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Despite the Crazy Substitutions, Arteta is a Coach with a Plan and the players are with him – Onwards

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Odd Subs at Villa Park

I, too, cannot wrap my mind around Mikel Arteta’s substitutions. I can’t explain why he keeps playing Willian on the left, I can’t understand why he seems to overlook Martinelli, and so on. I believe he should have responded better when David Luiz got sent off at Molineux and I think he killed the team at Villa Park, when he moved Nicolas Pépé from the left to the right. Those were poor decisions, big mistakes he made and he got harshly criticised for that, deservedly.

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Willian on and not Martinelli at Villa??



Beyond that, though, there is one of the finest coaches in Europe and a master tactician and that should not be overlooked. I understand why we always expect more, we always want more from the manager but I feel Mikel Arteta is succeeding at one of the hardest tasks any manager, let alone a debutant like him. I’m not making excuses for what he got wrong, he has his fair share of horrible decisions but to not lose the dressing room after going through what he went through in his first year in charge is quite something.


Beyond the start-and-stop first months in charge, the remote training sessions, the wage cut controversy, the Özil saga, the Saliba débacle and the speculations around the future of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the most impressive result achieved by Mikel Arteta is to have kept the team together through the horrible results and performances of October and November last year, the ultimate desert crossing.

He could have folded, he could have crumbled under the internal and external pressure but he managed to keep hold of the most influential players in the dressing room and convince them that there was a plan, a great plan, being deployed before their own eyes. I’m not sure how many people could actually see that plan, when we were playing awfully and the infamous U shape became the norm. Strong characters like David Luiz, Granit Xhaka or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang probably could have sunk the manager but stayed loyal even when the majority of pundits, former players and fans wanted Mikel Arteta out.

This is not normal for such an inexperienced manager, even less at a big Club like ours. The most cynical ones out there could say that those players stayed loyal to Mikel Arteta for personal interests rather than genuine faith but I don’t agree: I remember only too well how the team was playing during the final games of Unai Emery’s reign and that was completely different.

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Lost the players



He surely gets his substitutions wrong, which is not unusual for a debutant, but seems to get plenty of tactical decisions right: he outclassed Nuno Espírito Santo and Marcelo Bielsa but also the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp, last season, with his hybrid 3-4-3.
Also, his water breaks were a constant source of inspiration for the players, who would often find new resources and a better response to their struggles on the pitch, whenever they needed some. He prepares the games well, he reads the game well, he motivates the team well – which to me compensates his issue with the substitutions – I’m pretty sure he’ll learn quickly.

Water-break

Water break tactician



I’m aware that we’re out of the FA Cup, sit in the middle of the table with more games than anyone else around us and face a tricky couple of games against Benfica in the Europa League, I know it’s not enough. There’s not much to be happy about, at the moment, but when I look at our performances and results since Boxing Day I see a dramatic improvement and a form that would see us challenging for a Champions League spot.
This season it was too early for that, especially given how we failed to move the likes of Mesut Özil, Sead Kolašinac, Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi in the summer, but the vision is much clearer of and the squad looks like one we can believe in.

We went from being on the verge of yet another post-Wenger revolution to being an exciting, uprising team thanks to a talented coach who proved to have the belief and character to lead the dressing room out of the moving sands and back to believing in themselves.The way he improved pretty much every player he worked closely with, with some notable exceptions, and the way he persuaded top-tier players to join or stay with us with not much to offer is another sign of great promises and another thing young managers don’t often pull off.

He has a vision, he sold it well and now he seems to be translating that to the pitch, finally.
There will be other setbacks, decisions hard to understand or justify and WTF?! moments along the way but I suspect they will be outnumbered by the OOOOOH! moments.

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4 Responses to Despite the Crazy Substitutions, Arteta is a Coach with a Plan and the players are with him – Onwards

  1. Didrik Plehn February 16, 2021 at 9:18 am #

    I agree with you, it’s important to see the whole picture and understand our standing when Arteta arrived. Neither should we forget being a new head coach / manager in a club of total chaos must be very challenging. In addition we got the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown in March last year. We had a lot of obstacles and got many more, not particularly beneficial for a new manager lacking experience. Arsenal have gone through a total shake up, more or less on all levels. We finished last season by winning the FA cup in August, and we started the previous season a few weeks later by winning the FA Community Shield against Liverpool. We started the new season more or less without a break and proper preseasons preparations. Yes Arteta has done mistakes, but from my point of view he has done a very good job in challenging time, and it hasn’t been less challenging for Arsenal. I hope we can finish this season in a decent way. I will not judge Arteta based on his achievements this season, he’s starting on zero next season. I will judge him based on our 2021 / 22 results, next season do we need a top four spot, or at least be in the competition. Everything depends on the transfer window and the money made available for Arteta next summer…

  2. Lanre Adebisi February 16, 2021 at 12:25 pm #

    Arteta is the man. Simple! And we can just afford to lose such a gifted young coach. With Mikel, Arsenal future is very bright.
    Thank you for your piece. You have said it all. I am with you 100%

  3. jjgsol February 16, 2021 at 2:58 pm #

    You say, and I quote, ” one of the finest coaches in Europe and a master tactician “.

    Please help me to understand, where is your evidence for this?

    Looking through your article, all I can see that is positive is that he has not yet lost the players.

    We have lost 10 out of 24 games and were removed from the FA cup by Southampton. Prior to sunday, we had managed 27 goals in 23 games. had played some of the worst football the fans have seen since the days of Terry Neil and beyond.

    WE all know that the only reason why he played ESR against Chel$ki was because his favourtie Willian was unavailable. He stumbled, almost by accident onto something that fans have been calling for all season, the benefit
    of having a creatve player actually playing and not sitting at home watching.

    Please do not pretend that this was part of some brilliant plan by Arteta, because it clearly wasn’t. If it was, why did he not introduce ESR earlier, whlst we were losing game after game?

    I am afraid, repeating the mantra that Arteta is a wonderful coach time and time again does not make it true, especially in the light of what we have seen since he took over.

    Master tactician indeed. Is that what you call sending over cross after cross into the opponent’s goal area with no one there capable of doing anything with them?

    If you think regularly managing 2 or 3 shots on target in a game is the sign of a great coach, then come back Unai Emery, all is forgiven.

    • 'desi'gner gooner February 20, 2021 at 12:38 pm #

      @jjgsol, even if he stumbled upon the idea of playing ESR – that alone has not been the reason for our upturn in form. And you completely lost me with your words towards the end of your comment which I am quoting here – “Is that what you call sending over cross after cross in the opponent’s goal area with no one there capable of doing anything with them?” That line of yours just tells me that you haven’t really seen our team playing recently because this comment would apply to what we were doing in November. You ask for evidence of his being a very good coach – it is very much there in the way we play and I would infact argue that without the refereeing howler at Wolves we would probably be in with a much better chance of top four and certainly top six. Your comments seem subjective(maybe you are one of those jilted Ozil fans) rather than objective, in which case if you just don’t like the guy then there’s just no way to argue with you.

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