Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so happy I didn’t watch that Liverpool game,
because I would’ve lost it. I’d like to not spend too much time on analysing another game we just slept through, and focus on another matter, are we making progress? And how are we measuring it?
Stats can be funny sometimes, as after 30 games last season we were again 10th and again had a goal difference of +5 and a total point tally of 40, two less than the 42 we have today. But if we go back to the 18/19 season after 30 games we were 4th with a point tally of 60 and a goal difference of +24. Such stats would see us 3rd, level on points with United with a very good chance of a top 4 finish.
We eventually finished 5th that year, last year we were 8th and so far we are 10th. There are a lot of stats that people can throw out like number of crosses, corners, possession percentages and so on, but in the end of the season, which does draw near, it’s the number of trophies and the league position that really count for me.
The Europa league is our last chance to salvage something from a pretty forgettable season, and I don’t think displays like Saturday will get us anywhere near there. We were hit by some injuries, but were they the real issue? No, and we just can’t go with that card. In fact, we’ve got a big squad and I would say one of the better injury records in recent years, so what is it then? Why haven’t we moved upwards of where we were a year ago?
We got rid of Ozil, who was a problem, Mustafi is out, yet our defence isn’t that great anyway. Arteta was given money to buy Thomas Partey and Gabriel, it’s not like seasons where we’ve only signed a keeper. Is it time to accept that criticism should go towards the manager, or does that make us negative and not fans of the club?
The truth is Mikel Arteta has made a number of mistakes and continues to repeat some of them. His biggest downfall is playing his favourite players. Aubameyang has been awful since signing a new deal. We stick with him though, which costs us now 2 games in a row again and that is after Arteta himself declared publicly that he had discipline issues, by not arriving on time.
We dropped him for the NLD and won the game, because we had players who care. The ridiculous deal we gave him makes him impossible to move on, and that should’ve been taken into account for a player above 30 when giving him a massive 3 year deal. Same goes with another Arteta favourite – Willian. He played far too long, and the moment he was dropped the squad actually improved. Then we have Martinelli who barely plays and in the rare minutes he gets, he looks miles better.
Another critical mistake is trying to play a style of football our players aren’t capable of. The amount of mistakes we’ve made ourselves that have led to goals in our net are ridiculous and Arteta has acknowledged that we must clear them out, but that hasn’t really happened. We continue to try playing out the back and we constantly suffer when put under pressure, because we can’t do it. We are not Man City and we can’t solve all our problems by throwing money, we need to be smart.
I must say Arteta’s man management has been mostly poor. Certain players are held to incredibly high standards while others get a free pass no matter how they perform. Laca was dropped after scoring in each of our opening 3 games, because he missed the chance to equalise for us at Liverpool, and I already made a point about Martinellli, Willian and Auba.
His half time talks hardly make an impact on the game. It’s easy to forget it was 0-0 at half time against Liverpool, yet we continued to play poorly, despite being dominated in the first half. We are also generally late with the subs. Too often we wait till minute 80 to give a player the chance to impact the game. Ten minutes are hardly enough to judge a player coming from the bench, but that’s what some of our players get.
There’s the argument that Arteta has given us some wins against the big 6 and while that is true, it’s used completely out of context. We won at Old Trafford 1-0 thanks to a penalty and that was the first time since 2006 and that was great. Afterwards though it took us I think 8 or 9 games before we won a league game again. That set the tone for our entire season. We won at Leicester 3:1, which was again great and failed to follow it up with a win at Burnley which left us too far behind again. We beat Tottenham and then went down 3-0 to West Ham in half an hour and played some of the worst football I’ve seen in a while. In the end we drew 3:3, but if we were focused we could’ve won and pushed our momentum on.
Point is one good sprint isn’t enough to win a marathon and that’s what the league is. In the cups though, those one offs that have won Arteta an FA cup, which was great, but we fell into the short-sightedness pitfall again. We ignored the fact that we finished 8th and were inconsistent in the league and that hasn’t changed.
I fully support my thesis that the players we have aren’t good enough, but they are better than 10th for sure. I just don’t think this manager can take the best out of them, and we don’t have the funds to make wholesale changes. Even if we did, I don’t trust Arteta with the decisions.
Willian was a mistake, so was Aubameyang’s contract and who let Martinez leave again? Leno has been poor this season, yet we let go a keeper who did great for us. Since the squad needs too much to be fixed we are hardly buying a new keeper, though we should. Arteta decided to extend the loan of Ceballos who’s been dreadful as well and he continues to support Xhaka in our midfield.
If I’m the manager he’d be the first name on the transfer sheet. If we want to improve and cut out the mistakes, we must start by shipping out the players who do it the most and I can’t think of any other than Xhaka that’s cost us so much.
In the end we are 2 points better than where we were last year at 30 games, in the same 10th place with the same GD of +5, and we are one round further in the EL. To me, relying on a cup competition to determine your entire season isn’t the way to go. I’d be extremely happy if we win it, but I fear that we’ve won 4 FA cups in recent times and not once has that moved us forwards towards a real push for something big like the League or the CL, and I think it will only paper over the cracks.
For me, in the best interest of this football club we need to reevaluate Arteta’s contract in the end of the season and give him a chance only, and I really mean only, if the Europa League trophy sits in the Emirates trophy cabinet or else we are risking having the exact same conversation this time next year.