Five defeats in ten league matches do no make for good reading. It is already a year from when Arsenal sacked Unai Emery due to a run of poor results – no win in seven. One year down the line, it does not look better. The Gunners have not won in three league matches and the football is also not looking good. However, between when Emery was sacked and now, there have been some sprinklings of quality in the shape of a FA Cup and a Community Shield. Some big wins could also be considered as positives, one being their last league win, away at Manchester United. It was their first league win there in 14 years. As the results and performances continue to get bad, why should Arsenal stick with Arteta?
In getting Arteta, Arsenal should know what they are getting into – an experiment. As experiments go, you have to keep on trying but you must have some level of trust on the man doing the experiments. To have employed him in the first place, they trust Arteta. His success in the FA Cup and the manner in which it was achieved has also bought him more trust and time. It is obvious from the results and performances that Arteta is trying out different things and trying to discover a suitable style for himself and the team. Should Arsenal have a coach that is yet to discover himself in the first place? Events have overtaken the question, the deed has already been done.
In his first set of matches, it was clear he was coming with his Manchester City idea learnt under Pep. He wanted the team to play expansive football, pass the ball around quickly and win it back with intensity. Against Chelsea at the Emirates, the Gunners looked very good in the first half with Mesut Ozil rolling back the years with a virtuoso midfield performance. However, they ended up losing the match as they could not maintain the tempo. After lockdown, defeats against Manchester City and Brighton and Hove Albion made it clear he had to change tactics and focus on the team defending better. He shifted to a three at the back and concentrated on defence. The team looked much more compact though they still came short in the Premier League, finishing eight, ten points from fourth position. It was in the FA Cup that the style really worked as a solid defence was the bedrock of their wins against Man. City and Chelsea in the semi-final and final respectively.
There were signs already that the team will struggle when they come up against defensive teams. At the time, Ozil had already been frozen out of the team. While the team could be cut a slack in their league defeats against Liverpool and Man. City, their defeats against Aston Villa, Wolves and Leicester were down to poor performances. Arteta has struggled to find an attacking play that works. They barely create chances talk more of scoring. They can be said to be better defensively but the defensive performances in the aforementioned defeats were as poor as it used to be. Apparently, as the team struggles in attack, they are gradually losing the defensive shape too and the team is dropping in confidence, just as in Emery last days.
With the problems highlighted. Why should the Arsenal management trust Arteta to solve it?
With the two major styles he has adopted at Arsenal, it shows he is a coach that has something to offer attacking wise and defensively. What is needed is balance, which may take some time to achieve.
Achieving balance will also require getting more quality players. Even more seasoned managers like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp never stopped stuffing quality players. In the attacking third, it is obvious Arsenal are lacking in real quality. In Aubameyang, they have a proven goalscorer who has been affected by a lack of supplies and a drop in confidence on his part. Apart from Bukayo Saka, who is still young and has been putting in a decent shift, the rest have barely come to the party. Nicholas Pepe continues to look like a waste of funds as he has clearly not brought what a 72 million Pounds signing should bring to the team. Willian looks like a player well past his best years. Lacazette continues to drop in confidence. Ozil is frozen out of the team. The rest are youngsters, who should be fillers for now, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah. It is obvious Arsenal need to inject quality in these area. At the base of midfield, Thomas Partey already looks like a quality addition. Their defence looks decent enough, especially with the performances of Gabriel Magalhaes. Finding the right balances and combinations is what Arteta should work on.
Like Arteta suggested, even the more seasoned manager Guardiola was given time at Manchester City. The first season looked bad but he was backed with more funds till he was able to achieve what he wanted, they stayed with him because they trusted him. Not to also forget that Guardiola inherited a winning team compared to the team Arteta took over. Arsenal have every reason to be patient and trust the process with Arteta. He has shown that he has the winning mentality, the tactical nous and the drive to succeed, all he need is time and more support.