Wenger’s legacy is fundamental. Free flowing, attacking football by a club with integrity and class.

Arteta is A “Deadman Walking”

Sean Penn being taking on his final walk, the inevitable fate of Mikel Arteta?

After Sunday’s emphatic 2-0 loss to Spurs in the North London Derby (NLD), it is my considered view that Mikel Arteta is a “deadman walking” in terms of his career as manager of Arsenal FC. It is just a matter of time before he is figuratively carried out on the gurney and given the capital punishment of a failed manager.

It is not the margin of defeat, rather it is his strategic and tactical blunders over the past 12 months since he was given this leadership role. Am not tired of reminding readers that, like many, I was overjoyed when Arteta was given the job as coach and subsequently promoted to 1st team manager. He started off sounding the right notes. Never forget his promise:

“We have to have passion, we have to be dominant, we have to be aggressive. We have to play in the opponent’s territory as much as we want.

 “I want the ball, I want to attack them as much as possible, I want to prevent them from attacking me as much as possible.”

But I recognized something was amiss and directly contrary his promises, when after Project Restart he stopped selecting Mesut Ozil to the squad, not merely the starting XI. How can you be “dominant” and “play in in the opponents territory” if your best player and attacking midfielder is dropped for no good footballing reason?

Apparently empowered by his FA cup success and victory in the Community Shield, playing a negative, counter-attacking style, described by my friend Blackburn George “as accepting that Arsenal is inferior to the opposition”, Arteta at the beginning of the season proceeded to outright ban Ozil from playing for the club by not registering him in both the Europa and Premier League squads.

In my blogs as well as podcasts with the Arseblagger, I repeatedly warned this was a fundamental error by Arteta (and his bosses) which he would regret. It is an iron law of team sports; you cannot succeed without your best player.

Now the chickens have come home to roost. As an Arsenal manager, you don’t go 6 defeats in 11 games to start a season without consequences. Even Bertie Mee, manager for 10 years, who led Arsenal to league and cup doubles in1970-71 and an European title (Inter Cities Frairs Cup)had to resign at the end of 1975-76 after a similarly disastrous start.

Mikel Arteta has nothing like Bertie Mee’s accumulated goodwill. And those were the days when the Arsenal board was loyal to their managers, come hell or high water. Does anybody believe the Kroenkes share a smidgen of such commitment to Mikel Arteta?

Floundering tactics

One year after getting the job, Mikel Arteta is floundering like a fish out of water, despite the brave face he is putting on at every presser following defeat after defeat. After 9 games he came under heavy pressure by the media and many fans (not the least being the Uncensored Arsenal podcasts) for the club coming dead last in the PL for shot creation.  His response against Wolves was to have his team pump in 33 crosses. Shot creation went up to a season high 13 but there was a paltry 2 shots on target. In his presser he defended his tactic and promised more:

“More than the situations we create or not is the final ball that we deliver when we are in this situation and the amount of times that we hit the target with the situations that we create, which is not enough. It’s down to me to find this solution, to put the players in the right positions and do it better.”

He certainly stuck to his guns. Arsenal pumped in a whopping 44 crosses (that must be a record but I don’t have access to the historical data). The end result was even worse than Wolves; 11 shots, 2 on target.

Despite the futility of this emphasis on crosses, Arteta in the post-match was by no means contrite. In his own words:

“In terms of the performance they did everything that I asked them to do, absolutely everything. We played a way that I believe we had to play this game.”

Arteta was ridiculously blind to the fact that pumping in crosses was even less successful at Spurs than it was at home to Wolves:

“We had chances. We generated probably more than ever this season, put the ball in the box more than ever, we had numbers there but at the end of the day you have to score the goals.”

No Mikel; you had less shots created and less shots on target. At that rate you are not going to score many goals.

In fact he went further to effectively promise similar tactics going forward:

“I take a lot of positives from the way we played”

Arteta is therefore making it clear he is either unwilling or unable to play down the middle. His system has no need for clever, attacking midfielders playing through the opposition’s lines. Rather it will be diet of cutbacks and crosses going forward.

