Are Arsenal’s players now more of problem than our manager? by ThirdManJW
Whatever the result for any club, it is achieved as a collective. Management, and the squad will all play a part, although not in equal measure. MA (Arteta) inherited an absolute mess of a club, from the short-lived Emery stint, coupled with far more deep-rooted cultural problems from over a decade of gross mismanagement during the Wenger/Gazidis reign.
That aside, MA has made mistakes himself, which was very evident from our league form pre-Christmas. I am a supporter of MA, but ultimately, I want what’s best for the club, and I was very close to giving up on him as Christmas approached. At the time MA was still dealing with major issues within the squad, but I feel that his tactics were a major problem when looking at our results/performances. Despite looking solid at the back, we were creating next to nothing in the final third, and for me, that was a tactical issue. More of an MA problem, than the squad.
Our league form pre-Christmas was very poor! From 14 games, we were down in 15th. However, in the post-Christmas table, from 17 league games, we’re 4th only 5pts off Man Utd in second spot, 2pts more than Leicester and Chelsea, 7pts more than Spurs, and a whopping 10pts more than Liverpool. MA could have been stubborn, not changing tactics (like so many managers), but he has transitioned us into a far more attacking side. Whilst criticism is fair, one should be judged on our overall position and not that of the last 17 league games, there is no doubt that we have massively improved post-Christmas.
Clearly, we’re now moving in the right direction in regards to form and tactics, but it’s now the players that are letting us down more than anything. MA has still made the odd mistake here and there, but it’s the players that are more responsible for us not winning more games. We are now creating a lot of clear-cut chances, but it’s woeful finishing that is costing us, and no manager can legislate for that, unless you buy better players when given the opportunity of course (although one would think the likes of: Auba, Laca, Saka, Pepe, Willian, etc, is enough quality to finish easy chances). So bad has our finishing become, we can’t even cope with one-on-ones. Even in games where we have performed badly, enough easy chances were created to finish teams off. Just think of recent winless fixtures against Slavia, and Olympiakos as good examples of this. Think of the Burnley game, where we could have easily had 5 or 6. Wolves, when we were battering them, but couldn’t get a second goal, before the red cards decided that game.
Of course, there still has been some awful performances from us post-Christmas, specifically in attack. Think of games against Villa, Liverpool, City, but on the whole, a massive improvement. If we could finish just half our easy chances, we’d easily be second in the form table post-Christmas. So, clearly MA is improving his tactics, and our form is way better. MA has got us creating, but I don’t see what he can do about the consistent poor finishing? These are not half chances we’re talking about. I find myself less frustrated with MA, and far more with the players at the moment, and that’s just focusing on their finishing, let alone their mentality issues as well.
If we crash out to Slavia, then MA will be under huge pressure, and rightly so. The buck stops with the manager. If we were to lose, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were to be down to terrible finishing, so then is that all Arteta’s fault? Like I said earlier, he will need to be judged on the season as a whole, not just the last 20 games or so. Although it would be hard to make a case for him to stay on, there’s no doubt on the improvement in the league looking at ourselves, and in comparison, to our rivals. But has that improvement come too late? Those first 14 games have been so costly. We all know big changes are still needed with this squad, so if we can sort out our finishing, and add more quality during the summer, I can see us continuing the improvement under MA… if given more time.