Arteta caves on non-negotiables as standards slide (long read)

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In every young person’s journey through management; across any industry, there’s always a moment when things go badly to shit. Your PowerPoint plans get smacked by unforeseen circumstances. Those principles you promised to adhere to are tested by people you expected more of. You start engaging in contradictory behaviour because you believe there to be no other choice, and secretly, it’s easier to let things slide versus confronting people. That time is here with Mikel Arteta. Bad decisions have snowballed and the chickens have come home to roost. He has to take stock, get back to basics, and graft a path forward.

We thought simple answers were sitting in plain sight, those naive ideas were obliterated yesterday, now it feels like we’re entering a death-spiral. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Only the weak succumb to panic and the mob. Arteta needs to show strength and battle his way into the cockpit and take control of the Arsenal plane.

Firstly, let’s talk where the standards are slipping.

Why did Willian start? The club told him not to travel to Dubai and he said, fuck it, I’m going. What message does his inclusion send to the rest of the squad? What would we have said if Ozil did that? Why was Willian included if he broke the rules? If you have non-negotiables, they have to be for everyone, and if they are breached, there has to be consequences. The fact Willian was so bad in the first half he had to be yanked for Reiss Nelson was stunning. He hasn’t had an assist or goal contribution in 7 games now. His free transfer has followed the exact trajectory of nearly every signing we’ve made from a rival. How were Edu and Arteta allowed to do this deal? It is a catastrophically poor use of funds made even worse because there is a very clear history of these deals working out poorly for us.

Another observation. Watching the warm-up, you look around at the coaches and you have two that look like they’re about 23 running drills. I’m game for innovative thinkers, but we’re in a crisis right now and it looks like our ‘manager’ is going down the same path as Arsene Wenger. Surrounding himself with a backroom team he can dominate. It’s a small thing, but what does that say to the players as well? Where are the experienced heads to counterbalance Arteta’s youth? Who is the Villanova to Pep? Where is the guy that’s done it before at the highest level? The biggest weakness of Arteta is years served… he should have those weaknesses catered to by a Technical Director that has the cojones to impose himself on a junior coach and build a team around his weaknesses.

Then we have the game. Nicolas Pepe, darling of a huge chunk of the fanbase for no real reasons, landed a run. It was a big 90 for him. He had a chance to show he has something to offer the Premier League. He was a disaster, again. He was a gift for Leeds down the right. His game has no intensity, his body language is shocking and his creative output doesn’t merit inclusion. What is the difference between him in the side and Mesut Ozil? Bar Mesut can actually create. I wasn’t sure it was possible he could be more useless in the second half, but he dug deep and decided that he’d take an unintense situation and make it pivotal to the game by headbutting a Leeds player unprovoked. It wasn’t ‘heat of the moment.’ It was intentionally destructive. It was the power move of a player that really doesn’t give a fuck about Arsenal or his career. I’ve seen people bemoan Arteta for calling this behaviour ‘unacceptable,’ like he’s being unfairly scapegoated. He literally blew our game plan over nothing. Not sure what else there is to say here.

To be honest, we played better when he exited the field. Reiss wasn’t much better than Willian, but Saka coming on for Joe Willock gave us more balance and attacking threat than Pepe and Willian combined.

… on Joe Willock. How bad was he? I don’t think he could have done a better job proving why he doesn’t start proper games. He couldn’t do the basics right. He got in the way. He ran towards players with the ball, he held on too long, he made bad and slow decisions. A total disaster run out for him.

Auba dropped another 2/10. He looks drunk off his big deal. Nothing stuck through the middle. He lacked sharpness. He dropped too deep. He didn’t connect with anything. Another drossy day out for our most important player.

Think about the basics we’re fucking up. How many more times are we going to see a corner barely make the front post? My ultimate peeve at the moment is watching Hector Bellerin give away possession from throw-ins and worse… foul throw. Who foul throws more than Hector? If you do that in Sunday league, your mates rip you, and pour Fosters in your duffel bag after the game. How has this become a thing? Our setpieces at the moment are toilet break opportunities.

The output of the game was reflective of a very bad two weeks preparation. Things aren’t great at the training ground. There are disciplinary issues that you’re not seeing that are contributing to friction in the camp. The Dani Ceballos vs David Luiz issue wasn’t a case of light handbags. It was a big deal and Ceballos was to blame. His cries of ‘FAKE’ are nonsense. Willian sticking his middle finger up to the culture was shocking considering his seniority, then he gets a start and stinks out the place. That all the troublemakers of the last two weeks started doesn’t exactly speak to new high standards being upheld. But… Dani is an Arteta project. Willian is a reflection of Arteta’s tastes. Caving for your favourites? Not a good look.

