Arteta still needs to fix Arsenal’s weak mentality

Maybe we need a cultural change? by AndersS

Let me be provocative.

Forget team selection.

Forget tactics.

Forget formation.

Forget individual players’ errors or their individual performances in general.

Forget the notion, that our players aren’t good enough.

None of all this is the reason we lost 0-3 to Villa.


No, the reason is something different. It is “mental”, if you like.

Villa were more motivated.
They were more ready.

They were more “hungry”.

They were quicker on the ball.

They put that extra into each fight for the ball.

They pressed with more speed and intent.

They, they, they… you can continue the list.

That is why they won, and the above is not a list of many different reasons for our loss. No, it is a list of symptoms that are all rooted in one single cause. The mentality.

 Unfortunately, this is not a “one-off occurrence”. In fact, I would go as far as to claim, it was the same, when we lost to Leicester a couple of weeks earlier. I know, Arteta put it down to “fatigue”, but I really don’t agree.  That fatigue, if it was there at all, would have been overcome with the right mental attitude.

Nor is it a new problem for this season. This is a problem, we have seen rearing its ugly head on a regular basis for many years.

It hurts to admit, but the reason, why it has become a tradition, we don’t collect enough points against the top teams in the league, is our lack of mental strength. It is also the lack of mental strength that has allowed simple but physical teams to bully us many times over the years. We simply succumb to the pressure too often.

Yes, I am ready to admit, that all the people, who over the latest 10-12 years have claimed Arsenal to be weak and spineless, have been right to a large extent. Knock me if you like, but I have now been an Arsenal fan for around 50 years, and I don’t think this statement makes me any less of a fan.

I certainly have my own thoughts on how and why, we are in this situation. But spending too much time dwelling on the past, is actually useless. What is more interesting, if the diagnosis is right, is how we can cure the problem?

I think it starts with the manager. It is not Arteta’s fault as such. It started many years ago, and he has inherited the problem. But as long as he is the manager, it is his responsibility to try and get us out of it. I was very optimistic, because he seemed to be showing some of the traits, that are needed:

Demanding a 100% effort from the players.

Ruthless in his team selection.

A “take it or leave” approach.

A focused strategy on which areas to strengthen and which players to acquire and retain in the transfer market.

I am also happy to see, he seems to be trying to solve our defensive issues as the first priority. Yes, it is boring, and of course it is a problem that we don’t create many chances, and thus score too few goals. But we haven’t had the defensive organization needed for a proper title challenge in xx years, so why not start there? Seems fairly obvious to me we need that first, and then we can build from there. So, I am willing to accept a period with less entertaining football, and I am also willing to accept, Arteta needs time, and setbacks is part of any ambitious process.

But honestly, I think it is unacceptable to see a team of extremely well paid professional players, and a well paid manager, play and lose an important game by not being mentally up for it. Not giving 100%. It has been accepted for too many years, and it has become a deeply rooted cultural problem, I am afraid.

It needs to change, or we will never be able to challenge for the league.

I hope Arteta can be the catalyst for that change. But I am worried after the Villa game.
Why did we come out to the game on the back-foot?
Where was the needed change in attitude after the break?
Where was the leader on the pitch to raise the spirits?

It is all too easy to be mentally on top, when things are going well, but when we are struggling and are falling behind, it is a totally different situation, and now is the time for Arteta to show, if he is the right man. Not by picking this or that player, or by doing tactical changes etc. Of course he can do both, and maybe we can improve a bit. But it will not do the trick alone in the long run.

No, above all, he needs to show, we can get mentally stronger. We need to become winners in our heads, in the way we approach training and games, before we can become champions

Med venlig hilsen/kind regards


Tags Arteta Aston Villa


  1. If it is mentality then fix the mentality
    of our strikers. Goals win matches. Leicester Vardy 8 goals.
    Liverpool Salah 8 goals.
    Villa Watkins 5 and Grealish 4 goals.
    Spurs son 8 and Kane 7 goals.
    Arsenal Laca 3 Auba 2 goals.
    I agree it’s not the formation not even the team selection it’s all to do with the attitude of the strikers.
    Last season when Auba scored Arsenal usually won. Auba is the key. When he finds form again Arsenal will start winning again

  2. I’m not totally sure its a mentality issue, not all of it anyway.
    We’re all looking at villa as a small club, with crap players and all the rest to go along with it.

    That is not really the reality now is it?

    We’ve already seen them smash Liverpool, who are the current champions 7-2 and beat Leicester aswel, who in their own right are a big club.

    Yes we didnt turn up for the Villa game and we got our arsenal handed to us, but this is nothing new.

    Even under Wenger we suffered some MASSIVE losses.
    8-2 away to Manure in 2011
    5-1 away to Liverpool in 2014? we we’re dead in the water inside 20 minutes.

    Yes both were away games and to big clubs but it should also be noted that during those years other clubs weren’t as strong as they are now.

    Villa have also spent alot of money, alot of money!
    it was over 150m last summer and they again spent well this summer and got Barkley on loan.
    Yes they survived last season by a point but didnt Leicester do similar and then went on to win the league the following season?

    We can’t take things for granted and that is what most of us do on a regular basis.
    Yes the team needs alot of work, but we knew this before the season kicked off and to do the things MA wants to do will take time and he needs to be backed in the market, if he doesnt he is basically fighting a losing battle.

