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  1. A post-season assessment of Arteta - a good season not a great season Arteta has silenced all the critics, has he? Not exactly, he hasn’t silenced himself, Edu, Josh Kroenke, and many of the players and staff at the Arsenal. He has definitely silenced the fans, some of whom, unbelievably, were shouting Arteta out on social media when we hit a bad patch in the middle of the season. But if you listen to Arteta, Odegaard, Declan Rice and others you know they are not quite happy because they want better. Winning the league and the Champions League is the priority from now on. Fulham, not the Spuds, cost us the league One draw turned into a win would have made us champions, with Fulham early on an obvious culprit. 26th August 2023 will be burned into their minds. It emphasises that for every game they have to be ready to fight. The other draws were against established top sides. We had five losses and five draws with Fulham our big punishers. We lost five points against them. We could have been celebrating at the Emirates on the last day knowing City were confined to the dustbin. They, not the Spuds, cost us the league, although they also got a draw against us, but you do expect to drop some points to the top end of the table. Can he get his transfers right? Regular readers will know that I have also criticised Arteta throughout my time here but I have always supported him. I criticised his struggles with big names here and I will come back to that later but he has come through that test so far. I would be nervous if he got an Mbappe or a Neymar but he certainly handled the Declan Rice and Havertz situation really well. One plus for Arteta. But it must continue with our new signings due this summer. Kai Havertz scores again - Arteta got him right I also criticised his team falling apart for the last ten games here but he managed 25 points which is a respectable score and much better than his previous best. We had a lot of tough matches to negotiate and we got an excellent point from City away, but probably were a little vulnerable against Villa after defeat by Bayern. Two pluses for Arteta. Again it must continue, though. A manager is judged solely on their recent results. Is he able to rotate? He did achieve a remarkable level of consistency and succeeded in getting a record number of Arsenal wins and a score of points that would have won most Premier Leagues so far. He took on a resurgent Liverpool and Spurs who were both top of the league for a period, and a dynamic Aston Villa, but left them well behind. Arteta - losses and draws to be turned into wins However, there is a question mark here as we had few injuries and he didn’t rotate the squad much, and often only made changes late in games. Saka, in particular, took a lot of punishment. He did have Martinelli who seemed to suffer from lack of game time but he could have given Saka a rest and switched Martinelli as he did against Everton. He caused a lot of problems in that game. But we can make that a minus, I feel. Guardiola rotated like crazy and won the league. We may not be so lucky with injuries next year. Let’s look again at man-management Where Arteta has excelled from day one was his appeal to work with the fans, to create a strong atmosphere at games home and away. I was at Old Trafford and at times we out sang the Mancs. The fans have been great and Arteta deserves all praise for the way he includes the fans in everything. A big plus to Arteta. Getting the fans singing has been Arteta's great achievement So I am going to return to player management as I said I would but first a little backwards look to talk about Aubameyang, which was Arteta’s strongest test of player management. Aubameyang obviously thought he was far more important than a rookie manager and Arteta struggled to deal with him, plus Ozil, Lacazette and Guendouzi also spring to mind. Aubameyang the arse But let’s take a look at Aubameyang as we still haven’t truly replaced him. Supposing he wasn’t such an arse but rather a serious professional, he could still be here. He went in February 2022 with 92 goals and there have been two more seasons since then. In those two and a half seasons if he scored 50 goals he would now have 142 goals for us, 3rd in the all time list and in front of Van Persie on 132. He would have had better players to provide assists and could have got even more making Ian Wright’s 179 a target. Messi and Ronaldo are still playing so so could he, say for another 2 years for us. He is 34 years old, quite a bit younger than those two. Two more seasons from now and Wright could have been relegated to 3rd. That's an arsehole you see, Pierre I don’t think there is anyone who doubts Aubameyang’s ability, he was superb at his best. If we had the best him for the past 2 years we could have made up the small amounts of points needed and we could now be double champions. Take a look in the mirror, Pierre Emerick, and you will see an arse who deprived himself of two league titles, of chasing Ian Wright’s record, and of becoming an Arsenal legend. You will see an arse who is playing for a mediocre French team who only won 13 of their 34 league games. And especially you will see an arse who, because of your huge ego, decided you would