The big debate before the game was whether the sacrifice we’ve been making on style could be countered with the gains we’ve made on points. Win 2-0 last night, we’re a point from the top and clear in the top 4. Sadly, the argument was momentarily settled at home to a weak Leicester because Arteta bottled our first-half dominance and lost to the most obvious of strategies > let Jamie Vardy win the game late on.
Fear is not a strategy. Mikel Arteta has moved mountains when it comes to our defensive output, structure, and fight. We can all salute that. His coaching moves were made during the worst moment we’d faced as a club in 38 years. However, let’s be honest, those players he’s working with are not the 8th worst group of players in the league, they are better than that. He was supposed to breathe life into them this season, so far, he hasn’t.
From where I’m watching, it looks like he doesn’t trust his squad. We’ve eeked out wins this season, but we’ve been unadventurous and boring… Leicester beating us feels like the warning shot. You cannot shithouse your way to 4th with these players. There needs to be a second act. We need to speed up the process. The coaching staff need to show some balls and do something interesting. Being guided by what bad things ‘could’ happen is negative energy. I’m all for clean sheets, but not at the expense of looking meek. Yesterday, we looked scared… just like we did midweek when we rolled the ball into the corner to protect a lead against Austrian minnows.
After the Villa game last season, I wrote that the biggest mistake Arteta could make would be to continue to trust players with weak mindsets and output. Well, he doubled down on them… and guess what, we’re not looking great. We’re 6 games into the season and now it’s time to be real… our averageness is not a style, it’s the xG warning we had with Unai Emery.
Alex Lacazette has been atrocious for a long time. He’s physically weak and completely incapable of being a central point when it comes to attack. On another day, with a better striker, we’re exiting the first half with 2 goals. Aouar was a big miss this summer, but let’s not pretend having an elite creator was moving the needle with Alex through the middle. If Eddie can’t do it, then try Balogun. Continuously giving game time to someone that looks less and less athletic is not the answer. Alex should have gone this summer, he didn’t, but that shouldn’t mean he’s starting important games.
Nicolas Pepe might have cost £72m, but he’s not delivering to that level. Why do we keep depending on him? He’s weak, he can’t hold his balance, and he looks scared. He was useless when he came on, I’d prefer to give Reiss a chance. I don’t know whether there’s a second act with him, but so far, he looks like a huge dud.
Granit Xhaka served a purpose last season, but it’s clear that in the big games, he doesn’t have the next level. How long are we going to fool ourselves into believing he’s going to take us to the promised land? I have the exact same feelings on Mustafi. I feel terrible to give him any blame after a long period of time out, but let’s be honest, the club desperately tried to move him out this summer, he’s not getting a new deal, so how much can we expect? I’d rather fail with young players than create false hope that we can resurrect players that we know can’t do it. They do it at Dortmund, why can’t we do it at Arsenal?
The biggest mistake Arteta can continue to make is 1) Believe that there’s no way he can get our players operating in an attacking structure 2) That bum players will give him one more year after he spent the summer trying to sell half of them.
We need to see some bold action. I watched Southampton boss Everton yesterday. They don’t have a squad anywhere near our level. They attacked with free-flowing football, they caused problems all over the park, and they were worth more than the two goals they scored. Why can’t we do that?
Villa were spanked at the weekend, but they will run at you, they create, and they are exciting with players that are a long way from world-class.
Bielsa has been at Leeds for two seasons. His free-flowing brand of attacking football will likely end in tears, but he has lesser players than us and he totally dominates teams and has never offered up shit football.
There’s a system out there where we can be solid with Leno, Partey, Gabriel, Bellerin and Tierney… but still attack with Saka and Auba.
I simply do not believe that players at the level we have need to be coached so hard they can’t think outside NFL style power plays everyone has sussed.
The handbrake is on.
The players fear unleashing the magic.
We’re really fucking boring.
One of the most important things you learn as you develop as a young manager in any industry is that people who are talented have a great propensity to surprise you… but only if you empower them. Sometimes, you have to throw them off a cliff and ask them to swim. Arteta doesn’t seem to trust his squad at the moment and that, for me, is why our ceiling is crushing us.
Arteta needs to address what we don’t have with confidence, not fear. There needs to be a shift in mindset. We can’t be celebrating 1-0 losses to Manchester City as progress. We can’t be saluting Premier League players for coming back from a goal down against a bang average Austrian team. We cannot live in a world where our team collapses because David Luiz stops creating.
Last night was boring, it was predictable, it lacked intensity, and it was totally avoidable. We need to find the next stage of whatever the grand vision is because a season of ‘stop being Emery’ will not be tolerated by fans that bought into the vision of a coach that promised us progressive football and results.
This can be fixed.
Over to you, Mikel… you are better than this.