It’s time to get in the ambulance before Arsenal Rot v3.0 sets in

It’s time to get in the ambulance

The Positives, Needs and Hopes will return but I don’t think they are relevant today. I think this is more relevant…

Over the last few years I’ve been avoiding the doctor. I didn’t feel right and knew I needed to go but fear and the hope for a better day took over. It all came to a head when I had some pain that was coming from a scary place. I called my wife and she told me to go to the hospital. It was one of the scariest times of my life but I’m still here and blessed to be here.

After going through that I was grateful to my wife that she pushed me when I wasn’t fixing the problem any other way.

I wasn’t planning on sharing all that but it mirrors Arsenal. Commentators like me are struggling to stay interesting as we comment on the same good, bad and ugly. What has become very apparent is that Arsenal need to be healed. It’s time to get in the ambulance.

This is my idea on what needs to happen to heal Arsenal. Most of this is my opinion.

Mikel Arteta:

How does a coach go from being an overnight superhero to a villan in 3 months?


Hero to villan in record time

I want to get straight to the point.

This mask switch happened very quickly after his job title changed. I don’t think it’s coincidental. I don’t know if Arteta asked/insisted or was given the promotion or if he just saw an opportunity to power grab when the club was in a state of vulnerability and there he stood with his superhero cape flapping in the breeze. Whether he was gifted this role or not, he got it.

I now rewind to pre-Arteta when he was on the cusp of being appointed….

There was much opinion on the fascinating topic of a big club employing a novice. Most was very positive. There was one red flag that I demoted to pale pink. It was a comment from a former player that stated that he can be a very difficult person to be around when he’s unhappy. Somewhat rude and arrogant. Well, things have been going wrong. Some things have gone very wrong. Arsenal Football Club must be a sensitive place to be with many staff who have recently lost many of their work colleagues to redundancy and job loss and possibly finding the environment very difficult to deal with. A guy who had a cape now showing himself perhaps?

The players no doubt pine for a crowd to play in front of. I don’t think that this is just because they need the support and adoration. I think it’s more about how they feel in regards to their coach. The coach who used to be just a coach and was helping them during water breaks with his cape on has now resorted to 95 minutes of incessant information-giving from the sidelines. Let’s remember that the field is the time to play, not listen.

Can you imagine how much information Arteta gives at team meetings if he talks incessantly in an environment when 95% of coaches give minimal information at best? Can you imagine the number of meetings that our players have to sit through? Footballers don’t like long meetings or too many of them. That’s the truth. Marry these thoughts with the modern day fact that our minds have become conditioned to needing everything in bite size. Word is that there was a showdown meeting recently. We’ve heard over the years that these meetings normally result in a rebound be it at Arsenal or any club. It’s important to remember that players don’t always feel comfortable to share in public and even what we hear from them and what they tell Arteta is often far from what they are saying to each other and how they really feel. I don’t think that meeting went well for Mikel Arteta. That’s enough.

If Mikel Arteta wants Arsenal to continue being his home he needs to self-reflect and quickly. He needs to realize that whether he bullied himself into or was given the Manager job as a birthday present, that unless you treat people the right way footballers will quickly turn on you. We get to see the many behind the scenes documentaries and how much footballers love the staff at their clubs. How they need concise info at all times. How they need limited info or they clam up as they feel burdened.

I don’t coach professionals but I do coach people. So does he. As I shared a few months ago here, the most important quality in both a player and a coach is humility. In the rollercoaster of sporting action it is impossible to see everything, control every emotion and make correct decisions. You have to be able to self reflect, ask for forgiveness and be willing to learn. The Arsenal players won’t care if Arteta learnt from the best coach in the history of whatever if he acts like his opinion is superior and more important than everyone around him.

The club:

The decision makers need to have their ear to the ground. They can’t simply rely on the all powerful and simply trust. There has to be accountability and the players and the manager both need to know what the consequences will be.

We have a history of waiting too long and seeming oblivious to what’s actually happening. Josh Kroenke doesn’t need to wait until January to make another 3 month visit to Colney. We may lose our targets if we continue to fall away. He needs to find the cape that Arteta took off, put it on and fly across the Atlantic tomorrow.

stan josh kroenke

Time to fly

The club also needs to quickly replace Huss Fahmy. If that doesn’t happen then who is planning on doing all the negotiations in January? We need players in, players sold and more likely, players loaned out. In our current predicament we are probably going to be the busiest club in Europe, or we should be.

