Has Arteta let the players down or have the players let Arteta down!

This was my column for Sun Football yesterday.


The Morning after the woeful night before

I knew I would be asked to articulate my views on Arsenal’s situation and that of the manager after last night’s limp exit from Europe’s secondary competition. Not a task to relish.

Having already selected a weakened team in defence of the FA Cup, a black mark from me, the Europa League offered the Spaniard and his team not only a final shot at silverware, but of course, a route back to the Champions League. Suffice to say his best shot across the 2 legs was way of target.

I have tried, and in honesty, wanted to back Arteta, when logic and popular opinion, suggested otherwise. I liked him as a player, as a man and I believed he understood my club and what Arsenal meant. In short, I felt his was one of us, at least as much as he could be. After all, he had tactically outsmarted more experienced coaches to land a trophy in his first few months in charge.

I think at times I have struggled in my own mind to decide whether he was being let down by the players or he was letting them down with his constant tinkering, changing tactics and bizarre and late substitution strategies. However the 2 matches against Villarreal have tipped me seriously toward the second stance.


So wrong in both legs

His team selections, set up and tactics in the semi-final were hard to fathom in the first leg but the way he adapted to losing Xhaka last night was inexplicable. To enter the fray with a 4141 formation, that his players have not played once under him (that I recall,) leaving Thomas Partey isolated and continually under pressure, when he had a confident Elneny, excellent against Newcastle, available was madness.

He also had no need to gamble on a returning, untested Tierney when he could have easily played Saka at left back, as I have advocated for weeks. This would have allowed him to operate the preferred 4231 that his players are used to with Smith Rowe, Odegaard and Pepe behind his skipper.

Even, when it must have been obvious to him, as it was to all of us his plan was not working, Arteta persevered into the second half. Sadly this stubborn streak has become increasingly evident as this season has progressed. The ability to make in game tactical changes is crucial and the top managers possess this knack. With Arteta, whilst he does adapt his playbook for each match, he then seems unwilling or incapable of tweaking sufficiently during matches. It is this weakness that has turned me from a supporter firmly in his corner, to an ambivalent one.

In his favour, he has shored up our defence, despite not being able to decide on his preferred central pairing and overseen the blooding of some seriously talented youth. It may be the latter achievement that saves his job. If the likes of Saka, Smith Rowe and we Martinelli believe in him.


Do they beleive in Arteta?

My gut feeling is that because of the core of talent secured on long term deals and also because of the nature of KSE’s management thus far, is that Arteta will not be relieved of his duties. He and Edu, who must step to the fore in the transfer window, will need to shop smart, with no European football to offer, and blend the best of our more senior players, with the youth and 2/3 new signings.


Big summer for Edu

With the fans back in the stadium however, he will sink or swim swiftly and if he is merely treading water or worse by December, he will surely be dismissed. Without knowing who would be available then it is not truly worth speculating but if, in the unlikely event, KSE surprise us all with a moment of decisiveness this month, it would be hard to look beyond Allegri. He has vast experience and his available but would he work for a wholly self sustaining boss? My outside punt would be Nuno Espírito Santo, who looks like he has run his course at Wolves and needs a new invigorating challenge.


Unedited version of Sun piece here

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6 Responses to Has Arteta let the players down or have the players let Arteta down!

  1. Ben May 8, 2021 at 3:02 pm #

    More importantly the club has let down the fans, the squad can’t be blamed for not being good enough that is down to poor player investment and under funding the club as a whole.

    Arteta hasn’t done a great job but realistically who could have done better with this bunch of players?
    It’s the worst squad we have had in as long as I can remember. When your beat players are all kids it’s a worry

  2. Puffypea May 8, 2021 at 3:15 pm #

    I still wonder what Arteras appeal is except for the fact he’s articulated. And I don’t understand when people say “oh I can see the progress”.
    I mean football is about entertainment and results. Have you been entertained this year?

    Any other mid level manager would have had this team in top 6. Even Emery manages that.

    Any other good manager tailors their tactics to the player type they have not the other way around. We don’t have the players to play his system. Ours are not good enough. Simples. So why try? Why not just play to our strength instead?
    Arsenal has been a snooze feast this year. Arteta is the boss. Nobody else. It’s on him and him alone. His job is to get the best out of the players. They don’t preform? Make em, that’s a managers job. That’s why we pay him. If not he’s not doing his job very well.
    It’s his only job I fact. Get the best out of the people around him.

    If this was Microsoft or google or any other big company and you buttfuck your department like this? Made your employees preform this bad, you would no longer be manager. But obviously this is Arsenal. We think mediocrity is ok. Most of our fans are happy with it too as long as they get to keep charming arteta. Why? Cause he’s new to management and in 3-5 years he will be really good. And he’s so awesome it’s worth the wait. Results doesn’t really matter as long as we get to delevop Arteta.

  3. hasse andersson May 8, 2021 at 3:32 pm #

    Arsenals board have let the club down by giving this corporal a generals job. Arteta have no qualifications, no experience, no merits. He shouldn’t be there at all. This is a farce. An owner who doesn’t unerstand football and a manager who is a middleaged wannabe. But there are no such thing in sports as great by association. Arteta was Peps handyman, his erandboy. Who the hell gave this nogooder the job? Someone from Tottenham… To hell with the Gunners, i have stopped watching the mess. Arsenal will lose many fans in the future. Only a new owner and a real firstclass manager can save the club.

  4. Paul O'Connor May 8, 2021 at 4:26 pm #

    Very well written piece. My own view about Arteta has evolved in just the same way. I do however also feel that the players have also consistently let him down. Arteta tactics were poor in the Villareal game but some of the individual performances were very poor. Bellerin and Partey’s stats were dismal. Aubamayang has been poor all season and feels as if has become this year’s rotten apple, taking on where Ozil left off. Since Wenger’s last year or two the squad has lacked commitment and cohesion. Ozil, Aubamayang, Partey join a list of big name, big money players who have downed tools and undermined the managers. Emery never had a chance. Arteta might well not make it to Xmas. The money has shifted so much power to the modern players, that they are very hard to manage. It might well be managerial football talent is not enough these days and successful managers might also need to be more assertive and domineering than Arteta, Emery of Ljundberg were.

    • Dave Seager May 9, 2021 at 3:52 pm #


  5. JacknSmith May 10, 2021 at 3:49 pm #

    Your desire for an experienced Manager at the helm. You had one and in his latter years we failed to make the Champions league. Remember the banners across the sky! Arteta is right, this is a trend going back five years and the experienced players in the current underperforming squad are Wenger acquisitions. Look how Liverpool suffered from their injury list and to a lesser extent so have we, particularly last Thursday when a key player in the game plan had to be replaced before kick off.
    What was your view when putting the elite to the sword when lifting the FACup : it’s the same Manager with now underperforming Wenger acquisitions responsible for our current situation.
    Of course we could have appointed at the time an experienced Manager Mourinho or Ancelotti. Did you see the Everton negativity v West Ham and ourselves. Never want to watch that at the Emirates. Then again, you can tread the Chelsea path compensating Manager after Manager in mid contract. FFP something amiss here, owner funding!

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