Being a leader is lonely. Upholding standards does not win you popularity contests. It is stressful. But that is the job. Arteta seems to be losing sight of that part of his role, for someone that talks about culture as much as he does, that is a really big worry. Replacing bad eggs with your own bad eggs won’t move Arsenal forward. Simply put, you cannot be a proponent of high-performance culture and not hold yourself and your team accountable to the principles that make it so. I hear one of the coaches is a disaster. A real bad egg. Everyone loved who he replaced, not so much the new guy. It’s a small thing, but why are we keeping people at the ground that aren’t good for the environment? Small bad decisions grow under pressure like cancer, and at the moment, it looks like our new ‘manager’ is paying the price of lots of small bad decisions that are now teetering on the edge of terminal.

Arteta’s ruthless and precision approach to discipline at the start has softened. He’s caving on his non-negotiables for players he’s personally invested in. He cut off his nose to spite his face with Mesut Ozil. You can only make big dick decisions if there’s a plan. His plan was to replace Mesut’s creative output with two players that seem to have the same zero fucks attitude without the same quality. Now he’s paying the price for that and he didn’t give himself an insurance policy (by keeping Ozil in the squad), preferring to give the squad place to someone like Saed Kolasinac we all know is not good enough. The argument of ‘preserving the culture’ falls flat when you look at what is going on right now.

Now, the good news is none of this is fatal, yet. Elite leadership talent doesn’t cave to bad moments. Football clubs have ups and downs. The best people find a way through the bad times. Make no mistake, we just entered a serious RedZone for Mikel Arteta. Some brutal decisions need to be made and he needs to get the car back on the road.

First thing he needs to address is discipline. If you don’t hit the standards for Arsenal, you have to pay a price. Nicolas Pepe should not be seen for a while. He lacks discipline off the pitch and he’s a disaster on it. We just have to accept he’s the worst signing in Arsenal’s history and no amount or rewatching his Youtube videos will change that. Get him out of the club and move on. I have not idea what we’re going to do about Willian bar pin his picture on the wall at London Colney and promise never to give someone over the age of 30 a longterm deal ever again. Let’s go Dennis Bergkamp on this problem and stop believing players are going to give you what you need. That decision is on Arteta and it was a shocking one that we all knew would end badly.

Secondly, he needs to work out a way of getting us firing again. People on Le Grove are calling Arsenal notagonists and it’s true. We were shite going forward again. We looked interesting when Saka came on and we went to 10 men. Whatever purist idea Arteta has in his head about attack is not working. We are really fucking slow-moving the ball. We need to add 30% to the pace. We need to stop looking so mechanical. We need to find some unpredictability in our attacking play.

Thirdly, all this needs to have happened yesterday.

We didn’t lose against Leeds. We look like an Emery team going forward, but we’re pretty difficult to break down. Leeds only managed two more shots on target than us yesterday. Problem is, we’re clueless in attack. No open play goals in 7.5 hours of football is fucking dreadful. That will get solved though. Arteta will coach his way out of this because his future depends on it.

We have two really big games coming up. If we take 6 points against Spurs and Wolves, we’re right back in the mix.

Can we also just take a moment to celebrate what stars Kieran Tierney, Gabriel, and Bernd Leno were yesterday. The German made some outrageous saves. He was electric, what a clean sheet. Tierney is just a warrior. A proper player. A nightmare to play against. I LOVED that he had to be dragged away after catching Xhaka chumming it up with Alioski after the game. That’s the spirit you want at Arsenal, blowing up after the game, when it doesn’t affect your team. I’m so glad he’s maintained fitness. A true warrior. I also love what Gabriel brings to our defence. He’s settled so fast. What a player we have there.

Back to the situation. The Premier League this season is about top 4 qualification. The job of Arteta is to be within 6 points of top 4 come February. If we are in our current position by then, we’re on target to treat every game heading into the finish line like a cup final.