Finally, the club needs to be far more intelligent in how they spend chunks of money at the club when those working there are still bruised by job losses. You’d be shocked. Vanity projects after devastating layoffs? Not smart.

The players:

On behalf of the fanbase I would hope that the players find us to be an adequate reason to fix the list below. None of which are needing coaching. All of them are just needing bigger balls.

Quick improvements:

Normally when results go south the team gives up on the field. I don’t see that in the effort of the majority. I do see pockets of this in a few.

The bigger issue is the technical issue of scanning and turning. Miguel Azeez isn’t likely to join the group but if he did one area where he would beat out all of our first team squad is scanning. His head is constantly on a swivel. He is therefore aware of his options before he gets the ball. This is step one to being able to move the ball faster. Even if that doesn’t happen the players can communicate one season changing word to each other…. ‘turn.’ We are all shouting that word at the TV, right? There are dozens of times in the game that we ‘return to sender.’ On the flip side there is Saka who often turns and penetrates. We see the stark contrast. Then we have many saying, ‘he might be the best player in the team.’ He may well be but he shouldn’t be. Others could attempt to do what he is willing to do but they play with fear and are too safe.

It shouldn’t fall into the realms of rebellion if Arteta’s attacking formula isn’t on, that the players take it upon themselves to take significantly more risks. Our players play the game as if they have to stand on their chair and sing another song every time they give the ball away and get transitioned on.

Specifically, Pepe is played because he is a game changer. We aren’t getting spanked (yet). These games are being decided on a few moments. Pepe needs to maximize his moments by accelerating towards passes and continue accelerating. He attracts two players because he slows down, then unbalances himself hopping on one foot and gets repeatedly robbed. Ever wondered why he doesn’t ever get penalty kicks like every other winger in the league?  He isn’t moving fast enough to be knocked down. Time for a style change that shouldn’t be hard to switch.

Ceballos isn’t as mediocre as he looks. He’s quite cute in the final third. He needs to turn, accelerate and show us why he was twice voted Player of the Tournament in two consecutive U-21 tournaments.

Martinelli needs to find the cape that Mikel took off and save us!

Coaching changes:

1) Find an attacking plan.

I can only draw from what I know and do myself.

My attacking plan is based on the players I’ve got. If I had Nketiah as my CF I’d play Pepe on the left and Willian on the right. Willian’s single best gift is his quickness going on the outside over 3 yards. He gets a small gap and fizzes low crosses across the six yard box. Pepe has played on the left a few times and done the same. Ultimately, your attacking plan should be based around your main goalscorer. Eddie thrives on tap ins and yet doesn’t get any opportunities. He would if we did this.

If Auba at CF is still an idea then buy a creative midfielder who can slot passes between defenders for him to finish. His strength. Not aerial balls.

I could go on but you get it.

2) Modernize midfield

I’d love us to buy Bissouma and the rejuvenated Renato Sanches and have 5 midfielders (with Partey, AMN and Willock) that all have the athleticism to compete in an athletic league. Until we buy correctly, Arteta needs to at least try Willock and AMN there. If you think this short term solution is mad, I say playing 2 of Xhaka, Ceballos and ElNeny has been proven to be madder. At least my idea has no negative evidence attached.

3) Don’t lose them all

My greatest fear is losing the players we want to retain long term just to pacify the players we know we want to sell. If ESR, Nelson, AMN, Balogun, Saliba etc… announce in January or May that they want to leave because of lack of opportunities and we are actively trying to sell those that play in front of them, then we will have a huge problem. At some point Arteta has to acknowledge this reality.

4) Signings

Arsenal need a spark. That’s more obvious than ever. If Zaha still wants to come to Arsenal (I’m sure he does), then offer a loan with obligation to buy in the summer. We do not have one natural winger that is working and Zaha has greatly improved his production this season by holding onto the ball less and taking less touches.

I’ve been watching Norwich each Saturday for the past month to check on Max Aarons and Emi Buendia. Max Aarons isn’t an immediate need but Buendia is. He has everything Arsenal need. He plays as the connector between the lines both on the ball and as a transitional player. He is quick, very skillful, more creative than anybody I’ve seen in a while, offers goals and assists (two more yesterday) and when he loses it he instantly chases. If Buendia is unavailable, Papu Gomez at Atalanta is a monster creator that is available even though his age would make him a short term option. Let’s be honest, we need more than one creative option anyway.

