Last time Arsenal lost to Aston Villa, we’d just made the FA Cup final after beating a Manchester club. History repeated itself brutally yesterday as we succumbed to a very bright side by 3 goals at home.
Not. Good. Enough.
We’ve lost 4 games out of our last 8.
We have not seen a proper performance this season that you’d class as ‘Arsenal like.’
We are too reliant on a fine margins game.
It’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Last Monday, we were all feeling pretty great about beating a record that had stood for nearly 6 years. The season is going to be bumpy, it’s the nature of a new manager trying to do something ambitious without the tools he needs.
However, let’s be honest, yesterday was absolute garbage. No one showed up to perform. There was no fight, no urgency, and we looked very much like a side that doesn’t like to play in the rain.
Mikel is an absolute control freak on the touchlines. That can work a dream, like it did last week, but more and more, we’re starting to see his choreography expressed as dull and boring. I imagine Arteta believed that he could power through this season by having a tight defence, combined with an elite attack that outperforms xG. We have two or three power plays that we were executing really well last season and we’d nick games.
That plan has unravelled because his big names aren’t showing up. Players we have over-invested in aren’t putting in a shift. Auba, for whatever reason, has not been the same players since he signed his new deal. Willian is the not the dreamy operator we saw at Chelsea. Lacazette is no longer an elite finisher. In fact, he’s unreliable, and he doesn’t look anywhere near the level he should be. We’re spending £680k on those names, that’s an astonishing figure for the current output.
I had a big fear this summer that we were making the same mistakes we’ve made in the past. Relying on unreliable plauyers by expecting them to change. Giving massive deals to players that are there for the retirement fund. It’s early days, but things are not looking good.
What makes it worse for me is that Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins cost Villa £28m, likely about £50k a week, and he put in a better central performance than I’ve seen any of our strikers put in for a long time. He made great runs, he held the ball up with strength, he brought other players into the game. He scored two goals.
It goes without saying that Jack Grealish had another great game, but even worse, Ross Barkley looked like the sort of player we don’t seem to have. How can Villa, with their wage bill and resources, seem to have players that can play better football than ours?
Mikel needs to find a plan for the smaller teams at home. We can’t be a beta team that hopes to nick it against small teams. The fine margins game is joyless, and quite simply, we don’t have players to consistently execute against it. Atletico, we are not. The problem is, which players to we deploy to make it happen? Joe Willock and Reiss can do it in the Europa League, but it’s fanciful to think they’ll suddenly do it in the league. Nicolas Pepe is just not a good player, we have to accept that reality and move on, the worst £72m + £150k a week spent in history? Maybe. ESR? I mean, would be nice, but the guy can’t stay fit.
Also, worth noting that when we tried to chase the game yesterday in the second half, we were ripped to shreds. The idea that there’s some elite attacking combo hiding away in our massive squad is probably a bit fraudulent. Thomas Partey is a great player, he has helped give a little more to the way we play, but as soon as he left the pitch, we were shite.
At least Arteta was frank about the state of that game.
“I don’t feel like we were the team we’re supposed to be, we performed below our standards, our ability and I didn’t see the spirit for the first time that I have seen every day in training and every day when we compete,” Arteta said. “This is totally my fault, it is why I am here, I am responsible for that, to make sure the team performs and competes at the highest level every three days. Today I haven’t done that, so obviously it is my fault.
“It is very tough to find the reasons. I cannot say that I have seen a change or this week they train a different way. I would be lying if I said that. Obviously there was something there that [Villa] wanted much more than us and they showed it.
Being the big man and taking responsibility is noble, but really, we need solutions, because what we’re seeing is quite unimaginative. There needs to be a better plan than this moving forward. Losing to Villa playing like that is really, really poor stuff. Especially after what we did last weekend.
As with all blips, it’s how you come back from them. Currently, 4 losses in the league by November looks very bad. He needs to come back with a better plan. He needs to go on a quiet run of wins. We need to see him move this squad of players forward because we cannot be getting bodied by Aston Villa at home. It’s not the Arsenal way.
The coaching staff has two weeks to think about this. Let’s hope he can be honest about some of the mistakes he’s been making. Over to you, Mikel.
See you in the comments.