Less than a year in the job, Mikel Arteta is under pressure from some Arsenal fans for the poor start to this season.
Arteta replaced Unai Emery in December 2019 and brought great success in his first few months, winning the FA Cup and Community Shield trophies in his first managerial role.
There has often been criticism of Arteta and some of his tactical decisions, captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is often deployed as a winger, rather than his natural position as a central striker, much to the annoyance and confusion of many Arsenal fans.
Arteta has a tendency to make substitutions and tactical changes far too late in the game, with the replacements often not having enough time or opportunity to make any substantial impact.
The boss has often been questioned this season for his reluctance to play the younger members of the squad in league games, despite their Europa League form being impressive, unlike the unfulfilling domestic form.
Joe Willock has made two league appearances this season yet has often been the standout player in Europe and The Gunners’ lack depth or substance in his position [creative midfield].
Mesut Ozil has divided opinion since his 2013 move from Real Madrid but could be the solution to Arsenal woes this season.
Ozil was axed from the team following Project Restart, despite playing a key role in Arteta’s team until the March lockdown and hasn’t played a competitive fixture since.
There has been a lot of speculation regarding the reasoning behind Ozil’s axing; political, contractual or the club line of ‘footballing reasons’.
It was widely reported that the German refused to take a pay-cut during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced everything to come to a halt, and Arsenal having to make 255 redundancies, with most of the squad agreeing to take a reduced wage.
He has also been a rather divisive political figure, speaking out on religious and political issues around the world, something that some fans believe to have angered senior figures at the club and is the reason that the 32-year-old is no longer featuring.
Arteta has publicly said that the decision not to play Ozil, who is in his final year of his contract, is purely tactical and for ‘footballing reasons’, something which is hard to believe for fans, considering the lack of depth and quality beside Ozil in that position.
Just not good enough?
Could the answer just be that simple? Are Arsenal just not good enough? The club have been on a general downward trajectory for the last five years.
Arsenal are in their fourth consecutive Europa League campaign, following over 20 years consecutively playing Champions League football.
The team has been slipping further down the table each year, finishing 8th last year, and only securing European football through their FA Cup win.
Three FA Cups and three Community Shields, as well as Europa League runners up since 2015 doesn’t necessarily make for a bad return and is far better than the majority of clubs around the world, but historically for Arsenal, the club and fans expect much more.
The club have also had three permeant managers in that time, Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery and now Mikel Arteta. Considering Wenger’s tenure lasted 22 years, to have had two managers since him in just under three years is exceptionally different to what the team and club have been used to and could just be too much change.
Stan Kronke and his KSE firm have never been exactly popular with Gunners’ fans, but it would be unfair to blame them for the current mess.
There has been heavy investment over the last two summer windows, the likes of Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pepe, Gabriel, Kieran Tierney and William Saliba all signed for big money, as well as Willian and David Luiz arriving on free transfers and big wages.
Whilst there will always be calls to spend more money, and especially with the form that Arsenal are in, the need for new signings is highlighted and the roars from fans will be louder than ever this January, the Kroenke’s’, this time, aren’t at fault on this one.
What is the solution?
It would be too easy to say that new signings will fix the mess at Arsenal, and whilst January arrivals would certainly go a long way, there are bigger issues with those still at the club.
Mesut Ozil has been outcast for nearly 10 months, and looks likely to leave in 2021, whether that be on a free transfer in June or he is shipped off early in January, but with his massive wages it is unlikely that we will see another big move for the German.
There is the option to bring him back into the first team picture for the final half of the season, if or as well as a new creative midfielder in the window, Ozil will bring experience and a touch of class to the Arsenal side.
Most worrying is Aubameyang who, for the first time since his arrival, looks disinterested. His two goals this season is a real concern, for a player who has hit the 20’s in his last two full seasons with the club.
He needs to be played in his natural position, and needs to be involved in the game more, and that comes with a more creative midfield.
It is far too soon to sack Arteta, or even to question the security of his job. This is his first full season in management, let alone his first full season with the club.
The young coach needs to be trusted with the team and by giving him the resources to improve the side.
Success in the cups, or Europa League would go a long way, but it is Champions League football that fans are desperate for back at the Emirates, and an escape out of the ‘dreaded’ Europa League, by winning it would certainly ease some tensions in North London.