My Ears love Mikel Arteta but my eyes are struggling watching his Arsenal


Over thinking

Trusting your ears or your eyes



My life has been periodically tainted by my over enthusiasm for trusting people who convince me by what they say.

I have a positive nature that gladly hasn’t been changed by my experience with people who I’ve trusted and who have later, let me down. In recent times, I’ve learnt to become more believing of actions over words.


And then Mikel Arteta came into my life.

I was a believer from Day one. A big believer. After he started to attack the need for accountability and defensive structure, I fell deeper.

Then we beat Utd, Wolves, City, Liverpool and Chelsea and my belief became so cemented that I became privately concerned as to what would happen if somebody snagged Mikel Arteta. I truly felt that we’d never find anyone better.

Then we won the Cup (with a mediocre team) and shortly thereafter we started the season with another impressive win in the Community Shield. Then the top teams started to stumble, and I started to think that with the impressive additions of Gabriel and Partey, we’d have a legitimate chance of fighting for the league.

I don’t know when Arteta transitioned from being satisfied with the defence and started working on the attacking side of our game or if he has even done so.


What I’m finding so hard to come to terms with is the stark contrast between Arteta’s ability to improve us defensively and offensively.


I feel like the former would get an A-and the latter a D.


The crazy thing is that our squad on paper is more complete offensively than defensively and most certainly was last season.


My hope is that he doesn’t believe in what I’m seeing either and feels that this group must be coached this way. That when he gets the players, he trusts that he will allow some jeopardy, some jazz.


I’ve never found a British journalist that asks the right questions. Perhaps they have better questions but are fearful that they’d never be asked to share again if they were bold enough to get to the core of the problem.

If I had the opportunity to ask Mikel Arteta a few questions I’d like to think that these would be my first two…

1)What is your ultimate idea of Arsenal on the ball?

2)How do you feel about risk and freedom of expression for your players in the final third?

At the latter stages of his playing career, Mikel Arteta was asked this by the club website…


thumbnail IMG 4085

The third question I’d ask would never get me back in the room.

3)The last thing you said in this article is the opposite of what’s happening and how the fans feel. What changed?

If he believes that coaching attacking play is best done with 90% structure and the 10% freedom we currently see, I’d want to know that now rather than spin our wheels believing that ‘better players will make this better’ as they won’t if they have all imagination and risk sucked out of them.

My conclusion is based on my experience of coaching both sides of the game. Coaching defending is primarily about organization, positioning and structure and coaching attacking is largely about trust.

You should give players some patterns and ideas but be very careful not to give them the idea that they can’t play off the cuff.

I think that Arteta thrives in coaching ‘structure’ and is trying to coach the attacking side of our game the same way as the defensive. 


All the above might be an overreaction or simply too soon to be this concerned. I’d certainly be surer of myself if I rewatched our games as some do, but honestly, I just can’t. I have a happy family waiting for me to stop watching round 1 and then write about it, and frankly I’m not enjoying watching this team right now.


So, what do we do?


Every time I listen to Mikel Arteta I am impressed and reassured. Like the one person in your life that tells you, “it’ll be ok,” and you believe them.

Alternatively, do I remember my past failings in this area where I trusted someone who utterly convinced me with words but couldn’t match it with actions.

My ears love Mikel Arteta. My eyes are struggling.

This saddens me.





  • Regardless of what the team is doing right or wrong, Kieran Tierney doesn’t sway with the breeze. He maximizes his potential weekly. I wish Aubameyang would do the right thing and let Tierney wear the armband. I think it would empower him vocally and bring more out of others.


  • Saka is much the same. Seems to simply love playing football which removes his performance level from the rollercoaster of the score line. Sometimes I wonder if he is this good or he just looks this good because he’s playing with so many who are out of form?


  • Leno’s first save was unreal. His view was blocked but he still managed to make the perfect save. Few can match his shot stopping.
skysports-leno-gabriel 5180969


  • I was thrilled to see Willock start. I don’t fault him for having a patchy game as he was playing in a team that wasn’t playing close to him being given the opportunities to show his best qualities. If Leeds had Willock yesterday, we would’ve lost.


