Let’s bust this myth that Arsenal managers always pick their favourites


Some of the many accusations that some fans hold against successive managers/coaches at The Arsenal over the years have been, firstly, they all had favourite players, secondly that they all tried to fit their tactics and play around said players and thirdly, that they all played them regardless of the results.

Here are my personal thoughts on the subject, as it is impossible to get any manager or coach to even discuss any/all of the above thoughts…even in the autobiographies I have read…perhaps because the ultimate conclusions are too absurd to even have been considered or thought about:

Of course they do, especially if they are players that they themselves have brought to the club. There is also the likelihood that, for a younger coach, such as Mikel Arteta, that they may have even played with some of the players they are now coaching and developing.

Some of them use a hands-on management style, while others have a more standoffish way in their approach. It is also true that players themselves need to be treated in different ways, as some respond to a more one to one approach and this could be seen as having favourites, by those who are looking for such scenarios to exist, when there is actually none there to find.

At the end of the day, however, football is a results orientated industry and no manager/coach can afford to have passengers simply because he likes them, or because he signed them… but nevertheless, there must be the tendency to indulge in a player who has been signed personally and needs the one to one involvement – to the fan, this could look as if there is a bias towards certain players and leads me nicely on to point two.

It must naturally be assumed that when a player is signed, the overriding reason is to try and improve the club. Each manager/coach has his own ideas about what he wants to do, how he wants to play, what formation he sees suits the players and, usually, has a plan A and a plan B.

Obviously plan A is the one that he sees as, tactically, his vision for success and in that vision, he plays those men who he has signed or, in Arteta’s case, those players who impress him during training and, hopefully, during the game itself as well. It follows, surely, that he would use his “favourite “players, as these are the ones he feels can deliver plan A? Nothing to do with whether he likes them or not, simply the fact that he favours said players to deliver his vision over others in his charge.

This is where the fans come into the equation, having witnessed the match day results, but with no input or idea on what has gone on during the week. As soon as a match day team sheet is produced, the fans compare the previous game with that selection, based solely on that one factor. We have no idea what has gone on between the two games and how the previous performance was viewed by the manager/coach.

The fans have no idea what instructions are given, both individually and as a unit, all we really care about is winning the game.

Scapegoats are immediately identified, argued about and “favourite” players identified, with the insistence that these players be dropped for someone left on the bench.

I have never seen a team selection universally accepted and praised as long as I can remember and there are always the accusations that the manager/coach is selecting his favourites.

The most incredible suggestion put forward by the fans, however, is that the manager/coach has only one thing in mind when selecting his team, being that he has to ensure his personal favourites are guaranteed a place. Think about it – why on earth would a manager/coach put his position at a club like The Arsenal at risk, just to play someone who isn’t performing?

But the biggest reason for not believing this ever happens, is the reaction of the other players to such a ridiculous suggestion. Place yourself in their position – would they all accept this unsustainable situation? Turning out game after game, being asked to cover for the manager/coach’s favourite player and getting grief from the fans, media and everyone else, when they lose a game, without any complaints being leaked to said media, fans etc by an “unnamed source?”

Would the likes of McLintock, Storey, Keown, Adams, Vieira, Henry, Cazorla, Campbell, Aubameyang or Xhaka put up with this situation? Not in a month of Sundays – yet we are told this scenario was/is happening at our club!!

Honestly, ask yourselves what their reactions would be if one was able to ask them if this was/is what they were condoning? They would laugh you out of town, shaking their heads in disbelief that any fan would question their professionalism, their commitment to our club and their intelligence, along with the same examples for the managers concerned!!!

MA is just seven months (four if you discount the coronavirus interlude) and he is already being accused of this practice when every match day team sheet is produced, just as GG, AW and UE were before him – when will the fans of The Arsenal ever ignore this fantasy, ill thought out and idiotic idea, and simply trust that the man in charge is selecting his team on the merits he has set out for himself and his vision!!!



  1. That’s an elder talking, in my land (and my culture), when elders talk, young one listens to pick some experience.
    Great article Ken. I totally agree with your thoughts

  2. Coronavirus has already made the manager’s job more comfy. It’s here to stay meaning that sport will continue to be without spectators for the foreseeable future. Already there’s less money to spend now that most will not renew their season tickets. Not being in Europe next season means little difference now, as we’ve always been crap at recruitment. Let’s go for a squad half-made up of academy grads and lower tier footballers just like everyone else in midtable.

