bid again, we need to accept it.
Ozil – Sell
Auba – Keep
Nketiah – Keep
Laca – Sell
Saka – Keep
Martinelli – Keep
Pepe – Keep
Mesut Ozil no doubt has excellent technical abilities. But is he that consistent? There are issues surrounding his wages. But then what is the return on it? We need to see more, in my view. It’a slao true that number tens in the strict
Auba’s goals and effort speak for themselves. A worthy captain, indeed, as he is our best and most productive player. I would keep him in principle, but this is where it gets tricky. If he wishes to leave, then sell him. I know I have said he should stay above. But we do need to sell to buy, and cannot afford to let him run down his contract. If we get £50m for him, then this can be reinvested alongside the standard transfer budget for next season (when it arrives…) Comparisons are often made with Coutinho at Liverpool, and with our reduced revenues from finishing lower in the league and no CL football, it’s an option we cannot afford to overlook. This all depends on whether he wishes to stay though. If he does, then fine. Even then, it could be opportune to cash in, as we need to strengthen in other areas.
Lacazette has been poor this season, unlike the previous two campaigns. I don’t think he’s a bad player now, but he has not shone as he did prior. At this point, I would sell him, and use the money to build elsewhere.
Saka has shown himself to be quality – and we need to keep him. I’m not sure if he would be in a major hurry to leave at this point, and there aren’t many other big clubs where he would have regular football. The same is true of Martinelli in all points.
Pepe I would keep – based on his technical ability. He hasn’t hit the heights, however, and has a tendency to overplay in critical points in the opposition’s penalty area. However, I believe he can come good in time, and I hold faith in him.
Nketiah has shown promise at points – and he needs time to display this. Should Auba and/or Laca leave, I’m not sure he could replace them. But he has time to bed himself in and has looked sharp on occasions this season.
Keep. For his first-ever managerial job, he has done well to steady the ship and made us a bit more defensively sound.
We have not lost a Premier League game to date, and we are slightly harder to beat compared with the Emery period.
Arteta for me was too inexperienced to be our head coach, though thus far it’s not that bad and he is holding his own.
As of the suspension, we were in the FA Cup Quarter-Final vs. Sheffield United. And the FA was kind to project us winning it on FIFA 20, no less. So there is still a chance to win something, even if Chelsea, Man United, Man City, and Leicester are all strong in this competition. If he could win this, it would be immense in his first season as a manager at any level.
We could still get the top four, even if it’s unlikely. And maligned players such as Mustafi and Luiz have improved somewhat. Xhaka has too.
Arteta needs better players to ensure we can progress, and he should be given that platform.
In Part 2, I’ll talk about the players I feel have the mentality and skill to improve us, and get us to where we wish to be.
But when examining our squad, I’d argue that things have changed, but more has stayed the same.