Long-time Arsenal fan and DMU journalism student Vivek Julka shares his views on the Gunners’ manager.
Mikel Arteta is still in a job at Arsenal. Somehow.
It has been just over two years since Arteta was appointed as Arsenal boss back in December 2019.
It is safe to say there have been a few highs, but many lows, in his current reign at the Emirates.
I am going to take a dive into his reign and show why I feel he should have been sacked by now.
He took over from fellow Spaniard Unai Emery in late 2019 which raised some eyebrows due to Arteta’s only managerial experience coming from sitting next to Pep Guardiola at Man City, where he was Pep’s number two.
However, there was some optimism from sections of Arsenal supporters and pundits alike due to feelings that he might bring elements of Pep-esque football to North London.
Two years on we know this has far from happened, Arsenal fans are instead treated to drab, boring football with little freedom given to the players.
Arteta did get off to a positive start in the second half of the 19/20 season. Despite being dumped out of the Europa League in the round of 32 by a much weaker Olympiacos team and finishing a disappointing eighth in the Premier League outside any European places, he did manage to win Arsenal’s fourteenth FA Cup. It was an impressive run too, as Arsenal beat Man City 2-0 in the semi-final and Chelsea 2-1 in the final, with world-class performances coming from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Emi Martinez especially.
However, the FA Cup triumph became a distant memory after the end of the 20/21 season for Arsenal fans who have real ambition and hold their club to a high standard as Arteta finished eighth again and finished his first full season without a trophy, which resulted in a first season without any European football for 25 years for Arsenal. Another record that Arteta has broken.
He also threw away the FA Cup in the fourth round against Southampton by fielding a weak starting line-up, even though he had his best players available – the same trophy which gave him a bit of credit in the bank. He then did this once more this season against Nottingham Forest and we went out again.
He has managed to turn £45 million man Thomas Partey, who was world class at Atletico Madrid, into a poor midfielder who has struggled for consistency. Though saying that, it does make a huge difference from being coached from Diego Simeone, one of the best managers around, to then being coached by a rookie in Arteta.
Also, in his first full season as Arsenal boss, one of the best strikers in the world at that time, Aubameyang, had his worst ever season in his career. However you could argue he lost motivation after his big contract, but it doesn’t help when your role is to score goals and you are being ordered by your manager to stay on the halfway line and play left wing. He should have been playing up front in a two with Alexandre Lacazette as they were lethal together under Unai Emery.
To make matters even more embarrassing the former boss Emery schooled Arteta in both legs of the Europa League semi-final last year and went on to win the trophy making him the most successful manager of that competition.
When it comes to transfers Arteta and technical director Edu Gaspar, have barely got a thing right since they have started dealing with recruiting players for Arsenal.
They sold Emi Martinez for £20 million to Aston Villa off the back of his stunning performances during the FA Cup run and instead opted for a clearly worse goalkeeper in Bernd Leno. Despite that, the mistake was rectified this season when Aaron Ramsdale was brought in for £30 million which again raised a lot of eyebrows myself included, as he was relegated three times previously. However this gamble has paid off so far as he has been Arsenal’s best player this season.
Paying £50 million for Ben White was a bad decision as he is nowhere near the quality required to get Arsenal competing for major honours again. He has often looked shaky and simply not good enough. How Arteta and Edu went to Brighton with £50 million and came back with White not Yves Bissouma a top midfielder which is what Arsenal desperately need, switched-on club fans will never know.
Also, the permanent signing of Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid was another mistake as his loan stint in the previous season was inconsistent, which is what is his performances this season have been too.
If Arsenal were a serious club, they would go all in for someone like James Maddison instead who has proved it in the Premier League for a few seasons now.
New contracts being given out to deadwood players like Granit Xhaka and Rob Holding is another problem. Xhaka has been a liability since he has arrived at Arsenal and should have been moved on a long time ago. But Arteta still persists and constantly plays Xhaka who continues to cost the team from his stupid challenges and gets a pass from the manager and sections of supporters who in their eyes he can do no wrong. On the other hand, when Nicolas Pepe got sent off one time, Arteta outed him in front of the press. One rule for one and one rule for another.
Lastly, the treatment and man-management of some players by Arteta has been a disgrace. Aubameyang was stripped of captaincy for allegedly being late to training and now has been forced out the club. It is okay for Xhaka to do much worse though, according to Arteta’s actions. We have not heard the player’s side of the story so we cannot judge on this situation.
I think Arteta cannot deal with top experienced players like Aubameyang. Yes, his performances have not been as good as they once were, but Arteta’s failing system has ruined him, and he will show his class at FC Barcelona. Remember this is the player who has kept Arteta in a job effectively as he won Arsenal the FA Cup.
Similarly Mesut Ozil was another victim of Arteta’s treatment. Another world class player and big character Arteta could not handle. A victory that Arteta fanboys still laud up to this day even though it was nearly two years ago. Some fans and the manager have short memories and should remember what Aubameyang has done during one of Arsenal’s toughest periods.
Another pair of players who have received disgusting treatment by Arteta are French duo William Saliba and Matteo Guendouzi.
Saliba, who is currently out on loan to Olympique de Marseille, has not even made one appearance for Arsenal despite joining back in 2019 for £27 million. He is a highly rated prospect and is consistently included in the French pundits’ Team of the Week in Ligue 1. His best performance came recently against Paris St Germain when he kept world class players like Kylian Mbappe and the best football player of all time Lionel Messi quiet.
However Arteta decides to opt for clearly worse defenders in Ben White and Rob Holding.
Matteo Guendouzi who is at the same team as Saliba, has been pulling up trees in France too with a tenacity and quality in midfield that Arsenal lack. I feel Arteta has exiled him due to his quick temper but there is nothing wrong with showing passion for the team. Which again shows Arteta cannot deal with big personalities and characters who challenge him.
Also, the over reliance on Bukayo Saka has made the young player go backwards in his development. Arteta even said in a press conference ‘he should learn to play through injury’ which is absurd. He is a good player but should be in and out the team, learning his trade. However, the experienced players he has to look up to include figures like Granit Xhaka due this to ‘youth project’ which is a sham and is a cover for the failings of this club for the past decade.
There is no doubt that Arteta should be sacked but it is up to the fans to raise the standards of the club and push him out as he is clearly not good enough to get Arsenal competing with the likes of Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool. Instead, most of the deluded fan base go for an easy target in Stan Kroenke the owner of the football club who apparently does not spend money on transfers, even though Arteta has had about £200 million spent on players he wanted. This is mostly his squad of players now, due to players he brought in and contract renewals to players that were there before, and we are nowhere near we should be.
Arsenal missed a trick in not getting Antonio Conte as we would be competing if we gave him £200 million to spend. A manager like Graham Potter would be great too as he would bring exciting football to the Emirates. He has shown what he can do with a weak squad at Brighton.
All in all, time should be up for Mikel Arteta now and in reality, he should have been sacked a while ago.