My hope is that a desperately poor performance like yesterday’s works out better for Arsenal in the long-term. Two shocking games without mitigating circumstances might save us a season of misery.
The worrying narrative that Arteta had been spinning prior to the last two games was that the players were focused, fighting, and turning a corner. ‘They might not be the best, but they always give 100%’ has been the gist. For a moment, I was convinced. When we’ve suffered bad results of late, there’s usually been a valid excuse. Red cards, injuries, bad luck… just a shit day at the office.
Brighton felt like the exception. We made inroads away from home, we beat teams above us in the league, we took two major scalps inside 4 days, we made a cup final. Then this week happened. We had to put on a show against two teams in the relegation zone and it was miserable.
The squad showed their true colours. Like Emery post-22 games, when the focus drops, it really drops. There’s no real reason for it, it’s not a talent issue, it’s a character problem. You cannot coach that out of this squad, Mikel should know, he played with some of the offending characters.
We had an Arsene Wenger performance at Aston Villa. The players took their foot off the gas. We held onto possession and did nothing with it. Managed to lose to an average press. We were the only team this season not to register a shot on target against them. We are MILES better than Villa, but we fucked it.
Then we had an Unai Emery performance against Watford. We lost our shape, we were outbattled, we let a shit team absolutely batter us. We lucked out with a win. Where was the adherence to the game plan? Where was the desire? How can you let Danny Welbeck look world-class?
This isn’t all on Arteta, but he has to take a share of this week. He doesn’t seem to realize that these players will always let him down. They don’t care. They don’t have the ability to retain focus. If the game isn’t interesting, they won’t turn up. He knows Kola is mentally weak, yet he keeps appearing. He’s seen the stats with Luiz, yet he’s telling us he’s elite and the only way to get him out of the mistakes is to… play him some more? We also gave him a new deal, that’s not good. Rob Holding, I want him to be great, but it’s clear that isn’t happening. Lacazette for a new deal, really? There is a group of players that have the ability but lack the focus to be dangerous for any sort of stretch and that won’t change.
We’ll see the mentality shift for the cup final. I bet we show up. The players will look totally different. They will execute the game plan. They will battle like demons. We will be very competitive. Why? Because it’s an important game they care about.
The Watford game was a disgrace. I don’t care that we won. The points were irrelevant. We needed a performance and we didn’t get one. Our xG was pitiful.
Look over at City. Comfortably 2nd. Fuck all to play for and they smash Watford with a stylish display, then they hammer Norwich today. No mercy. They haven’t had a good season, but they still showed the gulf in mentality between us and them.
Arteta needs to learn fast that this sort of performance always waits in the wings. David Luiz conceding 5 penalties, a record, is exactly what he’s about. 1 worldie, 3 average games, 2 howlers. You can’t rely on him. He should be taking on a Lichtsteiner role next year. It doesn’t look that way and that’s a worry. If he’s central to our plans, we’re in trouble, because everyone in football knows how that story ends.
As for the rest of the squad, it’s clear who needs to go. If we make minor tweaks this summer, you can bet your bottom dollar we won’t move forward at the pace required. You cannot coach character. You do not progress with players that can tactically boss City, then throw in the towel against Villa and Watford.
Yesterday was a wake-up call.
Yes, Arteta has moved us forward. Yes, he is the right man to take us into the future. But he needs to get woke to these players and their weaknesses. The most novice and arrogant thing he could do this summer is buy into the idea that he has changed the fundamental character flaws that are deeply ingrained in these players. You do not create a high-performance culture with these players. The kids do not develop training with bums. It is as simple as that.
I love the theory that Steve Round and Mikel speak to, it sounds smart, it reads very progressive, but it has to go beyond words. Their actions have to show they have the courage to deliver the bad news and make horrible choices. The non-negotiables have to go beyond training ground etiquette. This summer, his non-negotiables have to focus on talent. If you don’t have the focus, get out the club. If you are good with the kids but can’t cut it on the pitch, you are no good to anyone. If you lack talent, then see you later. The way some of the contract talks have been shaped over the past few weeks, I am deeply worried about that he’s not going to deliver the aggressive stance we need. A half-baked job this summer would be a disaster.
Our main problem though is one of character, not just talent. I desperately hope that Arsenal losing out on 5th because of Villa, Spurs and Brighton has drive home that point to Mikel. No more chances for players that don’t have it. No more bringing in characters that are finished. Don’t roll the dice on players from other clubs that are 26 years old with clear mentality issues. It is not worth it. We have seen it too many times at Arsenal. The story needs to change.
This upcoming transfer window needs to be profound. We have no money, but we do have players that can be traded for better ones. But there has to be intent from Arteta to move on names he seems to think are cutting it. If we blow it, based on the naïveté of the clubs coaching and technical staff, next season will be rough and the fans will not be so forgiving.
8th place for Arsenal is relevant because Klopp finished there in his first season. He learnt his lessons and he attacked the fundamentals aggressively. Arteta must do the same if we truly want to follow the same path.
We’ll spend today complaining, then it’s cup final vibes all the way. A huge chance for Arteta to start his career with a trophy, also a chance for the players to redeem themselves after a shocking end to the season.