Has Mikel Arteta taken Arsenal to a certain point? by Nabeel
Mikel Arteta became the head coach of Arsenal Football Club on December 19, 2019, and became the manager of Arsenal on September 20, 2020. He took what many have considered a difficult job following the sacking of former Arsenal manager Unai Emery and has transformed Arsenal into one of the best young teams in England and Europe. But after three years on the job, is it time for the club to honour his achievements and continue to grow with or without him? That is the argument I will present to you, and you may discuss your case in the comments.
In the world of football managers in football, you may find it hard to find anyone who has played under great managers over the years quite like Mikel Arteta. From the likes of Luis Fernandez, Alex McLeish, David Moyes, and the great Arsene Wenger. Aside from that, when allowed to work for either Mauricio Pochettino, Arsene Wenger, or Pep Guardiola, he chose the last one.
Staying with the Sky Blues, he learned the fundamentals of a coach under one of the best minds football has come across as an assistant manager for three years. He helped Manchester City win 2 premier leagues, 2 EFL cups, 1 FA cup, and 2 FA Community Shields along with developing great players such as Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, İlkay Gündoğan, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, John Stones, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Phil Foden, and Gabriel Jesus.
When the opportunity to take over Arsenal came, he jumped to the opportunity and has been proud to manage them ever since. He has worked from strength to strength every season going from 8th to 2nd in three years in the league. He has won the FA Cup and 2 FA Community Shields in the process along with developing players such as Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Magalhães, Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, William Saliba, Granit Xhaka, Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Martin Odegaard, Emile Smith Rowe and Joe Willock. However, has he reached the pinnacle of the job he has? Well, due to current situations and transfer rumors, I think there might be a discussion to be held.
To understand my point of view, let’s go back to the end of last season. Based on the injuries and squad depth, Arsenal needed players in these positions: CB, LB/RB, DM, CM, ST & RW. And with the UCL and PL money along with the set transfer budget, Arsenal could do damage in the transfer window. Despite this, Edu and Arteta decided to buy only three players: Declan Rice, Kai Havertz, and Jurrien Timber.
I’m no expert when it comes to the transfer market but I’m not an idiot either. What I mean by this is time, not just in football but in life also, is money and the time to train and develop Kai into a CM would’ve been better with buying an actual CM, the same position according to multiple reports Arsenal are attempting to buy in the winter window.
I know there might be players that Arsenal doesn’t want to buy simply because of the time it takes to make a player understand and feel comfortable playing in the Premier league, and the permits the players need to get before completing the transfer (due to Brexit ruling in the league) but I think it’s worth it. In England, at least, it’s widely known that it’s more expensive to buy here than to buy elsewhere due to English taxes, losing a player to a team in the same league (depending on the team), etc.
My point is Arsenal should have gone for other players in different leagues, or if they were adamant on signing players in the same league, they should’ve been smarter, not only on the Kai Havertz transfer but the rest as well because time is money.
My second point is the decision-making Mikel has made this season. In a press conference in July of this year, Mikel said “The idea is to be more unpredictable every year and be more difficult for the opponents to stop and nullify what we want to do.” And based on the way Arsenal have played this season, it doesn’t look like they are close to looking unpredictable due to the players he signed, which shows a lack of efficient decision-making.
For example, the Raya-Ramsdale situation is a problem Mikel has created for himself, unfortunately. Despite Arsenal looking and statistically doing slightly better defensively, at this time last season (in terms of games played) Arsenal had scored 40 conceded 14, drawn, and lost 1 game each. The decision to give many players large contracts to the point where Arsenal needs to sell players in the winter window to sign players isn’t the brightest thing, especially when a new player is one, of if not the, highest-paid players at the club via capology.com (this might not seem completely accurate but it’s pretty certain).
This is an unpopular opinion but why does Mikel keep playing Zinchenko in LB knowing that every team will go down that path to create chances and score, and not just play him in CM where he can create more chances and allow better defensive structure?
Why doesn’t he give younger players more opportunities to play, even if it’sin the last minutes of the games?
Why didn’t he sell Thomas Partey knowing he’s injury-prone and going to the AFCON next year and sign a DM to replace him?
Why didn’t Mikel sign a backup to Saliba knowing what happened last season (Kiwior is a Magalhães backup)? There are more questions than answers than answers this season that many Arsenal fans weren’t expecting to ask.
