In football, as in war, final defeat never comes from the loss of a single battle. It is an accumulation of of losses or failure to win key battles that signals the end of a manager.
Take Arsene Wenger for example, while his consistency in keeping Arsenal in the top-4 will never be matched, there is no doubt in my mind that most Arsenal fans lost confidence in him because the club consistently lost the battle for the title in his last 13 years. Falling out of the top-4 in his last two years may have been the final blow but it was the cumulative effect of these annual losses that enabled the malcontents to successfully convince a majority of fans it was time for Wenger-Out.
Similarly, in my opinion, Unai Emery’s fate was sealed after that very heavy defeat suffered by Arsenal at the hands of Chelsea in the Europa League finals in Baku in May of 2019. I recall then how it dramatically undermined faith in him by many Arsenal fans. Not even a streak 22 undefeated games could save him when Arsenal was being outshot by the likes of Aston Villa and Watford, the worst teams in the League at the time. Losing 1-0 to Sheffield United would normally be a loss to shrug off but that was the punch that sealed his fate. The damage had been done much earlier.
Mikel Arteta was supposed to be the antithesis of Unai Emery. On his appointment one year ago last December he said all the right things:
“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.”
After a year of insipid Emeryball, marked by frequently excluding Ramsey and Ozil from the team, de-emphasizing clever possession and relying on long balls and crosses; most Arsenal fans greeted Arteta as a Savior who would implement the technical brilliance learnt from his mentors, Pep and Wenger, with an added bit of steel.
The reality is Arteta has been rarely of the things he promised. Take yesterday’s defeat to Wolves for example. In their match report, whoscored.com provides a map of Attack Sides reprinted below:
It shows Arteta’s set-up is very reminiscent of peak Emery. The center of the park was literally surrendered to the opposition; a mere 19% of attacks coming through the middle. In comparison virtually 50% of attacks were down the left side with Saka and Tierney tasked to fling hopeful crosses into the box. Back in the day, it was Kolasinac pumping them over in the general direction of Auba and/or Lacazette with little to show for it. The old saying “same herring, different barrel” comes to mind.
In contrast, Nuno Espiritu Santo and Wolves were certainly more balanced in the origin and focus of their attacks, thus presenting far greater defensive problems for the Gunners.
As for wanting the ball in the opposition’s territory, in a preliminary analysis I did of data from Orbinho.com earlier in the season, I found that Arsenal was, by far, the worse among the traditional top-6 clubs in simply circulating possession in our own half. (Don’t laugh, top-6 was my prediction.)
I doubt that stat has changed much. What has changed is we are currently in a downward spiral and while top-6 is not beyond us, something must radically change just as it did when Arteta took over from Emery. Then we moved from mid-table and flirted with top-4. Who believes any such change is imminent?
As me and Blackburn George, the Arseblagger, have emphasized repeatedly in our podcasts, Arteta is not an attacking coach. He sets up the team to stop the other side from playing. It is not geared to create multiple chances and to score, rather the primary goal is to nullify the opposition and to score on the break. Against Wolves it was plain to see how attacking is alien to Arsenal. In the second half, the midlands team simply decided to defend their one goal lead, inviting Arsenal to break them down while they would do the occasional counter-attacking.
|2||Shots on target||5|
As the data from the Premier league demonstrates despite all the possession, touches and passes Arsenal could only muster 2 Shots on Target.
There was a grand total of 13 shots by Arsenal this match, which must be a season record or close to, but needing to score goals on a team defending a lead they could only create 8 shots in the second half.
This poverty in creating shots is no accident. Ever since Wenger left the club, in what was arguably his worst year, the shots per game have fallen off by 44%, from 15.6 to 8.8. Yet we still have fans blaming the “old man” for the current state of the club.
