Mikel Arteta managed his 50th Premier League match as Arsenal manager when they played Liverpool, and everything wrong with the Arsenal side was on full display.
Liverpool might be the reigning champions, but their struggles this season is well documented. However, on the night, the Reds dominated Arsenal from start to finish at the Emirates. Some would say Arsenal failed to mount any form of challenge to the Reds as Klopp’s men strolled to a 3-0 victory at the Emirates.
There is a saying about how Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this has been the mantra for a section of Arsenal’s fanbase. While this section believes that the Spaniard is the right man to take Arsenal to the promised land, there is an increasing lack of belief in ‘Project Arteta’ in other sections with each passing week.
Football is a results-oriented sport and the fans want to see a clear movement in the right direction. But there are cases where results fail to come by despite doing everything else right. In these cases, it’s all about the process over the result, with a belief that this right process will eventually bring the expected positive result.
Are there enough positives to outweigh the negatives of the Arteta regime so far? Let’s take a look.
When Mikel Arteta took charge of the Arsenal team in December 2019, it was a case of an open book that had nothing written on it yet. He had no prior experience as first team manager and this meant no one knew what to expect, while also affording him the element of surprise.
It was always a risk from both ends. A club as big as Arsenal, and on the decline, trusted a rookie manager. While Mikel Arteta opted to go for a job with so much pressure as his first. Everything could go wrong at both ends, but they chose to believe in a possible mutual growth.
A seemingly better defense
Arsenal’s biggest problem for a long time has been a lack of defensive solidity. Right from the days of the biggest Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, to Unai Emery’s stint at the club, stopping the goals has remained an issue.
However, Mikel seems to have found a way to improve that. Yes, there are occasional errors but in his 50 Premier League games so far, he has conceded 56 goals. This is an improvement from 64 in Arsene’s last 50 Premier League games, and 70 in Emery’s 51 Premier League matches.
Although, Arsene had more clean sheets (18). Arteta has 15, while Emery could only record 10.
Two trophies in the space of 8 months after becoming Arsenal head coach is huge for a rookie manager.
It wasn’t just about the trophies, but the quality of team’s that Mikel Arteta defeated on his way to winning these trophies. He went up against his former boss and highly rated manager, Pep Guardiola, and won with a perfectly executed game plan.
The clinicality and conviction of the FA cup final win against a Lampard-led Chelsea was also great to see. To top that, he defeated Jurgen Klopp in the community shield via penalties.
One could forgive anyone that believed that was the start of a forward movement by the club even though the league table said otherwise.
After all, fans want to see trophies and they got that.
It’s undeniable that Arsenal FC have struggled under Mikel Arteta. But are these struggles enough to lose belief in ‘Project Arteta’?
Poor League performance
When Arteta took over the Arsenal job, they were languishing in 10th position, with no hope of climbing the table. Everything seemed lost under Unai Emery, then interim Freddie Ljunberg, at that point.
It was an unacceptable reality for the club’s hierarchy and the fans. However, no improvement has happened in this regard under Mikel Arteta. Arsenal are currently 10th, with the 2020/2021 season almost completed.
Arsenal finished 8th in the 2019/2020 season, but Arteta could be forgiven as he wasn’t in charge for the full season. However, the 2020/2021 season seems even worse, as Arsenal were 15th on the table at a stage of the season.
Arsenal only managed to return to the Europa League due to the FA cup triumph, and it’s looking more difficult this season. A tally of 42 points after 30 matches, put Arsenal 9 points behind Chelsea in fifth position.
With Arsenal’s inconsistent form so far in the season, one could predict that reaching the European spots in the league look unachievable.
Under Unai Emery and Arsene Wenger, Arsenal finished in Europa League spots at the worst. It is safe to call Arsenal a mid-table club at this point as this will be the second successive season finishing around mid-table under Mikel Arteta.
Struggles going forward
While Arsenal struggled to stop the goals under previous managers, scoring goals have never been a problem.
However, the creativity has dried up under Mikel Arteta. Arsenal could only score 56 goals in the 2019/2020 Premier League season, after surpassing the 70 goal mark in Arsene’s final season and Emery’s only full season.
So far, Arsenal has only scored 40 goals in 30 Premier League matches in the 2020/2021 season. At this rate, the club is projected to get to 53 goals at most this season.
Although Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored 22 EPL goals in the 2019/2020 season, the stats showed that he was finishing at a higher rate than expected, as the team were not creating enough chances.
The lack of creativity caught up with the team in the 2020/2021 season, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored only 9 goals with 8 matches left in the season, while leading scorer Alexander Lacazette is on 11 goals.
Questionable transfer decisions
When Willian moved across London to the Emirates, a lot of questions arose. While his first game against Fulham looked like it was the right move, his performance dwindled with each passing week.
Although he seems to have picked up form in recent weeks, the transfer leaves more questions than answers.
While Arsenal have an abundance of left-sided center backs, Rob Holding is the only right-sided center back in the club at the moment. This raises the question on Saliba’s lack of opportunities and loan move.
Since the young frenchman moved to Nice on loan, he has put in excellent displays. Gabriel, David Luiz and Pablo Mari are good passers of the ball but they all prefer to play on the left side of defense. Rob Holding isn’t the best ball passer and he is the only center back currently at the club that prefers to play from the right.
William Saliba averaged a 90 percent pass accuracy per game with a 62 percent accuracy with long balls. Rob Holding on the other hand has averaged an 86 percent pass accuracy per game with only 46 percent success with long balls.
Arsenal love to build from the back under Mikel Arteta. Allowing the other right-sided center back (who is obviously a better passer) to leave the club, is a decision that raises so many questions.
Mikel Arteta will complete his first full season as Arsenal manager within the next few weeks. With Arsenal predicted to finish outside European spots, all hopes of a return to Europe depends on winning the Europa League this season.
Mikel Arteta has won trophies at the club, but the league performance has been poorer than under previous managers.
Fans have to see clear progress and a working plan to trust the process, and ‘Project Arteta’ has left the fanbase divided, failing to convince most of them that he is the right man for the job.
We would like to know your thoughts on this.
Do you think Mikel Arteta has done enough for the fans to trust the process?
Or should he get the sack already?