My third point is the money spent at the club and a particular culture lost. The club has spent 700 million pounds on players since Mikel came and it might seem like loose change to the owners, but that’s a lot of money spent in only three equivalent seasons. Since Jürgen Klopp came to Liverpool, they have spent 933,500,000 Euros in 8 years. Logically, Arsenal has lost the way of buying smart at the beginning of the journey.
Aside from that, according to capology.com, Arsenal’s wage bill hasn’t been that high since the 2017/18 season.
Arsenal in the past was known for buying players for low fees and selling them for profit while playing attractive football. I acknowledge that the defence wasn’t as good as it is now as well as buying low-fee players due to the restrictions of the stadium being built, but I think that is what made Arsenal somewhat special.
Despite bigger clubs poaching their best players almost every season, Arsene still found a way to stay relatively competitive in the league for the majority of his run and turn those hidden gems into superstars.
Spending millions of pounds on players will always be a risk but spending that much in three equivalent seasons isn’t sensible. If the board continuously gives Mikel and Edu money to spend, they’ll never learn how to use their imagination, and cognitive skills and thinking, to figure out problems to solutions when the time comes to use it to the maximum.
Despite Mikel doing well rebuilding the team, I believe we’ve lost that culture that I miss, and it’s a shame expensive transfers are always applauded when a majority of them fail in football. Also, the free-flowing football Arsene implemented has completely disappeared which I also miss. Change is good and it’s something that every team should strive to do, but it was something that, like me, made a lot of fans love the club and support it. Not to sound condescending or anything that’s just something I found in Arsenal that was superior to other clubs.
To expand my view, there are a few problems that need addressing such as the drop in chance creation, rumored transfer targets, the lack of rotation of players, and certain tactics. If there aren’t players creating chances, how do you score goals?
Some players create goals by themselves but those players come thick and thin. Aside from Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka, and Oleksandr Zinchenko, there aren’t many players who are creating chances for players to score like Kai Havertz, Gabriel Martinelli, and Gabriel Jesus (and partially Odegaard because he does score and he assists).
That’s why Gabriel Jesus will never score 20+ league goals for Arsenal because he’s doing the 2 jobs at the same time (I have a hypothesis that Gabriel Jesus is a Second Striker similar to Paulo Dybala but that’s for another day).
That leaves the question of who Arsenal is rumored to buy. Arsenal can’t buy Osimhen because they need players to create more otherwise he won’t score continually. Due to this predicament, some Arsenal fans are conflicted on whether they should buy a striker similar to Gabriel Jesus or a natural tall goal scorer.
That leads to the question of the certain tactics used. I can’t say I’m an expert at tactics because I’ve been playing Football Manager for years, but one thing I know is sometimes when you use the same formation continuously, teams will find ways to stop the opposing team from creating chances and scoring goals, especially when there’s no rotation in the team selection. It won’t matter how much better a team is in terms of quality, we say that with Aston Villa versus Manchester City on match day 15 (and I know Manchester City was without Rodri but they did have Kalvin Philips on the bench). Changing the formation could unlock different players’ potential.
This article might feel like a hit-piece to Mikel, yet I’ve previously mentioned great things Mikel has done: he’s good at developing players, he helped rebuild Arsenal to where they are now, and took the ‘impossible job’ (similar to the Alex Ferguson post-job), he’s created a new belief and hunger in the fans; he’s improved our defence massively, etc. Despite all this, I want the best for the club. Many of you will disagree and many will agree – that’s fine.
But like Eddie Howe at Newcastle United, he won’t stay forever. I believe that many fans and football fans alike think he can and should stay, because he’s young, intelligent, and has the potential to be the best in the world, and I agree but not to the detriment of a big side.
That’s why many managers start small so they can understand the ability to spend on a tight budget, make mistakes on the smaller team, and learn the mistakes made at that level so that it’s not made in future jobs.
Also, it would be bad if Mikel were to leave on a bad note. Time is money and change is good. That’s one of the many mottos that made Chelsea become one of the top sides in England and Europe (despite other things).
Many will say Mikel is doing a good job but there is a hidden potential I feel Mikel not be able to release that a top manager could. He is one of the best in the Premier League but one can’t say we can’t do better than him because we can, and I don’t want to get to the point where we continue to spend time and money before he succeeds. Especially, when there are other great options up for grabs.
Now, not to say Mikel cannot fix what is broken at the club as fans have seen him do multiple times, but with the time being potentially wasted and the millions of pounds being spent (715,240,000 Euros against 142,250,000 Euros) we’ll have to wait and see if this article will be useless or a talking point at the end of the season.
Nevertheless, I believe situations will get better. Trust the process.