The ‘Arteta Knows Brigade’ won’t question the Manager but honest fans should


Honestly okay to question Mikel

In the embryonic stages of my Arsenal related writing pastime, I chose Gunner Be Honest as my blogging pseudonym because I pride myself on my honesty and felt that many supporters allowed their views to be clouded by their love for their club. Those who know me personally will tell you that I love my club as much as anyone, however, I refuse to let that affect my judgement when providing assessments of all things Arsenal and this article is no different.

As the season progresses, it has become apparent that an ‘Arteta Knows Brigade’ has already formed amongst some sections of our fan base and many Arsenal supporters refuse to acknowledge that although Mikel Arteta has done a very good job to date, like all managers, there are occasions where he is fallible too. He’s now been in the job for 10 months and we can’t keep excusing him for any mistakes he makes, just because he’s ‘new’ to the role.

Having lost 1-0 to Manchester City at the Etihad, I wasn’t a fan of hearing Mikel saying that he was “extremely proud of the players for the performance they put in”. We are The Arsenal and he’s not the manager of some plucky lower league team who narrowly lost in a cup competition. Accepted, it wasn’t the thumping that we’ve all become accustomed to in this fixture but had Arsene Wenger or Unai Emery said the same thing, Arsenal supporters would have slaughtered them for saying it. Instead, Arteta’s words had many fans singing from the same hymn sheet and sharing their pride in defeat. Sorry, actually I’m not, but I didn’t feel proud, particularly considering that we offered little serious attacking threat during the second half.


Disappointing loss at Etihad

At this juncture of my article, undoubtedly there will be some readers accusing me of behaving in a fickle manner towards Arteta, so I will categorically state that I am not turning on him or getting on his back and that I retain the belief that he remains the right man to take us forwards. I am also very happy to acknowledge that Mikel deserves a lot of credit for making us far more organised defensively, an approach that ultimately helped him to steer us to last season’s FA Cup success. However, I think it’s fair to start questioning whether his pragmatic approach to games is beginning to have too much of a negative effect on our attacking threat recently.

I said it in one of my recent articles too but I don’t consider us to have played particularly well since the opening day of the season, not over ninety minutes anyway, and whilst we were organised defensively against Manchester City, we weren’t impressive as an attacking force. Mikel’s experiment of playing Willian in a new role didn’t work and if the truth be told, he’s offered very little in general of late. Is the manager or the player to blame for our failure to get the best out of him on a consistent basis so far? The player who often looks the most likely to unlock the oppositions defence, is also the youngest in the team, in the form of Bukayo Saka.


Our best player our youngest(Credit ti D Price, AFC, Getty)

I’m sure some supporters won’t agree but as far as I’m concerned, I’m of the opinion that Arteta is still searching for the right balance in our midfield and attack. I’m optimistic that the addition of Thomas Partey to the squad will assist him greatly with finding a positive solution though. Whilst I’m pleased with his signing, it must be said that the club’s PR department have really overdone it with the frequent ‘Partey’ slogans, talk about putting pressure on a him with all the build up! Mikel was criticised for not starting Partey at the Etihad, but I can understand it to some degree, what with the limited time he’s has to train with his new team mates etc. It did seem strange to leave it so long to bring him on though.


Partey gives him new options

When you are winning games, supporters don’t really care what type of footballing you are playing and the studious types consider all different styles of play to be entertaining. However, I haven’t personally found our style of play to be overly enjoyable recently. It’s probably not an understatement to suggest that any footballing neutral would most likely consider us to currently be one of the least entertaining teams in the league. It is often said that many a true word is spoken in jest and it was not too long ago that, following a good performance against Fulham, I joked that Mohamed Elneny would always shine in our current style of play due to the number of backwards and sideway passes we make during games.

