One of the biggest myths I keep hearing when Gooners defend not being in Europe for the first time in quarter of a century, is that Arteta had to clear up the mess left by Mr Wenger, but finally the squad is better than the one the Frenchman left us.
Common sense of course would argue that if that was true and Wenger’s final team so bad, how come Arteta has yet to better their 6th place finish?
How come Unai Emery inherited the same problems but managed to finish 5th, not the consecutive 8th place finishes of the past two seasons?
Some Gooners seem to think if they say things enough times, it must be true.
That if they tell themselves we have great youngsters, their peers will just ignore we have for two years been watching the worse Arsenal team in quarter of a century.
Now, I’m not going to contradict myself.
My opinion is equally just that, an opinion, zero right or wrong.
Yet there are certain stats and data you can’t ignore. Where you finish in the Prem Is a huge measurement of a club’s progress, and you can’t on one hand have an improved squad yet who finish lower than their predecessors managed in 25 years. That doesn’t add up.
Mr Wenger left in the summer of 2018.
How long can people hide behind a manager who left over three years ago?
Did Mr Wenger leave everything perfect at the Emirates?
Yet tell me any new coach who walks into a new job with everything perfect?
If there were zero issues to fix, there wouldn’t be a job vacancy in the first place.
Ole Gunner Solskjaer wasn’t happy with the attitudes he inherited at Old Trafford but still managed to finish 2nd.
Frank Lampard returned to Chelsea, with Eden Hazard leaving for Real Madrid and a transfer embargo. He still qualified for the Champions League.
It appears only Gooners think it takes nearly 4 years to improve a team who finished 6th and that consecutive 8th place finishes are progress, even though ……. that is factually your league finishing position declining.
So I am going to do a comparison between Wenger’s last squad and Arteta’s current one. I’m approaching this article with a fresh mind so feel free to do so in the comments.
17-18 – (Cech and Ospina) Vs 2021-22 (Ramsdale, Leno)
One of the best things Arteta has ever done was realising that Leno was making too making mistakes.
A lot of Gooners questioned why we spent so many millions on Ramsdale, someone with consecutive relegations, while the money could be used to strengthen other areas of the squad.
Nearly every fan who had doubts has admitted they were wrong, with the 23-year-old impressing in every department. His saves, his distribution, interaction with the crowd, the way he speaks, his leadership.
A position where you don’t reach your prime til your thirties, our keeper will only get better.
Remember you’re not comparing him with the Cech at Chelsea.
My preferred choices – Ramsdale and Ospina
17-18 (Mustafi, Koscielny, BFG, Holding, Chambers) Vs 2021-22 (Gabriel, White, Holding, Mari, Chambers)
This is where context is key. When Mr Wenger left North London the majority of his centre backs were past their best.
Koscielny suffered an Achilles injury meaning he would struggle to play two games a week while the BFG retired, admitting that playing now caused him anxiety.
So even if all parties wanted to, those two had no long-term futures at the club.
Arteta has defensively made us harder to play against. Whether he’s focused too much on that and not got the balance correct, that’s another debate.
So, a younger Gabriel and White start ahead of an ageing Koscielny and Mustafi.
Chambers wasn’t trusted by any Gunners boss, hence the two loans and leaving for free.
As I predicted Mari was a chance to bring in a body without paying too much.
I really thought with his reputation at Man City in making individuals better, Holding would have improved under Arteta.
My choices – Gabriel, White, Koscielny, Holding (17-18 version)
17-18 (Monreal, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Maitland Niles) vs 2021- 2022 (Tierney, Tomiyasu, Cedric, Tavares)
Bellerin had started to suffer the lengthy injuries that robbed him of the pace that made him the player he was.
Again though, Arteta’s strengths were meant to be working with talent 1-1 on the training pitch.
Instead Bellerin, Maitland Niles and Kolasinac would all be loaned out.
Based on their ages, it’s almost unfair to compare an injury plagued Bellerin with Tierney and Tomiyasu.
Where the current team is lacking is depth in the full back positions. Injuries (and Tierney gets a few) to our left or right back means we now rely on a youthful Tavares or Cedric, only ever signed because he was a free agent. Better man management could have seen experienced Monreal and Bellerin acting as competition to their younger peers.
My choices – Tierney, Tomiyasu, Monreal, Bellerin
17-18 (Xhaka, Elneny, Ramsey, Wilshere, Willock) Vs 2021-2022 (Xhaka, Partey, Elneny, Lokonga, Maitland- Niles)
The big comparison here is Mr Wenger and Arteta have different outlooks in the shape of their midfield.
Both trust Xhaka (although I can’t say he’s improved over the years).
However, the Spaniard likes to partner with another DM in a two or a three.
The Frenchman would use Xhaka as his holding player, while trusting box to box midfielders to play alongside in either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 (Smith Rowe would play there), then bringing on a DM if needed to protect the lead.
We have never replaced consistently the goal scoring ability of Ramsey.
Wilshere had also played enough games in Mr Wenger’s final season to prove his fitness and earn a pay as you play deal.
I maintain if Mr Wenger had remained both Ramsey and Wilshere would have signed contract extensions.
My choices – Wilshere, Ramsey, Xhaka (2017-18 version), Partey,
17-18 (Iwobi, Ozil, Reiss Nelson, Mkhitaryan) Vs 2021-22 (Saka, Odegaard, Pepe, Smith Rowe)
This could be three behind the striker or on either side of the forward.
Getting 30 million for Iwobi is some of the best business we ever done, Reiss Nelson has been loaned out twice, yet I don’t feel comfortable picking Pepe given he hasn’t started in the League for us in months.
So, Saka gets one spot on the left or right while a Smith Rowe, Aubameyang or Welbeck can play there.
While it’s not fashionable to say anything positive about Ozil, he contributes to 13 goals in Mr Wenger’s final season, enough to sign a contract extension that most gooners were happy about.
Is Odegaard really an upgrade?
My choice – Saka, Smith Rowe and Ozil
17-18 (Aubameyang, Lacazette, Welbeck) Vs 2021-22 (Aubameyang, Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah)
While Arteta has improved us defensively, offensively we are one of the worst we have been in decades.
Even in his last few years, you could always trust an Arsene Wenger team to make chances.
Years since we were consistent title contenders we were still viewed as one of the best teams to watch in the UK.
Now, we go 4 games without scoring and it’s not even newsworthy, it’s accepted.
Whether it’s as a sole striker or on the left, we would obviously rather have the Auba in his first full season for us compared to the current version.
Equally he had an understanding with Lacazette that Arteta has not taken advantage of. Laca is the latest player allowed to run down his contract, something we were promised would never be allowed to happen again.
No one with a straight face can say that Eddie Nketiah gets picked ahead of Aubameyang based on sporting reasons.
Welbeck was a better option off the bench then Eddie because he wasn’t afraid to take on his man. Like Auba he could play anywhere across the front three
My choices – Aubameyang, Lacazette (the 2017-18 versions) and Welbeck
Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney
Xhaka, Ramsey, Wilshire
2017-18 10 players
2021- 22 8 players
In conclusion Arteta has without doubt improved us defensively, but there is a lack of depth, while he’s sacrificed our quality on the other end of the pitch.
Quite simply defensively we are better then what Mr Wenger left, but offensively not even close.
Let me know your team ……11 and 7 subs
No right or wrong
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