Can Mikel Arteta turn things round at Arsenal?
Arsenal is a club in crisis. Their lacklustre start to the season will have come as a surprise to all observers, even the most pessimistic of fans. Languishing in 15th place with just 13 points from 11 games with only 10 goals scored is nothing short of appalling.
It’s true that the club struggled in recent seasons, falling from grace in spectacular style. But flirting with relegation takes it to another level and it’s perhaps surprising that Arteta’s lasted as long as he has.
Despite a relatively bright start to the campaign, a Community Shield win against Liverpool, and a couple of decent wins in the league, the season has imploded in spectacular fashion. Continued fiddling with tactics, with the Gunners adopting everything from 3-4-3 to 4-2-3-1 has led the club to some atrocious results including the 3-0 defeat to Wolves and the 2-0 capitulation to rivals Tottenham. When Arteta changes the tactics about as often as he does his socks, it’s no wonder key players like captain Aubameyang and Lacazette are struggling to settle.
Despite the season’s early stage, it’s clear that Arteta doesn’t have what it takes to turn things around. As a new manager, he simply doesn’t have the experience to get the club back on track. The fans are against him, the players are losing confidence and his team is lagging way behind where they should be. It’d be a tough ask for any coach, let alone one in his first role as number one.
The Gunners have fallen into the trap that so many clubs do and appointed a former playing favourite with little to no consideration of how he’d fare in charge of a top-flight club. Arteta obviously has talent. Rated by Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger, it’s not as though he was appointed Manchester City assistant manager as a joke.
But a good coach doesn’t necessarily make a good manager. Arteta’s signings and squad management has been beyond poor. And when you’re leading one of the country’s historically biggest clubs towards relegation from the Premier League, your ability to develop young players or bring through academy graduates doesn’t really come into it.
Arteta says he’s got three games to save his job. In reality he’s got three games to earn a stay of execution. Even if he leads his team to a series of unexpected, crushing wins, he’s done. There’s no coming back from this disastrous start.
Just as Wenger before him held onto his job long after he had stopped being effective thanks to his legendary status, the stink of failure will hang around Arteta as long as he’s Arsenal coach. The smallest future slip up will bring memories of his calamitous start. Even getting to that stage is a big if. Arteta will likely be out of the door before the turn of the year.
That’s not to say that Arteta’s career is over. Plenty of good managers from Zinedine Zidane to Diego Simeone and even Arsene Wenger himself have struggled in their first jobs before going onto successful careers elsewhere. Arteta has the skills to make it as a good coach elsewhere. He may benefit from taking another job as an assistant or coach, or at least taking a manager’s job at a club that isn’t so fraught with pressure.
Success may not be completely out of Arteta’s grasp. But one thing’s for sure. It won’t come at Arsenal.