Well that was an absolute shit show on Saturday. But also so predictable.
A mixture of Mikel Arteta getting it wrong and having too many players who are just not good enough led to our downfall.
There is a deep issue at Arsenal at the moment that is three fold.
1. The players at the club do not suit how Arteta wants to play
2. Arteta hasn’t been in the game long enough to adapt how he wants to play to suit the players
3. The players are not good enough to adapt their game to how the manager wants to play
A lot of discussion has been had about whether it is Arteta’s fault or the players fault that we are in the current predicament. It is probably both.
Arteta has a clear vision of how he wants his teams to play in games.
Possession football, play out from the back, and it the opportunity is there to hit on the break go long over the top.
The issue he he just does not have the players to play like that.
Against Liverpool, he started Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe together for the first time in the Premier League this season. Our 3 most expensive players. And you could see why they have not started together.
None of the 3 are particularly great at ball retention. At short sharp passes. They are runners. Finishers.
And so play broke down.
We got the ball on edge of our area, passed it outwide to Auba or Pepe and they drove towards the halfway line. Faced with a full back, they turned back on themselves, miss-placed an easy pass and Liverpool had possession in our half.
It was the right tactic to play, but the wrong personnel.
There is a huge drop off in quality of ball retention from Auba and Pepe to Emile Smith Row, Bukayo Saka and even Willian.
So the tactics were right but the players being asked to carry out the instructions were not.
And the problem Arsenal and Arteta face is we have a very average set of players who have been unable to adapt and change their games to Arteta’s demands.
The old saying is you can not teach an old dog new tricks. And this is certainly what is happening at Arsenal.
He turns 32-years-old in June. He has always been a player that plays on the fringes. Someone who does not get involved much in the build up play. He plays on the shoulder of the last man and is devastating.
To expect him to change the way he plays so late in his career is unreasonable.
And we are littered with similar players who are being asked to play differently to the way they have throughout their career.
And this leads us to the unbalanced way we are currently playing.
Arteta wants us to play one way, the players are unable to play that way.
A more experienced manager would have recognised this and changed his game plan. But Arteta is not experienced.
The likes of Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho have both managed 1000+ games.
Now I am not saying I want either of them as manager, and the later I would want no where near the club. But when you have managed the amount of games they have you develop multiple different game plans.
Both men have been there and done it, and been successful across Europe for a couple of decades.
In comparison Arteta has not even managed 75 games yet. He has not had the time in the game to develop further ways of playing. So ends up stuck focused on his one or two ways of playing. And that is detrimental when we have a squad of players that are unable to play to his instructions.
So what do we do moving forward?
Invest in players Arteta wants
Or issues over the last 6+ years has been recruitment – going all the way back to that year we only bought Petr Cech.
To play the way Arteta wants, we need to invest in the players that will play to the beat of his tune.
But how much money do we need to invest? Can we sell the players to make the space in the squad? And will we get the signings right?
Assist Arteta in developing his way of playing
If we think Arteta is the right man, but is just playing the wrong system, let’s get someone in alongside him who can work with him.
Someone who over the summer can work with Arteta to develop him as a manager. Improve him as a manager. And come up with a plan that suits the current crop of players whilst recruitment continues.
If Arteta is unable to develop his game plan to suit the players, those players are unable to develop their game to suit his game plan, and we are unable to recruit the players who fit his system; the only option will be to sack Arteta.
The man coming in would have to be someone who suits the current crop of players at Arsenal. So not a manager who plays possession football. Someone who is used to dealing with older stubborn players. Someone who could get the best out of the players we have using a system that suits them.
Who that is I do not know.
As it stands, Arsenal are at a cross roads under Arteta.
Either the manager develops his thinking and comes up with a system that suits the players, or investment comes in allowing him to buy the players that suits how he wants to play. If neither of this happens Arteta could be out of his job by Christmas and we move on.
I’ve been thinking long and hard about this…and we are in a right state.
IMO it all falls back on recruitment and a lack of a direction spread over several years.
Arteta is a dogmatic manager. He wants to play a certain way. The problem is only a handful of our players can play that way.
We either get him the right players or get a pragmatic manager in.
That manager would look at what we have and play to their strengths.
IMO in the short term the pragmatic manager would be more effective, and may get us back into the Uefa Cup next season, but whether or not they could do enough to get us into the Top 4 is uncertain. For true success we need a dogmatic manager and he needs time.
Having said this, I’m still not sure if Arteta is the right dogmatic manager.