push a rookie manager rather than give your all as an ambitious professional. You lost and you are looking at a loser. Pity is that you made us all lose. None of us care about you now. We lose our young players? There is one area I am concerned about and that is the peripheral players, Possibly Martinelli, plus Smith Rowe, Nketiah, Nelson, Ramsdale, etc., and the young players bubbling through. To win, to me it seems that Arteta believes we need a strong, experienced squad. How can he keep all the players happy? Young players don’t remain young forever. They need to play before they get old. I suggested here that up to 15 players could go and how will that affect the culture? Steve Round went after disagreeing with Arteta about this very point and specifically Ramsdale. Arteta has worked hard to create a culture of togetherness but unsatisfied young players not getting games will make them unhappy. Could Martinelli go? A disaster This is his challenge, one that he didn’t have so much this year. We will probably have 3 or more new players to keep happy as well. We hope that he has learned. That recruitment will take into account temperament and that we don’t sign an arse like Aubameyang. We are all hoping for an improvement in August but Arteta is facing another new challenge, one of expectation. Can he deliver? So far, he has always found a way. Long may that continue! Ramsdale vs Raya Ramsdale- should be number one? Ps. I have been reading a lot of statistics that say they prove that Raya is better than Ramsdale. How about these for the opposite? We came second last year 5 points behind City. And second again this year 2 points behind City. They had Haaland and De Bruyne out a bit this season. We had a team more mature by being a year older. We had Rice and Havertz, a big improvement. We had few injuries. Last year when Saliba went we lost points. So Ramsdale got us second with a weaker team. And points were easier to get this season as the bottom teams got very few. Raya - truly top class? There is one area where Ramsdale is clearly better and that is shot-stopping. He can pull off an amazing save. He is bigger and stronger than Raya which makes him harder to bully. He rises up the fans better than Raya which gives us a 12th player. And he is always smiling when he is playing. That makes me happier. He will probably go and it will be a mistake. I reckon, despite the stats, Raya is just short of being a true top goalkeeper and I really hope we don’t find that out next year. I hope I am wrong.
  2. Are we moving in the right direction? Today I am going to take a look at Mikel Arteta from a couple of different perspectives, one is his first 13 matches of his seasons with the addition of the first 13 matches of his Arsenal start in December 2019. Why 13 matches? Because it is almost exactly 1/3 of a season and we are at 13 matches now. The other perspective is his players. I will look at this first. Raya Tierney Saliba Gabriel Cedric Smith Rowe Elneny Nelson Saka Nketiah Martinelli Was Raya the right option? Hands up those who can say what is unique about the above line-up? It is not so easy to guess but 9 of those are there since Mikel Arteta took over in December 2019. I added Raya and Gabriel as first choice from the current line-up to make an 11. Some are bit players, some are first choice, some get on in many matches, and Tierney is out on loan. Despite the belief that Arteta has changed everything around you can see that there are many players still available for him to select. We can assume that these are all players he gets on with as he seems to have difficulties with certain players, particularly big stars who were there before him. There are now no such. Can he cope with a big star with a big ego? That does indicate a weakness in Mikel, as what will happen if any player starts to act the big star and tries on an Aubameyang by not adhering to the rules? One presumes they would be out the door but we can’t easily do without Saka, Martinelli, Odegaard, Saliba, Gabriel, and Rice to name players that must be worth huge money. Or a big name player comes in (Mbappe has been mentioned)and does an Aubameyang after becoming a fan favourite? Can he now deal with them without them having to leave? Can he now get them to accept that it is his way or the highway? That is one tester he must answer. Of course if he wins big trophies it makes all that easier. Declan Rice looks like a great buy That is definitely not a given. There are now many big teams eager for the same, all with established managers. Arsenal fans are notoriously fickle and entitled. I reckon that the bare minimum for Arteta is qualification for Champions League, pushing for the Premier league and getting close to a final. If, after two seasons of not achieving those targets, he may well find the fans turning on him, the big players wanting to leave, and a great difficulty in keeping control. Are his targets too difficult? I feel we have now created an expectation that he must achieve those targets but if he does, then the next prospect is to win the league or Champions League. What if he doesn’t? Do we allow him to forever do a Pochettino with the Spuds and get top four but nothing else? A bad run, such as Pochettino got could see him out the door and that was at the Spuds who have never had such a sustained time near the top in my football lifetime. We see ourselves in a different category to the Spuds and, of course, they have a worse attitude to ditching managers than we have. But I still reckon that top four will not be enough to save Arteta forever. Am I right? Edu, Arteta and Timber - I feel this one is right too Can the team be consistent? And so to the next connected part, the 13 matches test. 12 points first season from Bournemouth to Chelsea from December 2019 when he started. 