If money extends to buying a second player, I’d go for Yves Bissouma. Premier League ready and his supreme confidence at DM would allow Partey to express his full game. He will be getting offers from Liverpool and others but we can offer him regular football that other bigger clubs can’t.

If we don’t have the money and the players we want to sell aren’t bringing in funds then there is a real possibility that a player we don’t want to leave will be sold. I’ve got a feeling that this might be Saliba unfortunately. I’d be more inclined to sell Nketiah if we aren’t going to play to his strengths. This would be sad but as he doesn’t offer much beyond goals then whats the point of him if we don’t give him the opportunities he needs. If Brewster can get north of 20M we can get closer to 30M for Eddie which would get you Buendia. If we did this then maybe Balogun stays who I think has a more well rounded game.

5) Selections

If Arteta remains and he truly wants accountability then he needs to thread that through his team selections including the bench. Leaning on the senior players has been done to try to get the senior players on board because he has at least figured out that a dressing room can’t operate if you make them all upset. He either needs to loan/sell those that are going to cause unrest or challenge them, leave the door open and hope they don’t rebel. Either way, it’s time for the club to figure out if Emile Smith Rowe is the answer. It would be smart to give Saliba an opportunity against the four ‘easier’ teams post Chelsea before we find that out whilst he’s playing for someone else.

He needs to give Tierney a rest before he breaks and let Mari play LCB. Same with Holding and Chambers.

If accountability and the non negotiables are real then he needs to stop picking two right backs or three centre backs on the bench. He’s missing a golden opportunity to give hope to the many in the Academy that are probably wondering what he’s doing.

Beyond all this, we need to select players with confidence. If Nelson shines against City on Tuesday play him against Chelsea. If the alternative is yet another 3/10 from Willian then how could he be worse.

6) Set Plays

We have a new set play coach. He made initial big improvements in defending set plays. Now we are at a different place where ElNeny is marking Vestergaard and Pepe is marking Mina on corners. Utter madness, not even opinion.

The attacking set plays simply don’t work.

7) Communication

Finally, back to the reason that we are in the mess we are in.

Arsenal have not won 1 game this season that they have been losing in at half time. This tells me that the managers team talks are either confusing, ignored or uninspiring.

Mikel Arteta has to realize that footballers need either 1 on 1 ‘you need to do this,’ or the team need 3 or 4 improvements maximum in their heads for the second half. Clarity. Vital.


The decision makers have to know whether what is going wrong is irreversible. There is never any point in waiting a couple more games if the players have downed their tools and thrown them in the river.

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4 Responses to It’s time to get in the ambulance before Arsenal Rot v3.0 sets in

  1. Lari03 December 20, 2020 at 9:52 am #

    It’s going to get worse because Arteta is not listening or seeing things from the same perspective.

  2. Andy December 20, 2020 at 11:26 am #

    Hello Mike. I haven’t bothered with Arsenal since the Aston Villa game because it was clear to me that Arteta had squeezed all He could from this side and they have nothing more to give. They have neither the athleticism or technical ability to compete in the premier league. Arteta doesn’t trust the youngsters and the experienced players let him down time and time again. He will be sacked within a month and an experienced coach will keep us from relegation. However, the rot has set in deep and I’m not sure we won’t turn into another Aston villa or Leeds. Mediocrity awaits for the next decade.I

    Keep up the good analysis. It’s the only thing enjoyable about Arsenal at present.

  3. anthony smith December 20, 2020 at 12:24 pm #

    The faults you detail are incisive and made most obvious when Ozil, Saliba, Torreira, Guendozi… failures are considered. An inexperienced manager in thrall to Pep’s methods is just what we don’t need. I really fear a relegation battle beckons the Arsenal.

    Maybe there should be an ‘Arsenal Helpline’ established?

  4. allezkev December 20, 2020 at 5:52 pm #

    Excellent post, no hysteria, no lunacy just a sensible well thought out piece, well done Mike.

    We all like Mikel, well most of us and we want him to succeed because he says the right things and obviously has an affinity for our club but I won’t lie because some of his team selections and substitute selections have me pulling my receding hair out, I mean what happened to accountability?

    Andy above makes some salient points that concentrate our minds to our situation, I really worry that a lack of oversight and personal investment from our owners is allowing our great club to drift towards a state of mid tableness and an acceptance of the average.

    There is still time for Mikel to turn it around and I sincerely hope that he does but I do worry that the constant noise from social media and the Quislings within our club will finally see the axe fall on our manager.

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