  • I’m glad that Aubameyang proved that he can play with his back to goal. Sadly, these touches were almost exclusively his touch map.




  • Why has Willian gone from being such a positive driving force at Chelsea to such a negative player at Arsenal? I hate to even say it, but I think it’s in the messaging. He’s become ‘safe.’


  • Pepe is inconsistent. Pepe loses the ball too much. Pepe drives me nuts, blah, blah, etc, etc. My opinion is the same as yours and everyone’s. It’s so obvious. I do wonder though why he did what he did, though. As selfish minded as it was, I’d be highly frustrated to be playing second fiddle to a player who isn’t offering us anything and looks like he signed one of those mysterious ‘game time guaranteed’ contracts. If we move on from Pepe, I’ll understand as he doesn’t look like being the answer. I do however retain the opinion that he is not a winger but a two-touch shooting inside forward. A complicated player whose life could be simplified if his game was simplified.

Any future in Pepe?

  • Excuse me if I didn’t see it right but it looked like Willock was yet again asked to play as a connector. This is his weakness. He is a third man runner. A box to box midfielder coming from deeper in a midfield three. No wonder Aubameyang had no service! Unless we play a player with ability to connect between the lines, there is little point playing Aubameyang at striker. 


  • Like our manager, if our set piece coach has been working mostly on defending actions, then we are in good shape with him. Only team in the PL to not concede on a set piece. Kudos. The attacking set plays both free kicks and corners (and much like our general attacking play), are simply not working and stylistically not likely to. Another A- for the defensive side and a D for the attacking side.


  • I’d love to know why AMN hardly plays. Are our repeated poor performances down to the players not believing in the follow through of the non-negotiables? The fact that game day doesn’t seem to be included.AMN was shutting down the league’s best wingers yet we overplay Saka as if AMN is Kolasinac! Willock and Nelson’s reward for hugely improved performances was until yesterday, nothing. Lacazette and Willian came close to having a ‘We care, do you’ campaign started to extract them from the line up before Lacazette sat down. Something’s off.





  • Dani Ceballos is playing in the world’s most athletic league and he isn’t very athletic. He doesn’t shirk responsibility though. Just needs an athletic partner to cover his lack of running power. I return to the point I made when Thomas Partey signed…. Partey will be alone in being the only one of his type. Arsenal need to sign more athletic players in midfield to be able to match the rest of the league and not have to overplay Partey.

Hopes for Dani

  • If I was given the responsibility of deciding over Arsenal’s transfer policy, I’d base it on a life principle I’ve learnt. Everybody has strengths but pay closer attention to the weaknesses and whether they are too glaring to ignore. Arsenal have too many players whose weaknesses are glaring. They are the ones that we can’t play alone. We need Player X to play with them or they are found naked. Liverpool are the model. They have so few players with glaring weaknesses.




You may have heard me say this before but in my 30-year coaching career the number one most important quality of a player or coach is humility.


It’s the roots for all else that can go right or wrong.

No player or coach has it all figured out. If they are humble, they listen. If they listen to the right advice, they learn. If they learn they change and progress.

Arteta has some good pieces and a few great ones. Arsenal’s short-term future in my opinion rests on the coach identifying his weaknesses and having the humility to listen to others…. and change.

Many a talented football man has suffered at the hand of his own lack of humility.

Rewinding to the beginning of this article… my ears tell me that Arteta looks inward. My eyes are yet to be convinced.

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5 Responses to My Ears love Mikel Arteta but my eyes are struggling watching his Arsenal

  1. Francis November 23, 2020 at 12:22 pm #

    Hello Mike

    Another game where our attacking game is non existent. No goals from open play in 2 months. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has more goals than Arsenal put together. That’s says it all. This looks like another season to be consigned to the dustbins of history.