Arsenal Shots per game
2020/21 – 8.8
19/20 – 10.7
18/19 – 12.3
17/18 – 15.6
16/17 – 14.9
15/16 – 15.0
14/15 – 16.1
13/14 – 13.8
12/13 – 15.7
11/12 – 16.8
10/11 – 17.2
09/10 – 17.4
08/09 – 17.4
07/08 – 16.5
06/07 – 16.8
05/06 – 14.6
04/05 – 14.9
03/04 – 14.2
— Orbinho (@Orbinho) October 25, 2020
Meanwhile, in act of galactic arrogance or stupidity, Arteta, either at the insistence of the owners or certainly with their full support, decided that he could succeed in the Premier League without his best player, the greatest #10 in modern football, 5-time German player of the year and World Cup winner. Unlike Emery, who confessed that he was pressured not to select Ozil, Arteta was foolish enough to not even register the german on either his Euroa or Premier League squads, denying himself of the option if push come to shove.
No amount of mainstream media pretending that binning Ozil was for “footballing reasons’ and Arsenal’s biggest bloggers and social media accounts keeping quiet, tacitly supporting the club, will ever cover up the fact that this was the greatest act of self-harm by a manager in top-flight football especially a young, new manager .
As I previously blogged, in the 10 games Arteta selected Ozil prior to the Covid break, we were a far better attacking team than after Project Restart when he dropped the German, mincing words and prevaricating to the media as to his reasons. The “FubolBible” says it best:
Mesut Özil has created 2.40 chances per 90 minutes under Arteta, the most of any Arsenal player in this period of time. The next closest player creates 0.89 chances p/90.
If you think Özil is sat at home because of footballing reasons then you’re simply deluded. pic.twitter.com/ojK31PmTy2
— FutbolBible (@FutbolBible) November 9, 2020
Now the chickens are coming home to roost. Finally a majority of Arsenal fans are waking up from weeks and months of denial about the damage to the club being inflicted by Artetaball. The anger, frustration and bottled up emotions is palpable and growing. There is clearly fewer and fewer fans “trusting the process”. How much longer will Arteta last?
Perhaps, Arteta may be right in an indirect way. Ever since the Americanization of British football, “footballing reasons” cover far wider concerns than that which are traditionally limited to the field of play. Consider the American designed attacks on FIFA over control; the haste to restarting football in the face of growing discontent during COVID; and, its use in distracting global masses through entertainment and controversy in the age of America led imperialism and we can see football’s new social role. Somehow, Ozil’s saga is connected to this. But, your critique of Arteta is correct; the context excuses neither his actions regarding Ozil, nor his incompetency.
Arteta’s inexperience and incompetency is the key here. No need for fans to feel guilty for investing so much in him. It was Arteta who blew his big opportunity, not the fans making his life difficult by making unreasonable demands. To the contrary we stood behind him and denied his failings because he was one of us and because he landed two trophies within a year, trophies which, btw, mainstream media dismissed as irrelevant during Wenger’s term. The inconsistency is mind boggling.
Well said, but where do we go from here?
Another sacked manager, an interim one and then another try with someone else?
Such a move can only cause harm, possibly long-lasting.
There might be a way of retaining Arteta, whilst bringing in assistance to help him.
My very fanciful idea would be to bring Wenger in as something like director of football, to assist Arteta in marrying his coaching skills with the skill of managing a team in competition,which he clearly is far from mastering.
He may feel slighted and walk away, but that may be better than another sacking.
I fear that he has made too man ymistakes already.
Promising attacking football and then producing the exact opposite,
Aiming to shore up the defence, which, despite the wishful thinking of so many bloggists is not better than it was under Emery, mayube even worse.
Cowtowing to the powers that be in exiling Ozil, which is more and more looking like a massive own goal.
I am sure than there are many more.
The premature removal of Wenger, withour a succession put in place was a massive mistake, even if Wenger was no longer able to cope with the changes that were happening to football so quickly.
Now we are faced with the end of another short reign and we can only wonder what distaster do KSE have in store for us next.
I feel sorry for the younger fans who have only known success and who find mediocrity, or worse too horrific to consider.
Change is needed. Does Arteta have the guts and the ability to do it?