14 points 20/21 23 points 21/22 34 points 22/23 30 points 23/24 There is progress, yes, although a drop from last season which I believe is due to the higher standard this year at the top of the league. The bottom seems to be much worse this year and that will mean, if it continues, that the big teams will hoover up many points from them, meaning Arsenal must do the same. We are top of the league but it will be a real challenge to stay there. A loss next week against Wolves could see us slip to 4th. And I have to say that I am worried about our weak finishes under Arteta as shown here. We only had 12 points from our last 10 matches last season and it cost us the league. Arteta has, so far, never managed a strong finish to a season. That must change. Partey has not really been missed This will be his fifth season in charge and that is an achievement considering the difficult start he had. It was ameliorated by winning the FA Cup and Charity Shield but the above figures show he did struggle. Unai Emery got fired in Arteta’s first season despite getting 18 points out of the first 13, much better than Arteta achieved with the same players. A new hope? What gives us hope? Many things. There is a real togetherness in the team although the goalkeeper situation has not worked out for either player. The rest seem very happy together and partnerships are developing all the time. Declan Rice looks like an inspired buy and even Havertz must be doing lots of good stuff that fans can’t easily see as he gets on every time. The defence looks as solid as any in the league and that always gives you hope. Great teams have great defences. The backroom team seems to work very well. We are very good at scoring from set-pieces. We are good at keeping our shape and we have got much better at buying than before. Raya (if we buy him), Rice and Havertz have all impressed Arteta, and Timber looked amazing until he got injured. It would be great if we got back to the old Wenger days when most players bought were good and most players sold were past their best. We give everyone chances We are getting points when we haven’t really been all that great in matches this season, in fact, even Burnley, the easiest I can remember so far, had a couple of good chances. And Newcastle should never have been a loss. My only comment on that though is that players must always play to the whistle and that is something that can be drilled into them. Excuses will not win you titles. The fans are so important We do seem to be moving in the right direction. Consistency will be the key. We seem to have good players to come in. Thomas Partey has not been badly missed, long regarded as key. Our young players are getting older and more matchwise. We have a settled group. Togetherness from staff of all kinds and fans will be a great help. We need to be united and I guess that’s where the name came from in so many teams. If we stop the petty cards for arguing, slow play at corners and throw-ins and kicking the ball away which can easily be coached out of them, it will help. Losing players at wrong times is a weakness, a margin that can be corrected. I include Arteta in this. All he has to say is he didn’t agree with whatever decision he is arguing about. No other comment. Let’s work with the refs And players, managers, coaches, and fans need to realise one thing, and that is that we now need teams of referees for matches and there is a worldwide shortage. We badly need to stop harassing refs. We also badly need to set up academies to encourage refs of both sexes to join up and, crucially, train them to the highest standards from a very young age. It should be a clear career path that is seen as desirable from school age. It would be amazing if they were all like Pierluigi Collina We are not a dirty team at all. We are petulant and have become time wasters. These traits are trainable. Let’s get back to being Arsenal, the fair team and in a right refereeing world we would have an advantage. Arteta, being so young still, may even outlast Wenger. I have outlined some areas that need to improve, but the fans will play a crucial role. They must support even through bad spells. Arteta can get things right, if given a chance. I say, give him that chance even if things go wrong and our expectations go in a yoyo direction. ps. RIP Terry Venables. He has got quite a few mentions in this blog and he was supposed to become our manager when George Graham got the job. He was at all the major London clubs except us. Check out his book, They used to play on Grass, it is a great read. A gentleman, a scholar of football, and like our own Arsene Wenger, all his players loved him. And he turned Barcelona into a major team.
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