Last week we saw Arteta’s Arsenal team in perfect harmony as we bossed Man United at Old Trafford, and we were all hailing the massive improvement of beating one of the Big Six teams away at last, but what a difference a week makes!
Arsenal were toothless, lacking in confidence and rhythm. We couldn’t defend to save our lives and our front men couldn’t hit a barn door with a sledgehammer.
Aston Villa were totally dominant and vibrant to watch, while the exact same Arsenal XI that played United last week looked like scared rabbits caught in the headlights. So it’s no surprise that Mikel was not a happy bunny after the game, and he seemed at a loss to explain the incredible change from last week’s dominance at Old Trafford.
He told Arsenal.com: “I don’t feel like we were the team we’re supposed to be, we performed below our standards, our ability and I didn’t see the spirit for the first time that I have seen every day in training and every day when we compete. This is totally my fault, it is why I am here, I am responsible for that, to make sure the team performs and competes at the highest level every three days. Today I haven’t done that, so obviously it is my fault.
“It is very tough to find the reasons. I cannot say I have seen a change or this week that we have trained a different way. I would be lying if I said that. But obviously there was something there today that [Villa] wanted much more than us, and they showed it. At the end of the day, if you are late in every decision you make, if you don’t win enough duels, if every second ball isn’t for us, you don’t show the quality with the ball, you cannot defend your box, and when you get chances you don’t even hit the target, it is a really complicated way to win football matches.
“That is something we have to improve on, to create as well. We need to be more ruthless, but again I wouldn’t like to [point at] anybody – today wasn’t about that, it was about how we went about the job and who we were as a team and what we were transmitting as a team. I didn’t like it from the first whistle, we conceded on a mistake and got away with the goal on VAR and afterwards it was just not good enough.
“Sometimes when you see the way that the boys played seven days ago, not 70 days ago, seven days ago, and you see the way they played today, it’s the beauty of this sport. Unfortunately, you can’t take anything for granted and things change really quickly. I am a very positive person, when things happen like this you take a lot of things from it. You learn and you get to know the players and where we are in a much deeper way. I want to see the reaction from myself first because it’s the first time I’ve had to see with my own eyes my team perform at that level since I arrived here. Obviously, it hurts big time, but at the same time it’s my job to make sure that these boys [perform] on the pitch all the time, and today, for sure, I haven’t managed to do that.”
I am sure that Arteta is not the only one that is completely baffled from last week’s performance, but it is this inconsistency that has plagued Arsenal for the last couple of years, no matter who is on the pitch or in the dugout.
So 4 wins and 4 defeats from 8 games. That has every hallmark of a mid-table team, wouldn’t you say? Arteta has got some serious thinking to do over the international break…