It’s depressing to be at the despair stage of the season after one game, but here we are, things are not looking particularly sharp at the club at the moment. The rumblings around the organisation aren’t positive, the players look unhappy on the pitch, and there are lots of rumours leaking out that indicating preseason has been a disaster.
The immediate concern is short-term. There are a number of things going on at the moment that need control if we’re going to have a better season.
Firstly, it feels like someone needs to pull Arteta and his crew to one side and talk a bit about accountability. There seems to be an almost Trumpian air about Mikel Arteta at the moment and it has to stop. I’ll cite three things that I’ve found disturbing over the past week.
That press conference. I’m sorry, unacceptable for a rookie manager to sulk in public. His behaviour sets the tone for how the fans feel, and more importantly, how the players feel. Complaining in public about the lack of movement with half-baked answers and a sullen vibe just won’t fly. It’s what children do and that’s how I felt seeing that carry-on.
Arteta needs to own the issues. This magical system he’s building cannot be two players away from banging. His right back problem is on him, he told us Cedric Soares has special qualities. His lack of cash for forwards is on him, he sanctioned Auba and Willian. This summer of dithering at least has to be partly on him. Odegaard is his choice, by opting for him, he accepted he wouldn’t have a #10 before the window. He’s got to own this versus finger-pointing about the things he doesn’t have. If your system is one injury away from hell, then maybe the system you are building isn’t very robust?
Can I do forthly? Let’s talk about leaks. Someone at the club is putting stories into the media that are very unhelpful. The latest is that the club has been underwhelmed with Auba’s preseason output. Sorry, cannot have that. This shows the naivety of operators we have at the club. No one is signing Auba on £350k a week, no one. So leaking he’s available is next to useless. All it does is depress the player and worse… it tells the squad, that like in a Trump cabinet position, once you are no longer useful to the manager, it’s the scrap heap for you. Think about the mindset of whoever shared that story… ‘Let’s tell the world Auba had a shite preseason and we want him out’… hardly an appetising advert for one of the best-paid players in the world.
Arteta played a role in this. When he was asked if Auba could get back to his best, he said he didn’t know. An embarrassing answer, that for me felt like he was preparing an excuse as to why the season might go off the rails. Wenger would have said, ‘this is one of the most clinical strikers in world football. He has had some problems, but I promise you, he will be back and prove the doubters wrong.’ Same thing with Willian. I get that he’s been appalling, but you know who pushed that deal? Arteta. Now he’s trying to reverse out of owning that decision, and once again, the player has been binned.
Where is Josh K here? That’s £600k a week worth of investment in two players over 30 and the manager that went hard for both deals is walking away from the players. It is unacceptable and extremely immature.
For me, this mess we’re in all stems from the promotion we gave Arteta last season. The Spaniard land grabbed because he knew Edu was weak, and Vinai caved. Now you have this dreadful structure where no one is accountable. When no one is accountable in an equal power structure, you invite cliques… because every decision becomes a power struggle where the loudest voices win.
Who is responsible for the lack of players this window? Is it Edu, who we know drives home deals even if they are shit? Or is it Arteta dithering over names in the hope that better ones come along? Who is the captain of the ship here?
Vinai has to shoulder a chunk of the blame here because it would appear that after a disaster of a season, no additional controls were put on Arteta and we’re careening into another nightmare scenario praying he can be the rockstar Wenger was. Wenger was 47 when he took over Arsenal, he’d gone through the authoritarian stage, he’d been sacked, he’d built a bottom of the table club back up to the top in Japan… Arteta cannot be expected to take over a more complex operation and do all the bits.
As any of you reading who work in big corporate business will know, things like over-promoting happen all the time. You put someone junior in control of too much, they panic under the stress, they kick out at the system, they blame people, and make the lives of their subordinates hell. When you see it happening, you don’t let it slide. You get to the truth of the problem, then you sit the person down, you tell them that you are going to take away some bits of the job and allow them to focus on a few key elements. It is not a tough conversation to have if you have evidence where the person is failing.
It was absolutely clear the ‘manager’ role ruined the progress we were making the season prior. Did Vinai scale back Arteta’s job? Did anyone look at the team that surrounds him and make suggestions of upgrades? Did anyone deep dive into the goalkeeping mess and ask him what he was doing about it? Did anyone suggest bringing in some fresh thinking?
No. It didn’t happen. It looks like gridlock in the backroom team and it sounds like Arteta is throwing Edu under the bus for not getting the deals done that he wanted. That does not feel like the sort of thing that goes on when there’s a tight working relationship.
If you and I can see backroom politics spilling out onto the shop floor, can you imagine what is actually going on behind the scenes?
The idea of hiring a young and innovative coach was an exciting one and it could have worked, but it was executed with naivety. If you take a punt on someone young, you control who is around them and you limit their power. Just like RB Leipzig did with Nagelsmann. You don’t promote a rookie after 6 months. Arsenal shouldn’t have put an inexperienced Technical Director above him and they certainly shouldn’t have downgraded the power of that role so soon. These are super simple things that should have been foreshadowed. When there’s a lack of leadership in an organization, power vacuums open up, and people that lack maturity run riot and the business lacks coherence.
Our keeper, central midfielder, and our right back all wanted out. We have been trying to find a buyer for Lacazette, someone at Arsenal is leaking that we are disappointed with our captain. Our big summer bet of last year has been binned off and told to find a new club. There are rumors flying around that there is unrest at the training ground. We can’t even handle the illness rumors properly, whatever it is, it’s better to be upfront about it rather than let it fester as something more nefarious. Leicester just came out and owned that Bertrand had covid, why haven’t we been given and update on Auba, Lacazette, and Runarsson?
Good leadership would prevent things like the above from happening. The passivity and willful inaction is now part of our DNA. We didn’t manage Wenger properly and let him spend his way to mediocrity, no one in leadership paid a price for that. We didn’t manage the transfer of power from Ivan to the dual CEO model and let Raul take over and do some really bad things. Then when that all went to hell and we found what looked like a promising model, we crushed it by breaking the hierarchy and creating a dual power structure in the footballing backroom team. It beggars belief that we can’t do better than this, but until we stop hiring people based on convenience, and start hiring people with a vision and an iron fist to activate it, we’ll be here, swimming around in a messy unstructured model hoping something clicks by accident.
These next two games are going to be telling. If we lose both of them, we’re back to last seasons run of game, this time, it’ll end in a firing. Where do we go then? You think Arsenal are finding £15m a year for Conte, or that he’d be interested after turning down Spurs? No way. We’d be back to trusting a Technical Director whose best ideas come from his super agent buddies.
It’s dark time ahead if Arteta really is causing as many problems as the rumours would suggest. Let’s pray to the footballing gods that the Brentford loss has inspired some action and some solves. Otherwise, this could be yet another messy year of painful transition football. It’s so disappointing because this whole situation could have been managed better if someone had the foresight to structure the right team and processes.
Right, see you in the comments.