After scoring three goals in our first three league games, Alexandre Lacazette’s omission from the starting eleven was a bizarre decision on Mikel’s behalf, in my opinion. As far as I’m concerned, when you have a striker who is in form and scoring goals, you keep him in the team. I’m not by any means suggesting that he’s the long term answer and understand that he might not fit into Arteta’s future plans but at the same time, he was the only player in the team who was consistently putting the ball in the back of the net when selected at the start of the season. So why drop him, did he want to leave or perhaps Mikel wanted to sell him?


Strange omission can be questioned

In the eyes of many, we remain short of creativity in midfield, something that can’t be rectified until the transfer window opens again in January, so it’s down to Mikel to get more out of the players that he does have at his disposal. With Mesut Ozil being left out of our Premier League squad list, I’m sure his name will be mentioned in hundreds of articles over the next few days and weeks, so I’ll leave that subject for others to focus on in more depth. However, even with Ozil out of the equation, I believe that the talent is there, in both a playing sense and where Arteta’s tactical nous is concerned, for us to start delivering more as an attacking force.

Thankfully, we don’t have to play Liverpool and Manchester City every week but other sides have recently shown what can be achieved against those teams, if you stop showing them too much respect like we did. I appreciate that freak results can happen in football but the truth is that we have failed to land a glove on either side in our two league games against them so far this campaign.

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Undoubtedly, Mikel’s safety first approach worked exceptionally well at the end of last season but I’m of the opinion that in order for him to truly start taking us to the next level, he will need to start removing our attacking shackles in the not too distant future. In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, Willian and Eddie Nketiah, we really should have sufficient firepower and it’s down to Mikel to find the most efficient way for us to load the bullets for them, using the players we have.

I’m sure I’ll be called impatient by supporters who believe that Mikel can do no wrong but I’m not and I fully understand that it will take time for any manager to get us to where we all want us to be. I will also reiterate that I have faith that Arteta is the man who can take us there. I haven’t forgotten the FA Cup win and I’m not disloyal, I’m just a fan who needs more than a narrow to defeat to make me proud of my team.

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10 Responses to The ‘Arteta Knows Brigade’ won’t question the Manager but honest fans should

  1. Natx October 21, 2020 at 1:10 pm #

    Hard to disagree with any of this except probably the tone which i suspect is a tad too angry rather than patient that i choose to be

    • Nick Birch October 21, 2020 at 3:02 pm #

      Definitely wasn’t written with anger, I penned it several days after the City game and was in a very calm head space…

      • Natx October 22, 2020 at 4:31 am #

        Fair enough, as i said hard to disagree. U feel what you feel as a fan and have put it across in a reasonable way.

  2. Sally Pally October 21, 2020 at 1:14 pm #

    There’s lots of good stuff in here.

    However, imo a lot of that is wasted because you have resurrected the divisive tag ‘Arsene Knows Best’ and morphed it into ‘Arteta Knows Brigade’. As the only text you put in bold, you are implying that it is the most important part of the whole article. Seriously?

    I hope its the last time you or anyone else ever tries to do this, as its likely dividing the supporters into two groups, ‘AKB’ and ‘WOB’ was the most destructive thing that ever happened to the club. I’m sure we’d have won much more under Wenger had people not been stupid enough to divide themselves into these two groups. Other clubs laughed as we ate ourselves from the inside. It was so effective at damaging our club that it was as if it was a ploy by United’s black ops unit during the Ferguson years of media and referee control.

    Please don’t do that with Arteta!

    As for Arteta, I see that you still feel that he is the right man for the job. I agree and I think that he is shoring up our defense as first priority, which is about time! Once the defense side of the players is done to its best without fail, I expect that he will make the football more appealing. All the tools are there. I’m much happier that he is starting with the defense, rather than being gung-ho, a la Kevin Keegan at Newcastle.

    • Nick Birch October 21, 2020 at 2:51 pm #

      Firstly, thank you for your feedback.

      Secondly, I did not put any text in bold and this was done by the editing team.

      Thirdly, I will write whatever I wish to in my article that are my thoughts and nobody else’s.