Football clubs go through rough patches. We are in a patch that has been ploughed with salt and arsenic, but we’ll come out the other side and things will start to go for us. We have Thomas Partey returning to midfield. We’ll start Saka next week and lean on his creativity. We’ll stop wasting time on Nicolas Pepe, we’ll put Willian on the bench, and we might take a chance on some young players that cannot possibly do any worse.

The season feels like it’s over, but it’s not. You’ll spend all week complaining about where we are, you’ll be angry at work tomorrow… that is your right fam. Things will improve though. It really doesn’t take much in this league to go from FRAUD watch to something more hopeful. Fingers crossed Arteta can find the path forward.

See you in the comments. x

781 Responses to “Arteta caves on non-negotiables as standards slide (long read)”

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  1. Champagne charlie

    “You have that view so spare me the nonsense, you see nothing wrong with the overall setup of the team you just have an issue with the make up of the squad, the lack of creators as it were.“

    There you go again, why bother talking with anyone if you’re just going to assert everyone else’s views for them and respond to those? Baffling.

    I’ve said for a while what my ideal attack looks like in terms of balance. It’s no secret we miss players of a certain ilk, think that argument is impossible to dismiss at this stage. But I’ve said countless times that I fully expect us to transition from a defensive 3-5-2 to a more attacking 4-2-3-1 over the course of the season.

    How could I want that and be content with what’s currently being offered? Makes no sense at all, just baseless rubbish.

  2. Receding Hairline

    “How could I want that and be content with what’s currently being offered?”

    Same way you wanted Wenger gone but still believed he had a league title in him if transfers were taken out of his control.

    You are back to your super coach bad players fetish, all it took was another smooth talking coach in charge and you are a believer .

    You don’t like the tactics offered but found it “interesting” we created chances with a player of guile and intelligence on the pitch. Gotcha!!

  3. Kris

    The way we keep playing it would probably be the best temporary solution to loan Giroud in Jan and sell Laca plus buy an AM with the money.

    Giroud would at least get and keep the ball and with his excellent passing and a proper AM, there’s no way our scoring numbers don’t improve while Giroud is also still a beast defensively.

  4. Up 4 grabs now

    Evening all,

    His job is not on the line and neither should it be at such an early stage. He’s had difficulties to overcome such as the pandemic and lack of pre-season. The form is up and down and maybe that’s to be expected to an extent. Not because he’s a new coach – Arsenal shouldn’t be an apprenticeship scheme for managers – but because transition takes time.

    Receding, I’m not having a pop at you, and I still back arteta for now but every other manager has had to deal with the pandemic and lack of pre-season.
    Arteta has had a year, two transfers Windows, got the players he wanted.
    I’m sure he wanted others but he has publicly said the players that arrived are ones he wanted.
    Defensively we are better, but that’s at the cost of everything else.
    Now results are going against him.
    And he’s running out of time.

  5. Valentin

    Receding,

    I don’t that his squad choices point to an individual who lacks belief in his own coaching ability. It is not like he tried the youngsters, failed and retreat to the comfort the safe older players.

    I would say it points to somebody who lack self awareness and overestimate both how much positive influence he can exert of players performance and the quality of his senior players. Unless he build a system that fits them, he is not going to transform David Luiz, Xhaka, Lacazette and Mustafi, into world beaters.

  6. Champagne charlie

    “Same way you wanted Wenger gone but still believed he had a league title in him if transfers were taken out of his control.“

    Still peddling a nonsense that’s been disproven a good half dozen times? Excellent, shows your level.

    “You don’t like the tactics offered but found it “interesting” we created chances with a player of guile and intelligence on the pitch. Gotcha!!”

    Yes, it was a pointed reference to those dismissing the value of attacking players in the profile that we miss. BIG HINT…. you’re one of them dismissing the obvious.

    Players with the attributes of Saka are totally absent in the side outside of him. Pepe is a fraud, Laca and Auba aren’t ever that sort, and Nelson/Willock are babies in football maturity. Our creative impetus is hugely influenced by the fact we’ve gouged a crater behind the striker and not replaced in kind.

    That does not, as it has been repeated numerous times, dismiss the fact we should be playing better.

  7. Receding Hairline

    “A former understudy of Tuchel, Nagelsmann is beloved by his players; he has a reputation for being a brilliant man-manager with a remarkable ability to connect with his squad. Not only is he recognised for his work with young players but also for his knack of reigniting the more experienced who seemed to have lost their spark.”

    An article on 32 year old Nagelsmann, we have the opposite here, the old players are not reigniting and the young ones can barely get on the pitch.

