Many supporters have recently been asking for Nicolas Pepe to be given an opportunity to start a Premier League game. Mikel Arteta duly obliged against Leeds and we were all severely let down by the Ivorian in a foolish incident which could potentially trigger the end of Nicolas’ Arsenal career. Particularly as he’s seemingly playing under a manager who has never really appeared to rate him highly.
Pepe will rightly be vilified for his actions but in truth, the team arguably performed better after his dismissal than they had done for the fifty or so minutes prior to it, certainly in terms of offering a goal threat. Some members of the Arteta fan club will undoubtedly be saying “I told you so” when it comes to justifying why Pepe has previously been left out of the side, however, that was the first red card of his career and completely out of character.
Perhaps it was Pepe’s frustration with his failure to impress up until that point which led to his moment of madness. However, it wasn’t just him who failed to deliver and with the exception of Bernd Leno, who did what he does in terms of making some good saves but also punching crosses that were there to be caught, and Buyako Saka, who did more in half an hour than the rest of our outfield players put together, very few of our players can be happy with their displays.
The Pepe incident did give Mikel a get out of jail free card after yet another very poor team performance though. After watching our last two games, it’s a struggle to remember what it is that we are actually collectively good at these days. Some will point to us keeping a clean sheet against Leeds but in reality, we rode our luck and had Leno, the woodwork and some poor finishing to thank for that.
The truth is that Leeds were toothless and although some fans will argue otherwise, we didn’t defend particularly impressively. They had twenty-four shots on goal, thankfully, the majority were off target. If we were as good defensively as some suggest, why is it that with the exception of Leno, Saka and at a push, Kieran Tierney, nobody else came out of the game with any credit.
Winning the FA Cup last season does give Mikel some credit in the bank but it doesn’t give him a complete free pass. Our passing and movement is currently very predictable and pedestrian. We rarely attack with speed or in numbers and often look bereft of ideas when in possession. In almost every league game we’ve played so far this campaign, I‘ve developed concerns that if we concede the first goal, we’d be in trouble.
It has quickly become apparent that Arteta talks a better game than his team is capable of delivering and after thinking or perhaps hoping that we were starting to head in the right direction, I’m simply not seeing that at the moment. The opposite to be honest. I’m nowhere near being at the stage where I’m calling for Arteta’s head, but I need to see an improvement from him and the team, quickly. In all honesty, our win at Old Trafford is now looking to have been more of a freak result than a genuine forward step.
I keep reading that we are only nine games in to the league season but that’s nearly twenty five percent of the campaign. How long can people continue to ignore our performances, results and the facts? We’ve scored just nine league goals to date and have failed to score from open play in our last five league games. It must be addressed and sooner rather than later. Arteta also appears to have achieved what many top managers have failed to do over the years and that’s stop Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from scoring.
When some supporters question Mikel, we are told it’s the players and not the manager but I can’t see how anyone can honestly say that they think he’s consistently getting the best out of the players that he has. It’s been suggested by some fans that Arteta has lost the dressing room and whilst I do question him at times, I completely disagree. If this was the case, then the players were given the perfect opportunity to put a nail in his coffin after Pepe’s red card. They didn’t take it.
A lot of fuss was made about the training ground incident involving Dani Ceballos and David Luiz, but these types of incidents are common at training grounds at every level. Particularly in a professional footballing environment where players are trying to impress the manager and earn a place in the team. With there being more than one rumour doing the rounds regarding what triggered the incident, I’ll refrain from commenting any further as I obviously wasn’t there, even if other fans seemingly want you to believe that they were.
In the 2017-18 season, Burnley finished seventh after conceding only thirty nine league goals, a similar total to teams who finished in the top four that year. However, they only scored thirty-six. We are currently on course to achieve similar figures. I’m not convinced that rectifying one problem, our defence, by creating another one, in attack, should be classed as progress. Something that was being made at the end of the last campaign but not so far this one.
I’ve been seeing inexperienced youngsters Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock getting slaughtered on some Arsenal fan groups for their performances after playing just forty five and fifty seven minutes respectively. However, the same supporters don’t dare to question the manager. Why, what is it that Mikel has over these people?
It’s never going to be easy for young players coming in to a team who is playing as badly as we have done in the last two games and don’t forget, we had ten men for the best part of Nelson’s time on the field and limited possession. These players might not ever be good enough but as supporters, surely we should at least be giving them a fair chance.
Sadly, too many amongst our fan base are hypocrites in most circumstances and ask for patience where Arteta is concerned but don’t have any with our young players. If the novice manager is allowed to learn from his mistakes whilst he’s gaining experience, why aren’t some of the youngsters on the playing staff? You can’t have it both ways.
Every supporter has their own idea of what formation and team the manager should be selecting each game and are often ridiculed by fellow Arsenal fans, particularly those who believe Arteta can do no wrong. I frequently see fans in that category asking those of us who do question him, to enlighten them on what he should be doing but the reality is, it’s not our job to, it’s Mikel’s and he’s being paid handsomely to do it.
Unlike at the end of Unai Emery’s reign, I still believe Mikel has what it takes to turn things around but the knives certainly seem to be sharpening in some sections of our fan base, proving that patience is usually short lived in modern football and that you can quickly go from hero to zero. It’s a long season as many have stated but based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s going to feel like an awful lot longer unless there’s a significant improvement….
Passionate Gooner born in 1984. I often get called negative but personally, I prefer the term honest and honesty is something that I pride myself on. I joined the Gunners Town team after penning several ‘Dear Arsene Wenger’ letters on my Facebook profile, several years ago, and sharing them in Arsenal supporter groups. These were met with praise and the encouragement to start writing my own blog, from fellow Arsenal supporters, who felt my words summed up their own feelings perfectly. So here I am…..