By Noah Tan
I so desperately wanted Mikel Arteta to work out at Arsenal. I really did. But the evidence staring us Gooners in the face these days is too compelling – Arteta is way out of his depth, and he has to go.
For the record, the fact that this article was written in the immediate aftermath of Arsenal’s 1-4 defeat by Manchester City in the Carabao Cup is not an indication that I thought our exit from the competition was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
No, that poor Arsenal camel was already broken in two even before the defeat to City. And the straw that did the deed? Why, his name is Willian, of course.
To be fair, I have tried my hardest to defend Arteta from his critics. It’s the players who are letting him down. It’s the result of a poor transfer window. It’s because we’ve been unfortunate with injuries. It’s Edu, it’s Kia Joorabchian, it’s the upheaval at executive level, it’s the board, it’s the Kroenkes, it’s Mesut Ozil hiring someone to put a voodoo curse on Arsenal. And so on and so forth.
Now, all of the reasons above HAVE played some part or other in Arsenal’s startling decline, and we will need to address these issues for the club to progress. But to pin the team’s poor form on those reasons alone is letting Arteta off the hook far too easily.
The veil that prevented me from seeing the Spaniard for the manager he truly is was finally lifted last weekend during Arsenal’s 1-2 loss to Everton, when he inexplicably decided to keep Willian on for a full 90 minutes despite an utterly abject and abysmal performance from the Brazilian, especially in the first-half.
The Carabao Cup defeat to City simply reinforced my belief that he isn’t the right manager for Arsenal. Again, it’s not so much the fact that we lost, but how unadventurous Arteta was in his team selection that really annoyed me.
Choosing to field players with no futures at Arsenal like Shkodran Mustafi, Sead Kolasinac, Cedric Soares, Dani Ceballos, Mo Elneny, and Alex Lacazette, instead of leaning into youth and giving talents like Folarin Balogun, Emile Smith-Rowe and “Where’s Willy” Saliba a chance in the starting line-up indicates a manager who simply does not care for the long-term future of the club.
And that is the very nub of what makes Arteta so frustrating as a manager. Instead of tapping onto the array of promising youth players that we have at the club, many of whom are just itching for an opportunity to play and impress, Arteta chooses to put his trust in the same, tired senior players who have let him and the club down time and time again.
Our loss to City was not unexpected, of course – we are currently on a wretched run of form, having failed to win in domestic competitions since that 1-0 Premier League victory over Manchester United at the start of November. And they might as well rename the Carabao Cup after Pep Guardiola, seeing as how he seems to be the only manager who's interested in winning the trophy.
It took all of three minutes for City to take the lead against Arsenal, with Gabriel Jesus scoring with a simple near-post header.
That’s right, even Jesus – a player capable of missing a barn door from three yards out – was able to score against Arsenal. That’s how bad we are at the moment.
Lacazette equalised for us after being set up by the sole bright spark in the Arsenal squad, Gabriel Martinelli, but Pep Guardiola’s men turned the screw in the second half and secured the victory with goals from Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte.
To add insult to literal injury, Arsenal’s lone hope and joy Martinelli had to be substituted early in the second half following a robust challenge.
The darkness that engulfed Arsenal in the absence of Martinelli has since been identified by scientists to be the phenomena known as Runar Runarsson.
After the game, Arteta, having used all his creative juices on coming up with nonsensical statistics earlier this week, had no choice but to admit that his team were in trouble. Deep trouble.
“We have to turn it around, there is no question. If we don't, we are in big trouble,” he told Sky Sports, in what surely will have to go down as a leading contender for understatement of the year.
“We do (have the tools to turn things around) because I see how much the players try and what they are trying to do, but at the moment a lot of strange things are happening in every game and that makes things really difficult.”
It is as yet unconfirmed if the “strange things” Arteta mentioned above referred to Willian still wearing an Arsenal shirt despite having evidently retired from football at the end of last season.
Arteta also appeared to point the blame at his defence for the defeat, as he said: “This is a really hard one to take when you consider how the game went. The reaction the team had against this level of opponent was good, but when you give the goals we gave away, it makes the game impossible.”
Well, Mikel, what else do you expect when you play Kolasinac, Mustafi and Cedric in defence? Even Christmas miracles have their limits, you know.
And if you haven’t learnt by now, after a year in charge, what these players can or cannot do, then surely, you’re not the man for the job, are you?
Now, I’m grateful to Arteta for guiding us to the FA Cup last season. It was a fantastic moment that helped to ease the pain of what was a turbulent season, and he deserves credit for that. I’m not counting the Community Shield win this year because I’m never going to be desperate enough to clutch that straw.
But I think Arteta has since proven, with his baffling team selections, his bizarre comments in the media, and his increasingly prominent wrinkles, that this job is too big for him. Maybe he really is an intelligent man who has a bright managerial career ahead of him, but it is not at Arsenal. Not at the moment, at least.
Because the club is in turmoil. There is no stability and no proper leadership, both on and off the pitch. Things are in a mess, and Arteta does not have the experience, the tools, or perhaps, the capability to clean it up.
I thought the tail end of Arsene Wenger’s reign was bad. I thought the club had reached its nadir under Unai Emery. But somehow, under Arteta, Arsenal have managed to plumb new depths. Any lower, and we’ll soon find ourselves supping with the Orcs from Stoke.
We left it too late before parting ways with Wenger and Emery, and it has cost us dear. Let’s not make the same mistake with Arteta.
This article, “Thanks for the FA Cup, Arteta, but it’s time to say goodbye”, originally appeared on Football Siao – Singapore’s craziest EPL website.