  8. Guns of SF

    I think Olly would come back…. i believe he loved Arsenal when he was here and tried his best.

    He would offer a target man in the box and better hold up play.

    How could you fit both he and Auba together is the question with Auba still pushed to the wing?

  9. Up 4 grabs now

    Guns, there’s nothing wrong with 352 if we actually played it.
    We don’t have two strikers in and around the box.
    If auba is on the wing it leaves lacazette, and he is playing so deep in midfield the box is empty.

    Against Leeds, auba played up top on his own but was so deep just like lacazette was, he had willian willock and pepe in front of him.and none of them were in the box either.
    It’s just a waste.

  10. Valentin

    Kris,

    My point exactly. Giroud is not the long term solution, but neither is Lacazette. However Giroud is a better short term solution. Chelsea are willing to let him go on a free, so why not bring him back home for 6 months. Potentially 18 months, if we need to wait an extra year before splashing on an new striker. We may not need to buy another striker, if Moller is slowly integrated into the first team next season.

  11. Up 4 grabs now

    Guns would love girooood back,
    But as I just said play auba alongside him. Auba can have a free role around the box drift to the left like Henry did but still play in and around the box.

  12. Receding Hairline

    “Receding, I’m not having a pop at you, and I still back arteta for now but every other manager has had to deal with the pandemic and lack of pre-season.
    Arteta has had a year, two transfers Windows, got the players he wanted.
    I’m sure he wanted others but he has publicly said the players that arrived are ones he wanted.
    Defensively we are better, but that’s at the cost of everything else.
    Now results are going against him.
    And he’s running out of time.”

    Up 4 grabs those weren’t my thoughts although i agree with most of what was written there.

    Yes he has the players he wanted. if he believed a player with guile was so essential to his game plan Ozil will not be tweeting from home during matchdays, that or get a cheap upcoming player with a high ceiling and make a mega star out of it.

    The idea that it is 50m pound Aourar or we no one is nonsense. This is not Man City

  13. Up 4 grabs now

    Valentin,

    We should never have got rid of giroud, his game isn’t about pace it never was.
    So even at this age he can still do a very good job.
    You think of sheringham still playing well at 37.
    Even zlatan now at 39 it’s not about pace its about guile.

  14. Receding Hairline

    “I would say it points to somebody who lack self awareness and overestimate both how much positive influence he can exert of players performance and the quality of his senior players.”

    Valentin it must be all those glowing interviews they gave after he was appointed, i mean how could he drop most of them after they lined up to bleat to the press how wonderful he is.

  15. Guns of SF

    even 3-4-3 needs to go…

    The issue is our FB’s tend to drop back more than pushing forward, especially Bellerin.

    He makes these random late runs in games and really throws the opposition off when he does them.

    Its like he waits until late in the game to go at tired legs.

    I do think playing nelson on the right moving forward can also help…

  16. SuperRob

    Up 4 grabs

    ‘His job is not on the line and neither should it be at such an early stage. He’s had difficulties to overcome such as the pandemic and lack of pre-season. The form is up and down and maybe that’s to be expected to an extent. Not because he’s a new coach – Arsenal shouldn’t be an apprenticeship scheme for managers – but because transition takes time.’

    Perfect summation of the situation. People need to get a grip, stop losing their shit and be realistic. Things take time and absolutely things wont be plain sailing.

  17. SuperRob

    Receding

    ‘An article on 32 year old Nagelsmann, we have the opposite here, the old players are not reigniting and the young ones can barely get on the pitch.’

    What has Nagelsmann won with these amazing connections he has with old and young players alike?

  18. Up 4 grabs now

    Receding,

    My bad I thought they were, apologies.
    I think it’s an excuse that no one can use as everyone is all in the same boat.
    Not having a replacement for ozil lined up if you know he isn’t playing is inexcusable.
    And if we knew aouar was going to be difficult to get where was plan b or c?

  19. Up 4 grabs now

    Superrob,

    Those aren’t my thoughts either, I thought there were recedings.
    I think his job is on the line, his remit was top four finish, we’re 5 points off that already. The next six games are all dodgy barring Burnley and by boxing day after playing Chelsea we could be miles adrift.

    If we are I could see him sacked. The form we’re in with no change in formation in tactics and some players already looking like there not hundred per cent behind him could well push him out.

  20. Valentin

    Receding,

    Flatterers thrive on fools’ credulity.

