Who Are THIS Arsenal? What Are They and What Do They Represent?
Arsenal are in shambles. What is the point of beating around the bush; call a spade a spade. So in the spirit of that, let’s lay out the negatives right from the off;
- First time we have lost four on the bounce at home since 1959
- Currently sitting 15th in the table, winless in our last five
- 13 points from our opening 12 fixtures & a negative goal difference
- Our 10 goals in the league is 17th out of 20, ahead of Burnley, West Brom & Sheffield United
- We average the 5th-fewest shots/90min in the league (10.3)
- 7 goals from open play is good enough for joint-17th in the table
- Lacazette’s last goal (3) was on match-day 3; he still our leading goalscorer in the league
- Gabriel has as many goals (2) as Aubameyang
- Willian remains our assist leader in the league (3); two of those came on match-day 1
- Arsenal are only 5-points clear of the relegation zone
I could go on, but I think it’s quite clear the line I’ve taken on the course of this piece. To coin a phrase from a platform I have little-to-no respect for; this is simply not good enough. In fact, this is diabolically poor. And that is being polite about the current state of affairs in London N5.
A little bit of harsh reality – though I don’t think we need anymore truth pills – is that it never got this bad during the darkest days of Arsène Wenger’s reign. It never got this bad under Unai Emery, either.
Perhaps for the first time this has all begun to kick-off amongst all sections of the fanbase, I can understand and listen to the argument why Mikel Arteta should be moved on from.
To be clear, that does not mean it is what side of the line I fall on. As per usual, I am somewhere in between. I think there are reasons to defend him and keep him, but also clear red flags that can no longer be ignored as they flicker wildly in gale-force winds.
What frustratingly hurts the most is there is genuinely no where to turn for answers right now. No rally point. No fall back location. In times like these, at the very least, most clubs of note have values, institutional norms, or structures in place to see them through the doldrums. The fact that Arsenal football club are one in flux on almost every conceivable level makes this that much worse.
Though Michael did his utmost to hijack my thoughts without permission (I say that in jest of course), the brass tax regarding Arsenal remains that the club has no identity regarding it’s organizational structure, tactical or philosophical ideologies, or recruitment process/maxims both regarding the first-team and the youth set-up.
If you were to put ten Arsenal supporters in a room and ask them to describe what the club is about at current, you would be hard pressed to get a straightforward response.
What are we? I ask that and hope to get a response from someone…one of you. I mean that with the utmost sincerity.
Are we a club that puts full faith in giving youth a chance? No. In that same light, are we a club built around grizzled old veterans and prime-aged talent with a shrinking of youthful exuberance? Also, no.
To quote Lord of the Rings by way of our own Ben Browning “Most of them [the players] have seen too many winters…or too few.” We have a squad that lacks identity in how it’s been structured and put together. There is simply no direction in terms of the type of player(s) we want to build around moving forward. Some of very, very good. Some are decent. Some don’t deserve to wear the shirt. A squad without an ethos or an identity is one that will never perform even close to the sum of its good parts.
Circling back to the youngsters, they receive chances in the Europa League; and have performed well. Despite this years group being the easiest we have faced in Europe in the last 20-years.
But the jury is out as to why they do not receive the same pathways to minutes on the domestic front. Does Arteta not have faith in them to perform in a much more difficult competition? Have the fanbase overrated their performances/ability by comparison? Is the manager trying to play his top players into form hence why he persists with selecting them? Who knows, really. Well, you’d hope he does at the very least.
Perhaps the biggest problem of all was hiring Arteta in the first place, which should not be thrown on his shoulders at all. That is not a dig at the manager, but at the structure above him.
Though he may be a good or even a very-good coach, he has yet to prove that he is actually a manager. And there certainly is a difference in those two iterations of responsibility.
At Manchester City he was credited with helping players such as Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling to progress both tactically and technically on an individual basis. This is coaching, and a very good example of it.
Being a manager – especially at a club of the size and scope of Arsenal – is so much more than the progression of one or two bright young(er) players. Do you get your team selections right regularly? How do you man-manage massive personalities with massive egos? How do you put fires out in the dressing room from spilling over into other compartments? How do you build your tactical ethos around the players at your disposal? There are huge questions asked of managers, and it is time to consider that Arteta may not have been ready for this level of responsibility.
To bring in a very green coach (despite his experience at the Etihad), promote him to full manager regarding his responsibilities and influence in key decision making, all while having relatively inexperienced people in other positions of power around and above him, was folly to say the least.
If Arteta’s appointment was to go off without a hitch, or at least an increased chance of it doing so, then more experienced heads were needed in the positions of Director of Football and Technical Director.
Yes, we did have Raúl Sanllehí de facto heading-up the club, but he was so much more a business man than a football man. It will likely never happen (so please do not look at the name and rather think about the overall argument), but someone in the mold of Ralf Rangnick was needed as DoF if a young and inexperienced coach was to come in.
A steady, knowledgeable hand that would bring an actual direction to the club on and off the pitch that the coach could get behind and flourish in.
It should then be no surprise to anyone that the moment Arteta received greater say and responsibility at the club, that he began to struggle. That we have begun to struggle.
In the wake of Borussia Dortmund parting ways with Lucien Favre after being thrashed by VfB Stuttgart 5-1, many in the fanbase are asking why are we not being as ruthless with Arteta despite our FA Cup success. The truth is that Arteta may find himself on a similar unemployment line if things don’t shape up in short order.
With fixtures against Southampton, Everton, and Chelsea to come in the league – and a date with City in the Carabao Cup – this could get much, much worse.
Should we be worse for ware and ten-defeats deep come our trip to Brighton on the 29th, the club hierarchy may have to seriously consider parting ways with our former club-captain, but that still would not be enough. Edu’s position should likely also come under the microscope for a myriad of reasons, and KSE’s decisions in how they wanted to structure the club moving forward would warrant serious criticism.
I want to know who we are, what we are, and what we represent again. Right now, it is hard to sit down and really label us as a football club on any level. Something has to change…some things need to change. Soon.