  2. Stewart November 23, 2020 at 1:34 pm #

    Another thought provoking piece which raises a number of issues.
    The current set up means that the team is dictating play for very short periods in a game,coupled with predictably slow starts.It’s also a difficult watch when we cannot even execute throw ins or corners.This goes against Arteta’s mission statement.
    I’m equally puzzled by the absence of Aynsley.These late substitutions are very frustrating for the players( If I recall correctly ,
    Reiss Nelson came on in 93rd minute in the recent Europa and played for 40 secs)
    The Pepe enigma.If he was £20m player he would have been ditched by now.Agree that I Can’t watch any further right wing meanderings.My only other thought is it possible he could fit into a ‘Jamie Vardy type’of role ?
    Best Stewart

  3. jjgsol November 23, 2020 at 2:05 pm #

    Thank you for your well thought out post.

    I think that a major problem here is that many fans were so traumatised by the distaster that was Emery that they are prepared to believe that not only can Arteta turn us into a sparkling attacking force that can defend, but that he is already well on the way to doing so.

    They say, quite glibly, that the defence is now sorted and he is now moving forward to deal with the midfield.

    With respect to them, what they see match in match out does not bear that out, but the wishful thinking continues and blinds them to what is in fronty fo their eyes.

    We let in 3 goals at home 2 weeks ago and the defence allowed 25 shots yesterday, including 3 that hit the woodwork.

    Losing Pepe was no excuse, because his involvement was margnal anyway.

    Arteta has had 43 games to put his ideas into effect, but can one honestly say that after all that time, we are any better than in the last days of Emery?

    WE have a stuttering defence, no effectve midfield and an attack that is not only firing blanks, but does not even have any weapons to fire.

    2 or 3 shots on target per game, game after game, is pathetic to say the least, whilst at the other end, the shots being allowed increase game after game.

    I am not advocating that Arteta be given the boot, as that would be even more disasterous, but he needs help and and a change of ideas. He needs to be allowed to bring Ozil back into the fold as soon as practically possible and to develop a midfield that can support the defence as well as the attack.

    Partey is a start, but any suggestion that Cellabos is anything other than a journeyman ball carrier is a dream. I only really watched the first half yesterday and he was awful wth so many misplaced passes. Our midfield cannot be built around him.

    Just like Emery had to eat huimble pie, so must Arteta.

  4. Wishawk November 23, 2020 at 2:56 pm #

    I love Arteta and his non-negotiables, but he is young. With most youth, there is lot of enthusiasm and energy. I love that. But the young people also tend to self doubt even though they appear to be head strong and quite determined. I’d love to have Arsene Wenger back at the club who can talk to him and give him confidence. I don’t want Wenger himself back as the manager since he was too much like a grand pa with a soft ear, but I’d love for him to come back and be the guide and adviser to Arteta. I believe Arteta has good ideas and also good structures at the club and training ground. He just needs to let the player go free on the field as long as they operate within his guidelines setup at the training ground. I’d love to see him reign back a little on the touchline, and trust his players to do the right things.

    I love his enthusiasm on the touchline, and I’m sure his energy is communicated to the players. I’d like to see more of it through encouragement or like a whip, and being a cheer leader than being an all controlling basketball coach.

  5. jjgsol November 23, 2020 at 7:36 pm #

    i agree with you completely that Wnger would be an ideal mentor for Arteta to help him along the way.

    In my view, that is what should have happened 3 years ago. Arteta should have come in as coach with it clear that after a year he would take over.

    Then we would have had the best of both worlds and Arteta would have had the guidance of a real expert.

    Now he is on his own and is on his way to making a dog’s dinner of what could have been something great.

    For this to happen, a lot of himble pie would need to be eaten, by Arteta and the club.

    I fancy that Wenger would do it without hesitation.

    No doubt he is still hurt at how he was treated then and since.

    The club hierarchy seem to be only interested in money and cannot really see what is in the interest of the team asopposed to the club.

    In the meantime are going to have to continue to watch our players continue to play withut energy, flair and class?

    It so sad.

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