After Arsenal’s 2-1 FA Cup victory in August of this year against Chelsea, things were on the up for Mikel Arteta in his first job as boss. He faced an incredible task of turning round a depleted Arsenal side under Unai Emery who went on a run of seven games without a win before he got the sack. The Gunners are also a club who have seemingly been in a rut for several years with them not appearing in the UEFA Champions League since the 2016/17 season and having not won the league since the ‘Invincibles’ season in 2004 under Arsene Wenger. Arsenal now sit 15th in the Premier League after a run of five defeats in seven games; many Gooners are calling for the Spaniard’s head and have questioned his team selection.
Sunday night’s home defeat to Burnley has seen Arsenal hit rock bottom in a game which was full of pain for Arsenal fans everywhere. The North Londoners have slipped further and further from the pinnacle of the English game; could Arsenal actually be relegation candidates this season? There are many factors that have contributed to the demise of Arsenal which would take too long to write in this article but one of the most significant talking points at the moment is the confusion as to why Arteta is still selecting players who have consistently performed poorly and who have quite frankly, embarrassed the club and its fans for far too long.
Embed from Getty Images
These players, however, have previously given him success such as in wins against Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea at Wembley and even up until more recent times when Arsenal were able to gain their first win at Old Trafford since 2006. Therefore, it is understandable as to why Arteta has not completely thrown the book at them and has tried to persist with them, despite the majority of players playing significantly below par. Consistent starters such as Granit Xhaka, Hector Bellerin, and summer addition Willian, have been the standout players out of form yet the man in charge has continued to play them in the league despite the impressive performances by the young players in the Europa League.
Granit Xhaka has once again proven to be a liability for Arsenal and his stupid dismissal on Sunday, where he grabbed Ashley Westwood by the throat, right in front of referee Graham Scott I may add, summed up the feelings echoing throughout everybody associated with the football club. Once again, Xhaka’s petulance has let Arsenal down and surely it cannot continue to be rewarded with starts. This is not the only stupidity that we’ve seen, however, with Nicolas Pepe losing his head not too long ago at Elland Road. It still remains to be seen why Mohammed Elneny nearly did the exact same thing as Xhaka did just a few moments later against Burnley where he was lucky not to see red himself.
Embed from Getty Images
The issues are clearly not just footballing ones and perhaps this was not the right job for Arteta and the sheer magnitude of the challenges at Arsenal are simply too difficult, especially for your first job as manager. Nonetheless, the decision was made, and the Kroenke’s have given the former Manchetser City assistant their full backing and confidence amidst the plethora of struggles of confidence, mistakes, foolish indiscipline, imbalance and ineffective tactics.
Originally, Arteta was praised for being able to make the best out of players who had not performed well previously at Arsenal with improved performances by David Luiz, Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka. Now it just seems that his hard work on these players has gone down the pan. Ultimately, the improved performances of players not up to Arsenal’s required level was never going to be sustained and the club need a major overhaul and to move on the players not up to scratch.
Embed from Getty Images
Of course, this was never going to be easy, especially during the unprecedented times of a global pandemic, but now it surely is time for the many talents from Arsenal’s Hale End Academy to be given a chance in the league. Joe Willock, Emile Smith-Rowe, Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles or even the raw talent of Folarin Balogun would perhaps add a different dimension and a freshness to this Arsenal team. Arsenal are struggling to create chances and it is easy to blame Aubameyang, who has only scored one goal from open play this year, coming in their win away at Fulham on the opening day of the league this season, but Arsenal sit 19th in terms of chances created this term. Auba is not missing clear chances and the Gunners’ football is boring, slow and too methodical, lacking the intricate through balls that the rapid striker thrives on.
Not every senior player is to blame and there have actually been some standout performers for Arsenal in the likes of new signing Gabriel and Scottish left-back Kieran Tierney who, in particular, has shown leadership abilities that Arsenal have lacked for so many years now. Arteta needs to try and strike some balance in the squad now, but he must eradicate players who simply have let them down far too often. If Wednesday’s game at home to Southampton still follows a similar pattern in terms of performance and team selection, the loud noises of discontent will be heard even louder by Arsenal fans and who can blame them.