JJG: This is a very significant comment by you. Ever since Arteta betrayed his promise to fans to play attacking football by refusing to select Ozil for games and later to ban him from the playing squad, its been interesting to observe the reaction of Arsenal fans. My frame of reference has been the Kubler-Ross Model of the 7 Stages Grief. (Are you aware of this tool?)
In my opinion, the reaction by Arsenal fans to Arteta’s betrayal has been entirely consistent with the Kubler Ross model. We have been through the two initial stages:
SHOCK and general disbelief when he refused to select Ozil after Project Restart. This state of shock continued into the early season until it became official that Arteta was truly turning his back on Ozil by refusing to name him to both PL and Europa league squads.
DENIAL became the main reaction when Ozil was officially binned. There was virtually no resistance and no reaction by Arsenal fans, most of whom kept dead quiet, even though as the season progressed it was obvious we lacked a creative presence in midfield as we struggled to create Chances and to increase our feeble compilation of Shots on Goal.
Now that we are being consistently defeated by mid-table and lower teams, most recent being Wolves, the tide is turning to Anger. But it is early days yet. If crowds were attending games I am sure we would be hearing loud, angry boos at this stage. In time it will become clearer how the anger will manifest itself.
But your comment below shows you are way past the Anger stage and are now in Bargaining mode, You are dying to see Arteta change his approach or that he becomes better by getting someone, like Wenger, to assist.
The problem with bargaining after an irreversible loss is the futility of negotiating with the person causing the loss. Furthermore if Arteta refuses to recognize he has been a failure or contributing to failure why should he accept a demotion and become subservient to a new manager. Such bargaining is rife with contradictions when it is far easier to cut ties with the old manager and appoint brand new replacement.
Hopefully you will avoid the next stage, i.e. DEPRESSION. Most people will become depressed and sick of the club when it is proven that bargaining with Arteta is futile. One thing we know for certain is the Kroenkes will try to Artaeta on as long as possible, as they have supported him generously in the last xfer window, Unfortunately as long as he remains it will go from bad to worse.
Arteta style of play is defence first and that is 180 degree opposite what Arsenal brand has shown for 2 decades under Arsene Wenger. With this kind of football we cant win matches in the first place and are destroying the Arsenal brand of football as well.The urge to watch Arsenal play is diminishing as the days pass.
As the idiot fans still blaming Wenger for this state of affairs and the lack of spending by the owners are deluded for the fact is that Arsenal have spent a good sum to buy Leno Gabriel Partey Pepe and the list goes on.
Infact now approx 3/4 th of the playing eleven are now players post Wenger era. Maybe the idiot fans can still blame those 1/4 th of the Wenger era players for our dismal display.
What a joke?
The idiot fans said that we need a young modern manager and now they have one as well but the results are gone south.
I can bet Arsene Wenger would have walked in top4 with 100 million Euros spending as he did it for 2 decades with even lesser amounts.
Now the bigger question is that where we go from here now?completely agree with Jigsol
propsal to bring Wenger back at the club as DOF to help out Arteta to stable the sinking ship.
I am afraid I am past the depressed stage.
I watch the games on sky because I feel a duty to, not because I want to as I find each game more excruciating and uninterestingthan the one before. I watch out of loyalty not out of desire.
I also watch because I have paid my subscription to sky.
Emery and Arteta have together ruined my interest in the club I have supported for nearly 60 years.
Maybe it is not a bad thing so I can concentrate the time and effort in supporting the club to something else for a change.
Sad times but so it is.
Unfortunately, there are still many fans who see the dross that our team produces and expects Arteta ‘to turn things around’.
They still give players who contributed nothing meaningful to games 7s and 8a out of 10 and seem to be blind at what is going on as they did last year as Emery was grinding us into the ground
Collective wishful thinking and rose tinted glasses obscure the truth.
I would dearly love Arteta to succeed but fear he is not able to.
I shouted out loud and clear for ages for Emery to be sacked because of the damage he was doing.
I do not do the same for Arteta but know he is heading in that direction.