I thought about it and can only conclude Arteta is wedded to the way he used to play at Everton, slinging in crosses for Big Duncan Ferguson and Tim Cahill who were both good headers of the ball but limited footballistically. Unlike Arsenal, Everton had the players for this style but at the end of the day they were proverbial also-rans in the Premier League never coming higher than 5th usually 6th. The wheels fell off around the time Arteta left and then, shortly after, his coach Moyes who spectacularly failed at United as successor to Sir Alex.

If we are going down the old Everton road under Arteta, God help Arsenal. As matters now stand, being at 15th place, we run the risk of being dragged into a relegation scrap. While my good friend Mel o’Reilly sincerely believes Arteta needs more time, which I disagree with, I absolutely concur with his tweet that our next game against Burnley is a six-pointer.

Frankly Burnley will be up for it. All those years of coming to the Emirates and never getting a win has had Sean Dyche moaning at every injustice. Am sure he will be licking his chops and preparing his team for a style of football English clubs relish.

Pundits praising Arteta

But is not only Arteta bravely whistling past the graveyard, it is also those 80s and 90s ex-pros who dominate mainstream media as pundits, For years they slagged and criticized Arsene Wenger for not emphasizing good old-fashioned crosses into the box, of wanting to walk the ball into the goal by patient, clever build-up play, for emphasizing technically accomplished attacking midfielders over physical DMs and defenders, and for not breaking the bank and spending some “fucking” money. In Arteta all their dreams have come true. They are now the main cheerleaders of Mikel, applauding him for banning Mesut Ozil, clearly happy that Arsenal best player cannot represent the club. Moreover they love the style of football Arteta insists on.

Every game on NBC, I hear pundits who used to play for other clubs who fiercely competed against Arsenal, i.e. pundits who got multiple trashing from Wenger’s teams, cheering Arteta on.

Jim Beglin, ex-Liverpool, who was on my broadcast feed when Chelsea was toying with us after going up 1-nil had this to say:

“Arsenal shouldn’t be too downhearted, they are playing well”

Last week vs Wolves, Efan Ekoku, ex-Norwich and ex-Wimbledon among many clubs, i.e. a journeyman, was assuring Arsenal fans:

“This is the pain they have to go through. Arteta will be looking ahead two years.”

I am not buying their bullshit but if you do I have a bridge am willing to sell you as well.

At the end of the day my opinion really doesn’t matter. It will come down to the Kroenkes. They didn’t do this Leveraged Buyout of Arsenal to make it a play-thing. Kroenke, who is 49th wealthiest billionaire in America,  is remorselessly growing his net worth through the passive increase in value of his various assets such as Arsenal Football Club. He won’t be having Arteta drive down the value of his investment.

For that reason Arteta’s days are numbered. Hand wringing and righteous indignation by fans about the frequency of changing managers won’t help Arteta in the least. Stay tuned for the next chapter.

10 Comments

  1. Great post Shotta.
    The big question is why Arteta wants to impose the old school way of playing football. Being a student of football under Wenger and Pep why he cant see that both suceeded by playing positive attacking football and not by the Mourinisque defence first approach? I am sure he knows football better than us but why on earth he cant see he needs to play more through the middle.
    Cant he see Auba has been a passanger since the start of the season. Why cant he devise a strategy to get Auba more involved? Why cant he make the midfield more functional?
    It is getting from bad to worse now. He should quickly get his act on track otherwise Arsenal are on the verge of collapse.

    Reply
  2. Ghost of WengerDecember 7, 2020 at 8:39 am

    Spot on Shotta. Arteta should be thinking about what he wants for his last meal.

    Earlier in the season he steadfastly stuck to 3 centre backs and no attacking mid. He was convinced that the Arsenal inferiority complex approach would allow us to counterattack our way to victory.

    That tactic stopped working once the opposition realised Arsenal were not going to live up to their fabled heritage and style. If Arsenal wants to remodel themselves on Stoke, the opposition appears to be more than happy to oblige.

    In recent games, Arteta has gotten increasingly desperate in trying to invent a number 10. Willock was invisible and ineffective in that position. Ceballos more visible but equally ineffective. I’ve seen panic with Laca on for Xhaka in the Wolves game. Now we are seeing Laca in at 10.

