There are times as a writer, be it professional or hobbyist, where you begin to question the futility of penning thoughts that you consider to be becoming repetitive. That’s the stage I had reached on Monday morning, following yet another league defeat the night before. In truth, I was sulking but as with anything that you are passionate about in life, you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and go again after a disappointment.
Let’s look at the facts. So far, we have played ten league games and lost fifty percent of them. Our goals scored column reads ten and our conceded one, twelve, obviously giving us a goal difference of minus two. It is simply not good enough and the performances have not been either. We are in fourteenth place in the table for a reason. Because we deserve to be and that is regardless of who the manager is. If it were Wenger, Emery or Arteta, I would say the same.
Many supporters have now started saying that it is the players fault not the manager’s. If that is the case, why was it that when we won the FA Cup back in August, the same fans were giving Mikel all the credit? The way I see it, is that the manager and his coaching staff come up with a tactical plan off the pitch and the players execute it on it. When that plan stops working, it’s down to the manager to find another one that works.
I keep reading about how the squad isn’t good enough and if we are referring to it being of the standard required to make a serious title challenge, then no, it’s not but I haven’t seen anyone saying that they have those expectations. Nobody expects us to win every game but whenever I ask myself whether Mikel is currently getting the best out of the players that he does have at his disposal, my answer is no. I am not saying it’s entirely his fault but ultimately, that is what he’s paid to do. I acknowledge that Mikel doesn’t have all the players he wants and needs but very few managers do.
Like many, I’m of the opinion that internal club politics, the Ozil situation for instance, are having an adverse effect of some form behind closed doors but Mikel has to find a way to get the players fully back on board with what he’s trying to achieve and soon. I do not believe the players have lost total faith in him. In the second half of every game, we look to have more purpose and start moving the ball quicker, what’s Arteta saying at half time that he’s not saying before kick off?
A lot of supporters are using the absence of Thomas Partey as an excuse for Mikel and our poor recent displays. Yes, Thomas is a key player for us in terms of his ability but don’t forget that Thomas has only played in four games for us, three of which we’ve lost, and that isn’t long enough for him to be used as justification for poor team performances and results. The manager and the team cannot have become that reliant on him so quickly. Another excuse I’ve seen is that Arteta has had to deal with the pandemic but if I’m not mistaken, so has every other manager.
It’s been suggested that Arteta has changed his formation recently because of pressure from supporters. I personally don’t believe Mikel is that weak willed but if he is, then I ‘d be concerned. Especially when you consider that fans haven’t even been allowed inside the stadiums to make their frustrations and feelings known so far this season. My guess would be that opposed to caving into any so-called fan pressure, he is simply recognised that we haven’t been scoring enough goals and is trying to find a way to address that.
Unfortunately, in doing the above, it resulted in us no longer looking organised defensively and still offering very minimal threat going forwards against Wolves. Yes, Aubameyang perhaps should have scored one of his two opportunities but aside from that, what did we create and even one of his chances came because of a mistake from Patricio. Wolves on the other hand, were a threat throughout, particularly on the break and attacked with pace down both flanks, giving the Emirates a timely reminder, with fans soon to return, of what it’s like to see a team attack with speed and purpose. Hopefully it will be the home side next time.
I’ve seen supporters saying Arteta should get a minimum of another twelve to eighteen months in the job but any manager only deserves to be in a job for as long as they are performing well within the role. I am not suggesting that managers should be sacked the second that results go against them but obviously, if that happens over a prolonged period, clubs must act accordingly. The reality is that if Mikel is to stay in his job for anything like the above length of time, our results have to improve.
I keep reading the phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, no it wasn’t but at least you could see the bricks being built up. I am not seeing any progress being made so far this season, I did during the last campaign, but all the good work looks to have been eroded so far during this one. Some fans have started to compare Mikel’s tenure to date with the early days of Jurgen Klopp and Alex Ferguson at Liverpool and Manchester United. Although I admire the positivity and optimism of those fans, to me, that‘s an unfair comparison.
Football is a completely different world now to what it was when Ferguson took over at United, over three decades have passed and patience levels have changed significantly, at both board room and supporter level. The finances involved with Champions League qualification are substantial and the big clubs are desperate for the extra revenue. Social media has given fans a bigger voice too and this allows more than just those inside the stadium to be heard. These platforms are easily monitored by clubs to gauge the mood amongst supporters.
During Klopp’s first few seasons at Liverpool, their results were mixed but you could see what style he was trying to implement from the outset and Jurgen’s charisma is always going to win him more friends than enemies. With Klopp having previously managed at Mainz and Dortmund, we all knew what his end goal was in terms or how he wanted the team to play but I’m not convinced anyone knows exactly how Mikel plans for us to be set up in twelve months’ time for example.
Whilst I understand that those supporters aren’t suggesting that Arteta will go on to achieve what Klopp and Ferguson have, I don’t believe that you can justify giving a novice manager the same benefit of the doubt or have a similar level of belief in his ability to turn things around, as you can in proven managers, who have managed for fourteen and twelve years respectively, prior to being appointed in those jobs. That’s not to say Arteta can’t turn it around, just that Jurgen and Alex were able to draw on their previous experiences, whilst Mikel is learning on the job and we don’t yet know how he deals with adversity as a manager.
There are some supporters who will defend Arteta over everything, however, there are those try to use any opportunity to stick the knife in him too. Following the incident between Luiz and Jimenez, I saw some fans heavily criticising Mikel for not substituting David immediately. Having suffered from a concussion injury myself earlier this year, I completely agree that it was dangerous for Luiz to have continued, however, whilst the protocol for head injuries in football needs to be reviewed and quickly, Mikel cannot be blamed for following the advice of the clubs medical staff, who gave the green light for Luiz to play on. He did of course replace him at the interval.
I appreciate that this probably reads like an Arteta out article, with my frustration and disappointment being extremely evident but I can assure you that it’s not. I like the man and hope he goes on to demonstrate that he does have what it takes to lead the club to where we want and need to be. He made an excellent start to his managerial career and hopefully this is just a temporary setback. One he will come back stronger from.
Our next league fixture is of course against that lot from down the road. It could be seen as either the worst game for us in our current form or the best. Win it and recent results will be temporarily forgotten. Lose it, the growing pressure on Mikel will increase substantially. Usually, as supporters you look forward to a local derby more than any other game but this time, many of us are probably dreading it….
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Passionate Gooner born in 1984. I often get called negative but personally, I prefer the term honest and honesty is something that I pride myself on. I joined the Gunners Town team after penning several ‘Dear Arsene Wenger’ letters on my Facebook profile, several years ago, and sharing them in Arsenal supporter groups. These were met with praise and the encouragement to start writing my own blog, from fellow Arsenal supporters, who felt my words summed up their own feelings perfectly. So here I am…..