At times it can be extremely difficult not to find yourself becoming completely engulfed in the waves of negativity that frequently flow amongst the Arsenal fan base. Particularly after our results against Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City in our opening three league fixtures.
Over the years I’ve learned to acknowledge that voices of discontent will more often than not, shout the loudest. That’s certainly the case where football fans are concerned. The question is, are our supporters justified in their criticisms of Mikel Arteta and his players or is it simply an overreaction to a poor start to the season in what has been difficult circumstances? For me, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
It would be naive to suggest that questions are only being asked of Mikel Arteta on the basis of us losing our opening three league games. I was particularly vocal with my criticisms of his management throughout the last campaign. During our pre season fixtures this summer, we were frequently informed by the remaining positivity preachers amongst our fan base that results and performances in friendlies mean nothing.
That is largely true but with the team continuing to make similar types of mistakes and demonstrating the same deficiencies that were prominent throughout last season, supporters had every reason to have some concerns. Bizarrely, many fans genuinely appeared to believe that these would somehow be magically addressed with a click of Mikel’s fingers once the competitive action commenced. Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t been the case.
After each defeat there has been reasons or excuses depending on your viewpoint, put forward by supporters who still retain their belief in Mikel. Unless there’s a significant improvement after the international break, it won’t be long before I have as much belief in our manager as I do in Father Christmas. Joking aside, let’s look at the facts.
In all three of our league games to date, it’s true that we have been missing key players. It’s also accurate to say that Arteta has had to deal with late player withdrawals before games because of positive Covid tests and having our American pre season tour cancelled at short notice. All whilst waiting for the club to shift some of the deadwood to create space for new signings.
However, none of the above is particularly relevant to my criticisms of our manager. It’s Mikel’s in game management, substitutions, tactics and team selections from the players who are available that concern me. For example, against Chelsea it was evident early in the game that Reece James was causing us problems down our left hand side, yet Arteta didn’t appear to even attempt to react to the obvious threat.
Despite protestations to the contrary, I believe our team selection against Manchester City was questionable too. Personally, I wouldn’t have played Kolasinac and would have opted for Tierney as a left sided centre back instead. With Kieran having impressed centrally in the past, I’d have put Tavares in the team at left wingback. Having arguably been our best performer in his two previous appearances, it could be said that Lokonga was unlucky to miss out too.
To a degree, I can understand why Ramsdale wasn’t given the nod ahead of Leno. Having performed reasonably well against Chelsea and also been our long term first choice, it’s likely Mikel believed that Bernd deserved an opportunity to prove why he should remain as our number one. However, as a manager it’s your job to make ruthless decisions and pick the team that gives you the best chance of winning games. With his superior distribution, coupled with my belief that Leno hasn’t performed well enough over a prolonged period of time, I’d start Ramsdale against Norwich.
Some supporters have tried to use Pep Guardiola’s kind words about Mikel to ‘prove’ that he’s a good manager. Is there any real surprise that Pep decided to back his friend and former colleague? The reality is that if one of the biggest managerial jobs became available tomorrow, Mikel would not be considered for it. Yes, even despite Guardiola saying he’s “beyond a good manager”. It’s all too easy to praise an opponent after you’ve just beaten them comfortably. Don’t forget that even Mourinho started to praise Wenger when we were no longer a threat.
Much has been made of our summer spending but the reality is, teams like Manchester City have spent less because they are so far ahead to begin with. Meaning that they are complimenting their squad instead of trying to rebuild it in the way that we are. There is a significant difference in buying one £100m player and what we’ve done in buying several lower cost options, making spending comparisons, futile.
Whilst I’ll acknowledge the above, I’m not prepared to happily write off yet another campaign like some fans appear to be. Mikel was effectively given a free pass last season with grounds being empty for the majority of the season. That shouldn’t be the case this time as he’s been strongly backed by the board in terms of player purchases and removing some of the deadwood from our squad. There is now nowhere for him to hide.
Sometimes it’s not who you lose to but the manner of the defeat. With the difference in squad expenditure and where we currently are as a team, I can accept losing to the champions of Europe and to those of England too. What is unacceptable though, is to lose after only having 20% possession and one shot, in comparison to 80% and twenty five in favour of Manchester City. Even when down to 10 men.
Many supporters believe our season starts against Norwich, unfortunately, it doesn’t but it recommences and I expect nothing less than three points….
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…..