Why time should be up for Arteta

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.

Vivek Julka

A Chorus Line at Curve: ‘My exclusive, behind-the-scenes chance to watch the mesmerising Christmas show take shape’

Chorus of approval: the cast of A Chorus Line at Curve. Image by Marc Brenner.

From read-throughs to rehearsals to curtain up, De Montfort University Journalism student Maykel Valladares followed the rise of Curve’s critically acclaimed Christmas show – and blogged about it for the Leicester theatre’s website. How did she land the role? Here’s her story

It’s July 2020, mask mandates are put into place and people are still encouraged to stay at home in the state of Utah. I needed to find something to keep me busy, so I registered for a summer semester of school. I spent a lot of time sewing since I was pursuing a fashion degree.

One day I was cutting and ironing a significant amount of fabric and I wanted to play something on the television so I wasn’t working in silence. I saw that the popular Broadway musical “Hamilton” had recently been made available on Disney Plus, so I decided to turn it on. As it went on, it was no longer background noise. I became hooked on the story, the dancing, and the music. This was the start of my obsession for musical theatre.  

Fast forward to October 2021. I have taken the leap to live in England and I’m studying Journalism at De Montfort University in Leicester. Even though it’s a dream come true to study abroad, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

During the first week of classes on the Arts and Entertainment Journalism module at DMU, I found out about an internship that was available at Curve Theatre in Leicester, as a blogger for their big Christmas production of A Chorus Line. The blogger would get to sit in on rehearsals and help give a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes.

A chance for me to practice my writing and I get to watch a musical? Sign me up!

I applied and got an interview with Fiona Moore, the press and digital manager at Curve. She’s incredibly sweet and was kind enough to offer me the position.

Utah to Les-tah: Maykel at Curve

I started on November 1, the first day of rehearsals. You could feel the excitement radiating off this new cast. As I looked around the rehearsal room, there were mood boards hung up all over and a miniature model of what the set will look like. I loved seeing the 1970s inspirations the set and wardrobe designers were using.

That first day, it was just the cast getting to know each other and doing a reading of the script. They all sat in a circle and even though there was no singing and dancing, they were animated and were starting to become their character. Honestly, I would pay just to watch that.

‘It has been a privilege to learn about how much work it takes to bring a production together.’

Maykel Valladares

Every week I would check back in with the cast seeing how the show was progressing. Going to rehearsals was the highlight of my week. For me, watching them learn the songs and dances helped me grow my appreciation for theatre. I would get lost in their voices and was mesmerised by the energetic choreography.

I had never really thought about the hours of work that go behind a big production like this. You just go in, take a seat, and almost just assume that they have always know what they are doing. That’s not the case. They forget lines, they miss steps, they have to repeat everything. What impresses me is the dedication and discipline to practice for hours on end to perfect their craft.

Hats off: A Chorus Line at Curve, Leicester. Image by Marc Brenner.
Mirror man: Adam Cooper as Zach. Image by Marc Brenner
In the air tonight: the mighty Carly Mercedes Dyer as Cassie. Image by Marc Brenner

During most rehearsals, director Nikolai Foster would stress the importance of understanding the story of A Chorus Line. It’s a story of these actors from all different backgrounds just trying to pursue their passion. The audience won’t be able to relate if the actors themselves can’t relate to the story.

“This is a story about your childhood being over and moving towards the future,” said Nikolai, “Embrace it with your energy and connect the story to you.”

The relatability of A Chorus Line is what makes it one of my favourite musicals. I love Nikolai’s reason for bringing this show to Curve.

“We are being made stronger by the trauma and the anxiety by the sheer terror of what we’ve all been through,” said Nikolai.

Going to the theatre is what gives me an escape from the uncertainty of life. Even if it’s just temporary, seeing the characters of this show singing about the struggles of growing up makes me feel like I’m not alone. I think everyone will be able to relate to some aspect of this show.

It has been a privilege to learn about how much work it takes to bring a production together. It feels like just yesterday it was the first rehearsal and it was just a simple reading. Now, it’s the highlight of the holiday season for all those who watch it. 

A Chorus Line runs at Curve, Leicester, until Friday, December 31. Read Maykel’s blog for Curve here. And book tickets for the show here: https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/a-chorus-line/

Restaurant review: ORSO Leicester… does it live up to the hype?

During Leicester Restaurant Week, Ana Goncalves pays a visit to ORSO Leicester to see if the place lives up to the hype after tirelessly hearing numerous recommendations.

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Leicester’s Christmas ice rink returns next month

By Em Brooks

Leicester’s Christmas ice rink is set to return to the city centre next month.

The ice rink has been a big part of Leicester’s festive events in recent years with more than 25,000 tickets being sold for it in 2019 alone.

Last year, due to Covid the rink did not appear. However, due to restrictions being lessened this year, it is returning.

Appearing alongside the ice rink will be a Ferris wheel with various other holiday themed items appearing in the city.

Reacting to the news, a Leicester mother said about taking her daughter to go ice skating: ‘’It’ll be a great experience.’’

Another older couple added that they’re both: ‘‘Glad to see it return,’’ despite not planning on skating themselves due to previous injuries.

Holly Dobson, a student at De Montford University said: ‘’I cannot wait to get back on the ice.’’  

As with previous years the ice rink will be hosted by Icescape.

The rink opens from Thursday, December 2, to January 3, in Jubilee Square. It will be open to all ages, both night and day, sessions last 45 minutes on the rink with hired ice-skates and skate-aids available. There are also quieter sessions available as well as reduced prices for off-peak sessions.

Leicester to have a smashing time this weekend

By Zarina Ahmed

Leicester’s Stokes Wood Allotment will be holding a pumpkin smash this weekend aiming to motivate locals to take part in environmental impact reduction.

A pumpkin smash offers the chance for any leftover pumpkins from Hallowe’en to be smashed and composted, reducing food waste.

So far, the organiser of the event, Carry on Composting, have collected over 100 pumpkins for the event, with another 40 at a local school.

Last year, 100 pumpkins were collected, with local schools joining in for the event, according to Rod Weston, an active participant in community composting.

Mr Weston said that small efforts done by groups, such as Carry on Composting, have been influenced by charity hubs that encourage the reduction of food waste.

He said: “We’ve been encouraging composting for years.

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years now, and similar events have always been successful.”

Going to various universities, schools and events, he and other groups have been encouraging others about leftover food waste, especially after Hallowe’en, which is a peak time to compost and reduce food waste.

The non-profit organisation has been set up to promote the reduction of food waste and the amount of waste sent to landfill sites.

The pumpkin smash is one of a number of similar events taking part across the city.

Leicester City Council, which has promoted the event, estimates: “That 15 million pumpkins are binned in the UK every Halloween – but the flesh, seeds and even the stringy bits can be used to serve up some delicious treats instead.”

Councillor Adam Clarke, Leicester’s deputy city mayor for the environment, said that across the city, there are: “Thousands of dedicated allotment-growers who are committed to reducing food waste, so it’s great to see these events happening that will help spread the message.

“We’re keen to encourage people to recycle more.”

The pumpkin smash will be held on Saturday(NOV13), from 10.30am to 12.30pm at Stokes Wood Allotment in Leicester.