      I disagree that we would have won much more under Wenger had there not been a divide as the supporters behaviour had no bearing on his managerial decision making.

      A divide will always exist between fans when there are different opinions, that is something that happens naturally over time on social media fan pages.

      Using the term was merely a simple and concise way to describe the supporters who believe Arteta is beyond being questioned for any decision that he makes and I can assure you that there are quite a few of that mindset.

      The term was also a useful tool in drawing attention to the article and judging by the feedback and comments that I have received on social media, it’s done it’s job.

      It’s a shame that you have chosen to focus on that rather than the rest of the article, however, I appreciate you comment all the same.

  3. Iainthegooner October 21, 2020 at 4:25 pm #

    Ok Nick – why the need for passive aggression – its in the piece and certainly in your reactions.

    Firstly Sally Pally is spot on. We, the fans should at all costs try and avoid the rancour and division that has been so prevalent in recent years. It was unnecessary then as it is now. Arsenal is, and will be for a while, a work in progress. Judge Arteta after 2 full seasons and not before. Not because he ‘knows best’ but because – in the framework of a failing club and finances dwarfed by our Top 4 peers, it will take time for a new strategy in building for success. You are struggling to support improvement and that will make you frustrated for a while yet I would posit.

    You question why Sally Pally only focussed on your terminology but that seems to suggest you failed to notice the levels of hate and division that ate the fanbase upover the last few years. The reason the phrase bore the most attention from all of your thoughts was indeed because of the widely agreed understanding that we as a fanbase should not go down that road again. You then claim you used the term to generate engagement – click bait is how that is referred to and generally seen as a very poor journalistic practice.

    The poisonous atmosphere at the games DID have a negative effect on the players so PERHAPS a more unified and happy fanbase would have allowed small improvements in performance but I am with you — the issues were much more deep set than the angry mob.

    The current ‘form’ and style of play is a transition phase I would expect to last maybe two more windows until Arteta has established a team and balance he is happy with. He clearly- and rightly started by shoring up our porous defense. Christ knows he needed to. Ozil is effectively removed and there is a lack of creativity in his wake- this may well be improved by the structural changes Partey will enable – ie Ceballos/ Willian/ Saka pulling strings in the front of the midfield but only time will tell. Time..and a lot of playing around with formations I imagine.

    One line however made me cringe ‘Thirdly, I will write whatever I wish to in my article that are my thoughts and nobody else’s.’- Firstly you are a blogger who needs an audience. You blog and ask people to read your opines – so naturally you must expect commentary from your readers. Who can agree and disagree with you in equal measure. If you feel you have a point then question away to your hearts content – just realise others wish to ‘support’ the team in a more blind faith manner. Its a choice and neither should be denigrated. Personally I think you need to buy a big pack of patience pills- I have a feeling you may need them.

    And if you cant respect that opinions are varied but equally valid, give up blogging.

    • Nick Birch October 21, 2020 at 10:01 pm #

      In your opinion Sally is spot on, in mine however, she is not.

      If you believe that I am intent on causing divide amongst our fan base, then you are both definitely wrong…I coined the phrase because I certainly believe that there is an element amongst our fan base who behave like someone has committed a crime of some form whenever they dare to question any of Mikel’s decisions.

      If that’s someone’s mindset then I have to question why they bother to join fan groups on social media, especially when exchanging opinions on all things Arsenal is the sole reason for said groups being created in the first place.

      Nobody is judging Arteta as such, certainly not in the way of whether he’s been a failure or a success, they are simply questioning some of his decisions and if we all merrily agreed with everything he did, there would be very little to write about aside from everyone offering the same match review etc.

      I am not struggling to support anything, I’ve been very vocal about the improvement made under Arteta and I publicly stated that he was my first choice to replace Emery.

      Of course I knew the phrase would likely end up being used in the title that is not chose by me I should add. However, despite the criticism from yourself and others in this comment section, the feedback I have had on this article has generally been quite positive, which suggests the content has more worth than anything I’d class as click bait. In an era where there a hundreds of Arsenal bloggers, sometimes you have to take the chance with things you say in the hope it will serve you well moving forwards.