    These aren’t tactics – its desperation. Pressure is mounting on Arteta so he’s shed the posture of meticulous methodical tactician and is now sending out all the best players along with the proverbial kitchen sink in the hope they will fix what he has broken. His public utterances about Özil have made him an object of ridicule. Even my nan knows Özil is better number 10 than the kitchen sink!

    I was happy to see to back of Unai Emery. I was thrilled at the impact Arteta made in those early months but now he has shat the bed and I will not shed a tear when the axe descends. Burnley is the next PL game and it should be one that Arsenal would normally win despite the physicality that they will face. Unfortunately I think Arteta will be sacked if he loses so expect another fearful approach. Expect Burnley to treat us like Stoke. If we lose, expect Arteta to be very subdued in the post match presser and expect him to be gone on Monday 14th.

    Reply
    • Ha, Ha, Ha! “Arteta should be thinking about what he wants for his last meal.” indeed. Spot on about his increased desperation and the entire futility of it all.

      Reply
  3. @Ghost of Wenger .

    that game or after the Southampton game if we lose.

    Reply
  4. There is an interesting report on the game in Gunnerstown, from someone who did not watch the game live, but did watch a recording.

    I did not watch it, and cannot comment on it.

    IT is clear that that wily fox, Mourinho, outfoxed Arteta.

    Years ago, who would have thought that a team aspiring to top the league, would park the bus at home to a team 13 places below it.

    REsults are everything.

    Reply
    • But it was entirely predictable. Against Chelsea last week, Morinho’s Spurs had less than 40% possession. Mourinho’s teams do not want the ball. Arteta had no answer as he himself seems afraid of possession.

      Reply
  5. Well said bro! This season is nothing short of a disaster. So many people seem to think that we were expecting Arsenal to win the title, but that is not it, the issue is there is not improvement from game to game. I would like to see a sign, even if we lose. Ironically I felt our best football was when Pepe got the red. How the heck does that even make sense?!

    This is job is too big for Arteta. Just like Emery he thinks he is smarter than everyone else. The reason Arsenal are crap is not because he is trying to fit square pegs into round holes but because the players are not able to do what they are told; as yet according to the blind witnesses.

    The losses don’t even bother me anymore. To be honest, I never think Arsenal are going to win, regardless of who we play. I honestly thought we always had a chance when Arsene managed Arsenal and he proved that. We beat every top club in europe and many times when others though we had no chance. The 2006 run to the CL Final vs Barca is the most impressive thing I have even seen in football. I remember folks saying that Juve and RM would destroy Arsenal, especially with our injury crises at the time. Instead we were a couple of offside goals away from winning the whole thing and still hold all defensive records in the competition.

    Arsene is the greatest football manager ever in my opinion. Imagine if he had the money these dudes have along with having the refs in his pocket like Fergie?

    My goodness, look how far Arsenal have fallen in such a short period of time.

    Reply
    • Thank you Paul. To me, the issue is almost all these so-called big Arsenal accounts on social media never truly appreciated the genius of Arsene Wenger and did their best to belittle his achievements. In fact they have absolutely no understanding that positive, attacking football is not merely a tactic, it is a strategy, a philosophy, that must be personified in every player, in every coach and in every supporter of Arsenal Football Club. Most importantly, all the players must be empowered to take risks, to believe they are better than the opponent whether from Barca, Bayern or Juve, no matter their price tag. That is why up to 2013 Wenger may have had only a miniscule net spend of £21 million on transfers yet this was one of the most glorious chapters in Arsenal’s history. But after £220 spending on transfers in the last 3 years we are 15th in the league and these so-called big accounts have no answers to our predicament. In a strange way, it is a blessing in disguise, that it is the Kroenkes who will make the call and not them with their thoroughly useless, worthless selves.

      Reply
  6. Completely agree [email protected]:46

    Wenger was a genius keeping Arsenal among the top10 football clubs in Europe. The idiot trolls and the billy big blaggers did not accepted that just to get click baits and followings they build a negative narrative of the manager. Now there narrative has broken into pieces and saner view has won. Will those idiots accept that they were wrong and say sorry to Arsene Wenger?

    Will love to see a post on this topic Shotta.

    Reply
    • Hey Ros: I hope to do something soon on “why the big bloggers and podcasters can never say they were wrong”

      Reply

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