It’s been a couple of weeks since I last wrote an article. I had hoped that after our three home fixtures, where we had won two and drawn one, keeping three clean sheets and progressing into the fourth round of the FA Cup in the process, I’d be writing a positive one on my return. Sadly, after watching our disappointing exit from the aforementioned most prestigious domestic cup competition in the world, I’m not. In fact, I wish that our game had been played at 8pm Sunday evening instead, to allow us all to enjoy our weekends for a bit longer.
As soon as many of us saw the starting line up against Southampton, we knew what was likely to follow. A poor performance, devoid of creativity. The reason; because we had witnessed how the team played earlier in the season without the likes of Smith Rowe, Lacazette and Saka in the team and again only recently against Newcastle in the same competition. Whilst I appreciate that the same eleven players can’t be expected to play in every game, I don’t understand why Arteta found it necessary to rest so many of them in one match.
With young managers in particular, you hope that they are learning from each game as they gain more experience but it’s evident that Mikel didn’t learn from what we all saw against Newcastle a few weeks back. That we simply don’t have the strength in depth to make wholesale changes. Why can’t Arteta rest one or two players at a time to lessen the impact. Let’s be honest, we haven’t been hugely impressive for the best part when at full strength aside from in the odd game.
It was also apparent against Crystal Palace that we become a far easier team to play against when we have two right footed players playing on the left hand side, doing so allows teams keep our attacking play very narrow, yet Arteta did the same thing again at St. Mary’s. When Tierney isn’t playing on the left, Saka has to be, or at least one left footed player. A central midfield partnership of Xhaka and Elneny hasn’t worked in the past either and didn’t again, so why did Mikel pair them together? These aren’t things that we are newly learning, they are observations that many supporters made weeks ago. Not our manager though it would seem.
Some supporters have said that should we win against the same team, at the same venue, in the league on Tuesday, Mikel’s team selection will be justified. For me it wouldn’t be. In league fixtures you have thirty seven games to make amends for losing one, in the FA Cup or any knock out competition, you don’t. With the FA Cup being one of the few competitions that we had a realistic opportunity to win a trophy in, it’s both frustrating and disappointing to see our manager show it such disregard. If we lose the league fixture too, Arteta will end up having twice the amount of egg on his face.
Within reason, my opinion is that the most important game is the one you’re playing. Win that and then worry about the next one when you come to it. Against Newcastle in the FA Cup, I said that Arteta should have played his strongest side from the start, then taken players off once the game is won. Just like he did against the same opponent in the league fixture. As it transpired, some of the players he rested end up playing almost an hour in that cup fixture anyway. So much for a rest! It would have been the same case had we ended up taking the Southampton game into extra time too.
There is no doubt that Mikel has improved us defensively, five consecutive clean sheets recently is evidence of that but I consider him to be a bit slow on the uptake at times. I’ve lost count of how many times fans are noticing things long before Mike does. His in game management hasn’t been convincing either. Amusingly, I saw it being asked how Arteta’s critics felt after our recent run of improved form. My answer was rather smug in truth, as we were winning now that he had started doing many of the things we were criticising him for not doing. Demonstrating that there are times where supporters do know what they are talking about!
Arteta appears to be a big fan of Nketiah but I simply don’t see what he does in him. Eddie scores the odd goal, usually against poor opponents but for me, his all round game and first touch aren’t good enough to lead our line. Is it any wonder Balogun is getting increasingly frustrated when he sees Nketiah continuously ahead of him in the pecking order? I want Eddie to do well but I just don’t see that potential star quality in him yet. I do see it in Balogun but if he leaves, I obviously hope he becomes another Akpom rather than a Gnabry. The reality is that most youngsters don’t go on to fulfil their potential. Nketiah wasn’t alone in being disappointing and far more experienced and expensive players such as Willian and Pepe were completely anonymous again. Gabriel looked ponderous on his return too, just as he did at times prior his absence after losing his promising early season form.
I was heavily critical of Runarsson in one of my previous articles, so I was pleased to see Maty Ryan join us on loan for the remainder of the season. Some fans were asking why we had two goalkeepers on the bench on Saturday, I jokingly suggested that it’s because if Runarsson goes in goal we will need someone else in there with him. Ryan will provide solid back up and also reduces the concerns many supporters had about Leno suffering an injury.
I’ve been surprised to see so many Arsenal supporters saying that they don’t think we should be looking to sign another creative player because doing so would hurt Smith Rowe’s development. I completely disagree and believe not signing one would be more damaging to both him and us. We’ve all seen how we struggled as an attacking force prior to Emile breaking into the side and yet some fans want to see us rely on one player in his position. Youngsters are often inconsistent and what happens if he suffers from injury, suspension, loss of form or burn out? Not forgetting the needless pressure not buying another player to help take the load off him puts on his shoulders.
I’m not an Arteta ‘hater’ before it ridiculously gets suggested but as a supporter, I’m proud of my clubs history in the FA Cup and believe it’s completely justifiable to be aggrieved by our manager’s dismissive attitude towards the competition….
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…..