  3. My agreement tends to lean more with ” our mentality “. Arrogance played a part in our demise against villa also. We thought we could just walk through the game and it would be won. Artets should have rung it in the Boy’s ears the ferocious way villa took apart Liverpool . I look at the top 5 teams – Liverpool, Chelsea, man city, leister, Tottenham… A common trend emanates from all of them. They all move the ball from defence to midfield WITH SEARING PACE, which does not allow the opposition to breathe. Partey was the only one moving the ball quickly. The moment the ball gets to Tierney( left), elneny(middle) and bellerin(right),the opposition have reshuffled back into their bank of 4. So until arteta resets the lethargic slow mentality of moving the ball ,we will continue to hover near mid table

  4. Bellerin Luiz Gabriel Thierney

    Elneny Partey

    Pepe Aubameyang Saka

    Then Laka could replace Auba, DC/Willock for Willian, Xhaka for either of TP or Elneny, Nelson for Pepe.

    Afterall we see better the real field of play on the screen from our homes. Fluidity was just missing in our A/Villa match like the MU game. We should approach each game with good rotations/formation in right positioning & substantial game plan for each team.

    Some are high pressing teams, some are kick and follow game type, some are long or short ball passing teams depending on what kind of team we face.

    Truth be told, formation is what is derailing our team that make them easily bully by opponents so this issue of positioning of our players in the right formation could be our revival.
    How can you do several tactics with same bunch of players in same odd formations and you expecting a magic? Let’s not be deceiving ourselves. We’re to find way to tell MA to use right players in good positions

  5. Just couldn’t understand the performance against Villa. There doesn’t seem to be any attacking threat. When was the last time Arsenal totally put the opposition under pressure.
    All I could say to mates who were giving me stick was its back to square one!

  6. MA needs to fix his own mentality. The system is not working either because it is deficient or because he does not have the right players.

  7. Anders, To a large extent I agree that mentality is overridingly important in any successful club. However, I think you have overstated your opinion when you claim that mentality is 100% of our problem. It clearly is NOT the ONLY reason, so cannot be 100%, by definition!

    I have been a fan for over sixty years and I see some players now being unsure of their roile but that is not a lack of mental strength in those players but is caused by a new manager instilling a rigid discipline after years of Wengers anything goes mentality and UE’s constant tinkering.
    It can be argued I think, but its a close call, that MA is too much trying to micro manage formations and is too defensive.

    But personally, after a good decade plus of laughably bad defence, it gladdens MY heart to finally have a manager who at least believes in building from the back, as all great teams have historically done.
    Where you article misses out is in not accepting the problem that under investment has caused and even more when such investment(along with contract renewals) that we have done, esp in defence, has been so dismally awful since around 2009, with only a few exceptions, UNTIL MA arrived.

    Personnel makes a huge difference to all sides and hence my clear rejection of your 100% reason being ALL mentality. Mentality IS of vital import, BUT can only take you so far with inferior players. Right now we still have at least half a squad of players who are just not up to the task. Just my opinion but as ever I give, it straight and to the point.


    1. @jon fox.
      I don’t state, that mentality is 100%. I state that mentality was the difference in the Villa game, and the weak mentality shown innthat game is an “old” problem.
      But I do state, that no matter which players you use, which players you buy, which formation you use etc. , etc. we will not get the desired result, unless we see a change in mentality.
      As for the financial backing, only 2 clubs have spent more on new players than Arsenal over the past 5-6 years, and that is Man U and Man C. Those are facts. We are also high spenders on salaries. Why don’t we do better, then? I maintain a weak mentality is a big part of it.

      1. Anders Sorry to disagree but what you specifically said was to rule out a list of other possible causes and then say “THE problem is something different”. “THE”clearly means 100%!

        I realise you are not English but your English is usually perfect, so that cannot be the reason you argue against my accurate contention that having ruled our all other possible reasons, it is clear you think the WHOLE problem therefore, was 100% mental.

        You may now say you do not believe that but that IS what you wrote! You also now say ” a weak wentality is a big part of it” So which is it, merely a big part or the whole 100% of it? Both cannot be true!

        1. Further to the above , your error Anders was to dismiss all the other reasons when you said “let me be provocative”. I respectfully siggest that you were so concerned to appear provocative that you dismissed other reasons, some or all of which MUST have been part of the reason for the bad Villa defeat. That is just plainly the truth andit is not wise to deny what is clearly true.
          I am pedantic but only because I constantly seek the whole truth and dislike half truths and falsehoods. I do not say that you DELIBERATELY wrote a falsehood but what you actually wrote was not accurate.

        2. I wrote the reason we lost to Villa was our weak mentality showing again. Not formation, not anything else. They were more up for it mentally, and that was the difference.
          I also clearly state, that I do believe, if Arteta is the man to turn us into title contenders, there is no way of doing it, without improwing our mentality. We can of course improve a bit in other areas (this is also in the text), but we will not be champions without being winners in our heads.

          1. I didn’t want to get involved but was interested by this last post of yours

            In some respects Arteta has improved the mentality of the players compared to where they were a year ago.

            Wenger was perceived as mollycoddling the team and some players, including those from the academy, are still in situ from that time. Maybe this culture will take a lot longer to dismantle. That so called soft underbelly

            I’m not sure that Auba is right as captain as I’ve preferred the Adams type of character who can rally the players.

            I absolutely agree that capitulating so quickly after the whistle blew was a mentality problem. That’s something that should be at the top of Arteta’s in box

            1. Yes, it will take time, and Arteta is showing promising signs, I think.
              And your point about the captain is also good.
              Because, where is the obvious leader on the pitch, who should be our captain? Or looking at it the other way rouund; when was the last time, we had a captain, who could “show the way”? In the latter part of Wengers tenure, it seemed the captaincy was being used as a carrot to try to make players stay, rather than having a respected a useful leader.

              1. Agree
                Being the captain is not about having the best contract
                Currently I’d pick Luiz even though there will be no longevity.

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