    1. When Arteta arrived in December, one of his first tasks, would have been to evaluate all his players and then giving all of them reports of what he wants them to work on individually and in a team, so naturally he would check progress daily and the players who can implement his ideas are obviously going to get picked and those who cannot execute his ideas need more time and effort, so let’s not look at it as favorites

  3. Yes ARTETA does have favourites and by God does he love them Ken don’t disagree with me Xakha. Mustafi and anyone who stands up to him they are frozen out he ARTETA wants to grow up we need players with fight instead of the Toothless tossers he is selecting

    1. I’ve never used this word before, but you’re clearly an Ozil fanboy who thinks the players currently playing are not giving their best. To you lots, A declined Ozil is still the second coming of Jesus Christ to the team.
      Once Arteta reinstates Ozil, all will be solved

      1. Thought I’d come back after tonights game Towny254 and ask you what you thought of the”Toothless tossers he is selecting?”.

    2. Toothless tossers?
      Can’t remember the last time we had so much fight in us. Mustafi has been improving defensively, Xakha and Ceballos are building a formidable hard-working partnership.
      Selecting Ozil simply because of his status, salary and popularity would be showing favoritism, but Arteta has instead proven he won’t be bullied, he will pick the team based on merit, those that work hard in training and suit the team strategy.
      Towny254, seems to me it’s you that needs to grow up.

      1. I have just read that Ozil has declared he is now fully fit and raring to go – while Arteta is saying that he is still injured and will play no part in tonight’s game.

        One thing is for sure, someone is telling porkies!!!

        Also read that AMN is looking to leave as he is quoted as saying he needs more playing time.

        I’m backing the coach on both issues, not because I have changed my views on either player, but because we cannot return to the toxic atmosphere endured under UE.

  4. A fine article Ken, full of truths. Though I cannot totally agree with every word, I do MUCH agree with the main theme. I do however think that AW did have favourites more obviously than most.

    Much depends on which fans agree with the managers picks and which do not agree.

    It should go without saying that all managers first intent is to win the game and in all my years as a fan I cannot recall a single match anywhere where I have thought the manager was not intent on winning.
    But to listen to some of the unthinking comments from, mostly, younger fans , you might well conclude that this is not so. I have little time for conspiracy theorists , which many of them are, in truth.


    My beef with Wenger in his last years was that he had proved himself incompetant at the level our club demands. In my opinion of course but it was shared by countless others and is why he “resigned”!

    1. Completely agree with the manager must be allowed to manage Jon and that was where you misunderstood my remarks concerning Ozil in an earlier post – that saga seems to be coming to a head now and there MUST be only one winner… ARTETA.

  5. Ken thanks for the interesting article.
    I’d like to see a coach who doesn’t have one or two players they trust the most and they like going to.
    All of this whole player favouritism by Arteta theory is crap, as we’ve seen different players get their chances and all got a clean slate. Even the worst of them all who’s Mustafi got a clean slate and earned his spot, if Nelson does well he’ll bench Pepe..If Torreira does well, he’ll get back to the first team.
    People just make up stuff to suit their agenda

  6. Interesting thoughts Ken as always.One aspect of Management which we should perhaps consider, is the influence of those who work closely with the Manager, namely his support team.This is especially important in the case of a “rookie” Manager who may be more inclined to take advice than a more experienced man who has been round the block on a number of occasions.Arteta ,who has inherited a weak unbalanced squad , seems to me to be a strong individual when it comes to decision making but I do have a concern that he may be reluctant to take the advice from his assistants when weaknesses are readily apparent.He will of course be judged on results , and without a war chest for transfers, we may well be faced with a year of or two of mid table mediocrity until the contracts of certain sub standard players expire.Sorry to sound pessimistic but I really feel it could take some time to dig ourselves out of the mire even with an intelligent, young, enthusiastic Manager at the helm.

    1. Grandad, this is where we need to have faith in Mikel Arteta and give him the space and time to deliver.
      There is already a marked improvement and I hoped to see Cazorla helping him out for next season, but it now seems unlikely.
      It will be an interesting summer transfer window and insert realistic for pessimistic within your post.

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