I’d love to be able to feed you some snippets that the problems we’re facing are about to be tackled like Granit spying a speed demon on the halfway line, but the noise is pretty miserable across the board. The mess you see on the pitch is reflective of a young ‘manager’ that is struggling to control the mess he’s made and a club that doesn’t know how to leash him.
I see a lot of ‘WHAT HAS HE DONE’, and sure, we’re all pissed, so say what you like. But the reality is he did do quite a lot of good in his first 6 months.
- He picked up a dead cat in a relegation fight
- He made us tough to beat
- He breathed energy into a very stale setup
- He attempted to implement a culture based on merit, not reputation or tenure
The first half season saw wins against the top 6, a big improvement in our defence, and a level of fight we’ve not really seen over the last 5 years. Off the ball movement improved dramatically. We also won an FA Cup.
So what went wrong? Arteta saw an opening for a power grab and he took it. He was given a promotion he wasn’t qualified for. Arsenal gave him powers he wasn’t ready to yield. He used those very badly.
Things have gone downhill very rapidly since then and it’s hard to separate the manager from the mess.
He went to the board and asked for deals for:
- David Luiz: £160k p/w
- Auba: £250k p/w
- Willian: £250k p/w
- Soares: £60k
He opted to keep Granit Xhaka in the summer because he thought he’d rehabilitated him. £90k p/w
He decided the best move wasn’t just to bench Mesut ‘the Tweet troll’ Ozil, it was to kick him out of the squad, despite having no creativity in the starting 11. £350k p/w
That’s £60.3m worth of wages currently offering next to fuck all to the project.
He spent 3 months watching William Saliba in training, then decided not to give him a place in the squad… he didn’t even exit him on a loan deal so he could work on his game. Quite a shocking way to treat a £30m asset. If Arteta thinks he’s shit, put him out on loan to Germany and get one of their big clubs to pick him up. If Edu thought he was so far down the pecking order he’d not be good enough to make the Europa League squad, why is he here festering and bitching on Instagram?
Everything I’ve head about Matteo leads me to believe that he should have been binned, but look, he’s in Germany as a ‘punishment’ and could land us a £25m fee in the summer if he carries on scoring screamers.
The reason I mention these two different problems is because they speak to why Arteta the ‘manager’ has been such a huge fucking disappointment.
We hired one of the best young coaches in the Premier League. That’s not in doubt. My view when he was hired was that he’d be used as a palette cleanser for a club that has been lost for years. He’d come in, bin the senior players that don’t give a fuck, and he’d move Arsenal towards a new vision that made us a destination for the best young players in the world.
He was sold as a coach. A change maker. The person who was going to modernise Arsenal and put some pride on the badge. Someone who could sniff out bullshit because he’d worked with the best in the game.
When Julian Nagelsmann, the best young coach in the world, lost in the semi-final of the CL last season, he said ‘There’s a certain profile of player I’d like at RB, but the boss says no.’ That is how you deal with a manager full of ego when he comes to you and lobbies for Willian. You tell him to get the fuck out and come back when he has a good idea. You explain that old players deteriorate rapidly, and worse, they just don’t give a shit. Add to that, when said older players are your peers, they are unlikely to care for your coaching. They don’t need to learn anything because they’ve done it all before with bigger names.
So what did Arsenal do? They bought into the fantasy of short term fixes… again. Arteta wanted to shortcut back to the top. He thought he’d assemble a bunch of journeymen for one last ride, win his trophies, and move onto the next shiny object. Mikel, a man who is a football obsessive that rain man’s post-its all over his walls, didn’t realise his masterplan was the one Wenger and Emery had tried.
A group of football leaders paid about £8m between them sat in a room and agreed that this shocking plan was the way forward. They all looked at Willian, a 32-year-old, and thought not only that he was good enough for Arsenal, they thought he was so good they doubled his salary to come to Arsenal, and they’d give him one more year than Chelsea were offering. On the salary, the player had already told the press he wanted to stay in London. There was no competition for his signature, Spurs certainly weren’t able to offer that money. He had no leverage. How does that happen? Can someone please explain how you sign off on madness like that? Jokes that Edu is now pushing the London based ‘hit the ground running’ star as a name that needs time to settle.
Think on David Luiz. He gave away how many penalties last season? How many unforced errors of his led to goals? We play at Manchester City, he’s benched, he’s sulking, we call on him and he drops a disaster class, a penalty and a red card… proving yet again, he’s a mentally weak joke and should be exited.
What did Vinai, Edu and Arteta decide that week? To reward that fragility and inconsistency with another new deal. That, after his agent piped up about Arsenal in the press. What were they all thinking? They weren’t and we didn’t have a Ralph Rangnick or a Luis Campos to tell them all to fuck off.
Arteta is a coach until he’s earned his stripes. His main skill and the reason we hired him was his Manchester City IP and great rep in the game for being very good on the training ground. The job he should be doing right now is transitioning Arsenal to the best place for young players to build careers in the world.
Good leadership wouldn’t be talking about a 3 point plan for success with Henry Winter. It’d be getting Arsenal and Arteta back to basics. It’d be sitting him down in an office and explaining the magnitude of this fucking disaster he’s overseeing.
Here’s the problem, the true solution to this mess does not align with what is needed right now… results. It also doesn’t marry well with a manager that seems to have a bit of an ego problem.
The true solution: We should pivot away from senior players that don’t care.
The reality: Moving to a kids-only strategy might not win us many of our next 5 games.
Additionally, how will the owners and the board look at a move like that. Their young manager they thought was a visionary convinced them to commit to £60m p/a worth of investment that has regressed us to our worst start in 30 years.
We are boxed into a corner. The only way out is to win. That might mean moving to more of a hybridised model while he sorts things out.
Long-term, if he does get out of this mess, he’s going to have to go and tell the board he sinned. He is going to have to hold his hands up that he made a huge, huge fuck up and hope they forgive the largesse. He is going to have to stop being mates with players that let him down and sell them this January. It’s soooooo awkward.
Then there needs to be strong leadership. We need to get back to a strategy that suits the state of the club and where it is at right now. We have to do things the hard way and move forward in a responsible way. No more naive mistakes. Bin the super agents. Start building processes that make sense. Create a strict profile of the sort of players we target and make sure we stop signing players over the age of 26 years old. Start planning 3 windows ahead. Get our contracts into shape. Don’t give another player a £250k a week deal for the next 5 years. Loan out young players if you don’t rate them. Become a selling club until you have enough success to become a buying club.
Most managers in Mikel’s form would be calling their lawyer right now to arrange a severance deal. Vinai should recognise that and not let a good crisis go to waste. Use the moment to take back control, use it to assess whether we have the right staffing across the club. Are the experienced coaches right? Is the Technical Director delivering value? Where can we start upgrading the process? Don’t take the word of Arteta that what’s going on at the club is great, do the dirty work yourself. Talk to people. Probe for the truth. Try and sniff out patterns. If there are bad eggs, get rid, and upgrade. Don’t leave it to Arteta, he’s already shown his hand hiring in a bunch of yes men. A good leadership structure would put people in place that would challenge him and soften out his inexperience. I’m not sure we’re getting that right now.
I don’t know where this ends. I don’t know how low this goes. All I can tell you is this is as bad as it looks and there isn’t a clear way back to normality any time soon.
Plenty of it can be put on Arteta, but sadly, there is a lot more wrong with Arsenal than just him.
P.S. Now listen to The Arsenal Opinion. I bring together Janan and Matt for the first one. It’s a good one. Therapeutic listening.