Mikel Arteta and Edu are going to have to deal with their political dilemma with honesty at some point. Willian, quite simply, is not good enough for Arsenal. It’s the end of January, he’s scored 0 goals and managed 2 shots on target in 20 games. This isn’t a case of having problems adapting to a new system, it’s not a London issue, it’s not bad luck… it’s desire. He’s on gardening leave of his career in football. It’s infuriating.
The problem our two fearless leaders have is that this deal was naive and incredibly negligent on all the levels we’ve gone over many times before. Arteta was hired as a coach, his job originally was about what happened on the pitch, when he became manager, it was about taste levels. When your major move of the summer is to convince your overlords Willian is going to win you the Champions League at 35, you’d best hope you are at least close to being right. Arteta keeps playing him because it makes his taste look abysmal… trouble is, that infectious zero fucks vibe Willian gives off has contributed to Arsenal losing a back door entry into next years Europa League. Our new Ozil is now costing us future options.
Willian isn’t the only problem. Nicolas Pepe is a £72m flop of the grandest magnitude. Yesterday wasn’t a disaster by the very low standards we have set for him. Statistically, you can point to the 5 chances he created. However, the eye test gives you the true grade. He’s not very influential, he struggles to impose himself on games, and his decision making is consistently weak. Who in the league would give him a starting position in their line-up? West Ham? Villa? Southampton? How low would you have to go in the table to find a home for him? He’s great for youtube clips, isolated moments that edit out the bad, and that’s the problem… he’s the kid at Uni who would destroy everyone in 5 a-side, but look utterly anonymous in a game of 22 on a full-size pitch.
Eddie is very young. He’s clearly going to be a goalscorer, but it’s becoming harder and harder to see his path at Arsenal. He lacks height and his all-round game is missing completeness to contribute to our system. He doesn’t link well, he’s not dominant physically, and he plays on the periphery looking to sniff out the scraps. We need more action, more character, and we need him to be doing better when he does find a way in. I appreciate fans always have the answer, some we win (ESR), some we lose (Willock), but the argument against minutes for Flo Balogun look weaker by the day.
The front three weren’t helped by the axis of bland with Xhaka and Mo Elneny. Cautious passing and sluggishness moving the ball forward made for painful viewing. The Arteta system can allow for one of them, not two. The summer needs to see both of them gone. Mobility and pace is an absolute must.
James Maddison of Leicester had a really nice interview in the week. He was asked about the dirty work he offered. He said that everyone has to do that in a Brendan Rodgers side. Games like yesterday, well, you see how far we have to go with the squad. We didn’t have 11 players doing the dirty work. We didn’t have enough players taking responsibility when we needed it. There weren’t enough difference makers.
The silver lining we can take from the miserable cup exit is that every game like this reinforces the truth to Edu and Arteta. ESR has gone from a nobody to one of the most important metronomes of the team. Saka, Martinelli, and Lacazette are essential to our attack. Thomas Partey sets the tone for recruitment talent levels. Moving forward, every single penny needs to be spent with the future in mind. No more retirement funds. No more £72m buys from Ligue 1. No more contacts scouting.
I do think Arteta needs to sharpen his PR game as well. I appreciate that the two keepers thing might have been related to Auba having to deal with personal issues last minute, but was there really no way we could have had Balogun in that squad? Is it going to take an injury crisis to prove to Arteta that AMN is a far better option in the middle of the park to Mo Elneny?
Still, I am quite confident that we’ll have more than enough to give Southampton a very good game on Tuesday. Partey, Tierney, ESR, and maybe Auba will bring a whole different vibe to the game. Win that and do some damage against United and all will be forgiven. Fingers crossed we’ll have a few new names to select from for that game.
I dropped a quick podcast. It’s solo. Enjoy.