I’ve been of the opinion for a while now that we need to slow down our praise for Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.
Yes, he led Arsenal to their first FA Cup win since 2017 in impressive fashion and also vastly improved a squad that looked destined for another decade of misery, however, when you look deeper, his results in the Premier League have been anything but impressive.
The Gunners dropped points once again on Saturday, losing 1-0 to Leicester City. For the second week in a row, Arsenal’s attack looked weak and uninspired. The blame falls on Arteta.
While researching for this article, I came across this statistical comparison between Unai Emery’s final 26 Premier League matches in charge of Arsenal and Arteta’s first 26 league matches at the helm.
The similarities are undeniable.
Arsenal Has Barely Improved in the EPL Since Arteta Became in Charge
They still shrink in the spotlight, as evidenced by their last two losses against Manchester City and the aforementioned Leicester. They still show a lack of motivation and determination in the second half of games and simply haven’t played well up from this season. You can say I’m overreacting, but Arsenal haven’t beaten a big six club on the road under Arteta, in fact, they haven’t done so in almost six years.
Arteta was supposed to change statistics like that, statistics that seem to pop up every time the Gunners are in a big match. Maybe it’s the talent and maybe owner Stan Kroenke hasn’t backed his manager enough, but to me, the blame falls on the manager.
Arteta’s Tactical Decision Making This Season Has Been Questionable
First of all, his selection is all over the place. He left Arsenal’s best defender by a wide margin, Gabriel, out of the squad against Liverpool back in September. The result: 3-1 Reds. Okay fine, he makes one mistake and learns from it. The next time Arsenal plays one of the best clubs in the EPL, he’ll start their best player right? Nope. Against City, he left newly acquired MF Thomas Partey on the bench.
Partey is widely considered to be one of the best midfielders in the world and Arsenal paid a hefty £45 release clause to snatch him from Atletico Madrid. That didn’t matter to Arteta though, who chose not to bring him on until the 80th minute when the Gunners were already well out of the game. Against Leicester, I actually thought Arteta’s selection was pretty good and he clearly learned his lesson by starting Partey. Yet, Arsenal’s attack was nonexistent and too much of the possession went through LW Bukayo Saka on the left side.
According to WhoScored.com, 45% of Arsenal’s attack came through the left side, leaving out the Gunners’ two best players: ST Pierre Emerick Aubamayeng and ST Alexandre Lacazette. Arteta’s tactics were off and Arsenal lost again.
I want to end this article by just clarifying that I’m not saying Arteta is a bad manager. He just hasn’t lived up to expectations in the league. He’ll get better over time and Arsenal no doubt have a bright future ahead. It just seems like Premier League fans have crowned him a little prematurely.
Arteta isn’t invincible yet.
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