Well, here we go again, friends. Another week of ‘oh please god make it stop’ is heading our way. Manchester City in the EFL followed by Chelsea in the Premier League. Not ideal opponents, but when you are utterly shite, who is it good to play against?
The strategy for the week should probably be focused on giving it our all in the Premier League. Give the cup game to the footballing gods as a sacrificial lamb. Spend time coaching. A big performance and a win against Chelsea sets you up nicely for an ‘easy’ run of games. That is what we need.
Back to the grim story that is the manager’s future.
It’s pretty clear the plan as it stands is to back Mikel Arteta.
If he loses the next 5 games, I’m not sure they’ll be sticking with that idea, but hopefully it won’t get that bad. Not that there are any positives to really point to outside an uptick in xG.
Here we are, like groundhog day, overseeing the wreckage of another defeat against a team we really should have beaten.
It feels like the project is over. It’s likely not, but I think football careers of managers at top clubs can deal with blips, but not mega craterings. We’re now in the end of days of Emery. There is no real clue how to stop us from losing, and the biggest mistakes of the summer are coming back to haunt us.
We are a top 5 team. We have top 5 players. We should be in the pack of clubs at the top of the league fighting it out every week, particularly this season. The fact that we are not doing that speaks to bad decisions.
A huge game for Arsenal this weekend. Everton could very well give us a total spanking and make this the end to 2020 we didn’t deserve.
I’ve been doing the rounds with people this week. Things are not good for Arteta. He’s lost a lot of goodwill over the last three months and palming it off on being a new project simply doesn’t jive with most.
The Southampton game followed the same pattern as the Burnley one. Average first half, strong start to the second, a self-inflicted wound… but at least we earned something out of this.
The new reality is this: Getting out of the hole we’re in isn’t going to be a flukey goal and 10 wins on the bounce. It’s going to be something slower and more painful.
Why? Well, the whole squad is shot to pieces confidence-wise and the overall character of the players, in most cases, is a long way from elite.
At this stage, you have to accept the positives when they land. That game unravelled because our players are a bit dim. Gabriel, who has been shit for quite a while, dropped a horrendous mistake after getting booked. It deserves its own paragraph.
Theo Walcott leant into Gabriel on the halfway line, grabbing him. Gabriel fell for the bait and pulled him down… like one of the worst forwards I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching was capable of turning him on the halfway line and scoring.
Honestly. Doughnut 101 behaviour. How do you coach that?
You can be angry about the performance and that’s fair. You can decry a point when we needed three, and that’d be fair. But for me, we’re in crisis and you have to take the joy where you can. A point right now is like the cracker in the desert. Enjoy it and hope something better is coming.
There were positives. The team didn’t crash after we went down to 10 men. Why does that matter? It shows we’re not at Emery levels of performances. There’s some hope there.
Auba scored a goal. He was shit for most of the game, but he didn’t give up, and the finish was painfully telegraphed, but perfect for a man on the edge.
Saka didn’t stop fighting despite having a poor game by his standards. His battling run to set up the goal was superb, he was thrashed all over the place, he stayed on his feet and gave Eddie the chance to play in our beleaguered striker to equalise.
Ainsley needs to start all our games going forward. Put him in midfield. Joe Willock might not be the finished product, but he can run and cause problems. Let’s see some more of ESR. He ‘could’ be better than Lacazette who doesn’t know how to be a #10. The line up might not have produced gold, but it was a new 11, let’s see how they play if the faith is repaid when people come back from suspensions and being dropped.
The takeaway for me was that if we’d kept 11 players on the pitch, we might have done something. We were more daring, the team was starting to show signs of life, and we were creating chances.
The brief has changed. It’s survival now. We need to power through December and try and put some points on the board. Top 4 is a distant memory. We just need to get to 40 points. A shocking shift of expectations, but that’s where we are. But the reality is this: Who is getting more out of these players? Might as well see it out and see if we can start to climb.
January is huge. He needs to shift on the bums. He needs to find some creative players. He needs to start the slow and painful shift towards the new era. The real work starts now and I fear the season is going to be quite grim. We won’t be relegated, but the best we can now hope for seems to be mid-table.
Some of that is on Arteta for not scrubbing the decks of the wasters, but part of this is simply because there has been no coherent strategy for 10 years and we’re paying the price.
This is grim. I am sad. You are also sad. But we have to hit rock bottom to find the next step in the process.
Here are my reccos:
Clear out the wasters
Find a couple of creative players on loan that have something to prove
Blood the youngsters
Wipe your tears, let’s see what the weekend holds. Onwards!
Good morning my darlings. I’ve been to hell this week. Arsenal has been shit. Advertising has been worse (we won that Ad of the Year award though, so thanks). I’m on my 4th accommodation in 2 weeks after dealing with rodents. The only joy has been finding out that lizards are quite social and like to hang out when you work. Weirdos.
It’s time to get back to business though. I can’t have Arsenal being shit forever. Mikel Arteta’s fall from grace needs a swift turnaround. He’s going nowhere and he needs to fix the problems.
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
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.
I deleted it. Weird thing is about 15 people messaged me the same thing. Every single one of them was right.
Mikel Arteta’s fall from grace has been stunning. Only at Arsenal. I can forgive another loss, but not the way he delivered it. The mix of arrogance, stubborn behaviour, and poor delivery was something else.
Xhaka. Willian. Auba. Lacazette. Hector. All in the starting 11. A show of defiance from a manager that ignores history, performance, merit, and behaviour to play his favourites with the biggest contracts… getting punished deservedly by the bums the fans KNEW would fail him? It is NOT unbelievable. It was the easiest script to write. Too obvious to be a plot worth exploring.