    Last year when every players were buttering up Emery, I stated that whatever positive song starting first team players was irrelevant. Nobody is going to say, the current boss is clueless or a petty tyrant whilst he is still in charge and expected to last. However as soon the manager is out, then everybody is happy to brief the media on how awful, incompetent and disorganised the previous manager was.

    I have not changed opinion. Plus Arteta making clear that he will try to find the mole and crush any dissent, nobody is going to publicly say anything slightly controversial, until there are enough negativity toward Arteta that their individual voices will be drown by the background noise.

  21. Champagne charlie

    Val

    That’s my point, you source everything from Google and ‘my old mate’, you’ve fuck all real experience in areas you talk about with superfluous confidence and certainty. Ignorance isn’t bliss, you’ve never heard of it.

    Next you’ll be telling Pedro how to write a blog properly because your ex girlfriend did this thing once and there was an outcome, or educating Jamie on Nigerian culture.

    And you talk about me and ivory towers? The irony runs deep. You’re a fountain of knowledge, just so happens that fountain has an HTML, or a fanny you’ve sniffed.

  22. Receding Hairline

    “What has Nagelsmann won with these amazing connections he has with old and young players alike?”

    Nothing but he is three times the manager Arteta is. He has more belief in his process and his players buy into it big time. He took Hoffenheim to the Champions league and RB Liepzig to a UCL semifinal. if you think an FA cup won off the back of defensive football trumps that then good for you.

  23. NORG

    Sanchez loved two players when he was at AFC – Ozil and Giraud. Both understood how he played. Perhaps Auba would also benefit.

  24. Valentin

    CC,

    You are like a kid who has just proven wrong and can’t just admit it.
    I initially wrote a throw away comment that my friend a medical surgeon confirm to me that yes smelling bad can have a negative impact when in triage. You saw that as an opportunity to attack me, like you spend your daily life anybody who disagree with you and expose you for the sad little ignoramus that you are.

    I don’t know why I bother, I will return to my usual behaviour toward you. Ignoring the negative ankle biter imbecile.

  25. Freddie Ljungberg

    Fucking Giroud, seriously. Are we even a serious football club anymore?

    If we want a target man there’s plenty of up and coming players we could target that isn’t a lamp post, Thuram for example could probably still be got relatively cheap, although we should have bought him before he went to Germany for 11m.
    If all we want is an upgrade on Laca the choices are even more plentiful, Giroud isn’t it though.

    Doubt we’ll buy more than 1 player in January and Cam is absolute first priority, after that we also also need a striker and a long term partner for Partey but that’ll probably have to wait until summer.

  26. Rene Costa

    Let’s not forget the fact that at the beginning of the season Arteta done everything he could to keep Maitland-Niles at the club and played him in the 1st two games we won.
    The point I want to make is, we play the game as if we are scared to lose it, the balance of the team is not there, also can someone please tell me is Caballos a better creative player than Ozil?
    Don’t get this wrong I believe we have the players but it seems like Arteta is struggling to find his best eleven,
    1.Leno, 2.Maitland-Niles 3.Gabrial 4.Tierney 5.Saka 6. Partey 7.Elmney 8. Ozil 9.Aubamayag 10.Nelson 11. William ( last Chance )
    That’s a team with balance and creativity.
    This is a team that will win games .

  27. London gunner

    Dissenters a left wing nut job he probably thinks tierney was exhibiting toxic masculinity and should have to attend an inclusivity and diversity summit

  28. Anonymous Commentator

    Willock is not a #10, arteta is sabotaging to play his 5-2-3 bollocks.
    He was supposed to play a 4-3-3, not a 4-2-3-1, and he knew that before the damn game, if he was ever going to play a #10 he should have registered ozil in the squad, and I want ozil out the damn club and I’m telling you that.

    Arteta is getting the obvious things wrong now, either he’s trying to be too clever or he’s sticking it to the fans.
    He can walk for all I care, not seeing the hype anymore.

  29. Ishola70

    Freddie Ljungberg

    “Fucking Giroud, seriously”

    How are we going to seriously progress taking Chelsea cast offs all the time?

    They are going to comfortably finish above us in the league by the end of the season all the while binning the players they deem surplus to requirements onto us.

    All it does is rubber stamp that they are a level above.

    It’s a poor take it really is.

    Go your own path not feeding from scraps Chelsea throw us.