      At this stage I should make it clear that first and foremost, I write for my own enjoyment and will not have the content of articles that I write dictated by anyone other than myself.

      I respect positive or negative feedback if it’s well articulated but in terms of having someone telling me what to write and what not write, no thanks.

      Others are welcome to support their team in any way that they wish, likewise, I’ll be doing the same and some of us don’t wish to be told to F off down the Lane just because we don’t agree with a substitution that the manager has made for example.

      I have no intention of giving up blogging as it’s something I enjoy, as previously stated but thank you for the patronising advice anyway.

  4. Sammy October 21, 2020 at 4:52 pm #

    Firstly, I think it is silly to group people in Arteta Knows Brigade, or the soon to be (I can see it coming) Arteta Out Brigade. Let’s do away with the silly brigade thingie for once and for all, lets just be Gunners who can have a difference of opinion.

    Secondly, as you say Arteta has been here for 10 months, but 5 months of those were the summer break and the lockdown, so he’s only had half the time to work with the team. Within the short time, he has won two trophies and made Arsenal much more difficult to beat.

    The only two defeats this year are against teams that are amongst the top 5-6 in Europe. We also didn’t get annihilated like in previous years but were in the game until the 3rd goal against Liverpool and until the last minute against Man City. Pep won nothing in the first year, and Klopp took 3 years to win a trophy. Both of those managers spent much larger sums in a year than Arsenal would spend in several years. Both inherited teams in much better condition than what Arteta inherited after the mess left by Ennui Emery. Given all this, what Arteta has achieved is nothing short of mind-boggling.

    However, Arteta is not a magician. People forget that this is his first ever managerial jobs, so he will make mistakes. Both him and the team will make mistakes as they grow together. Allow them room to do so without dividing ourselves into “brigades”. Yes, he could’ve been more adventurous against Man City, but he thought he’s got a better change of getting a point by being compact rather than opening ourselves up, given the stage of evolution of the team. He certainly doesn’t intend to play like this forever, he has said so before. You have pointed out above that he has plenty of options upfront, but not that much of a link between attack and defence. We failed to sign Aouar and Ozil doesn’t fit in his plan. The club will work something out, but it will take some time. We are not a club that has got oodles of money to spend for overnight success. We are lucky to chance upon Arteta.

    • Nick Birch October 21, 2020 at 10:28 pm #

      In my opinion there’s been an overreaction with regards the Arteta Knows Brigade comment…to me it was the most concise way of saying that there are Arsenal fans who believe Arteta can do no wrong, nothing more. Seems our fans are a sensitive bunch at times!

      Arteta has still been working with our players for 10 months, accepted on and off, and should have a strong understanding of the players by now and vice versa. I’ve been in my job since February and was on furlough leave for 3 and half months of that time, yet I no longer expect to be classed as the new boy in my work place.

      We were in the game against Liverpool in terms of the score line until the 3rd goal but I personally felt they were a class above us throughout and it shouldn’t be forgotten that we lost 3-1 to Liverpool at Anfield under Emery in the league either.

      At 1-0 down against City, we had no real prospect of getting a point playing the way we were in the second half as I felt we never had a real go at them in the way I hoped we would in the last 20 minutes or so.

      Let’s not forget that Liverpool and City have been on the end of some interesting results recently, I think having no fans inside the stadiums is having a massive effect on teams and we are seeing some freak results, which means it’s wrong to compare this season to the past in my opinion.

      I’ve certainly not suggested that I believe Arteta intends to play this way forever either and one of the main points I was trying to make but evidently failed with, is that it is ok for fans to question the managers decisions at times.

  5. Mike Robertson October 21, 2020 at 11:16 pm #

    Dude, write whatever the fuck you want!
    I make you right about some people being scared to criticise the manager!
    Always going to upset some snowflake tossers so I wouldn’t worry about it!

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