My opinion on Mikel Arteta changes more often than my underwear.
Just as I get to the stage where I think “he is done. We need a change”, Arsenal pull out a victory like we did against Chelsea and you begin to think “hold him. He needs to be backed”.
Wednesday’s victory means that we did the double over Chelsea for the first time since 2003/04 and means Arteta adds the scalp of Thomas Tuchel to Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho.
So we did the double over Chelsea, we are also unbeaten against Manchester United (1 win, 1 draw) and West Ham (1 win, 1 draw).
Of those teams above us in the league, Liverpool and Manchester City are the only ones we failed to take points off.
In what has been a rollercoaster of a season, Arsenal’s performances against those in form teams have not been the issue. It is the results against the lesser teams that has cost us.
ONE point taken in 8 games against Everton, Aston Villa, Wolves and Burnley is the reason we are 8th and not third.
In a normal season, you would expect Arsenal to pick up at least 12 points from those 8 games. Maybe more.
That would have us ahead of Leicester City in 3rd. In a Champions League spot and positive about the future.
But we lost all bar one of those games.
Yes, their have been some extenuating circumstances – a referee blunder cost us 3 points at Wolves, and that Grant Xhaka post cost us 2 points against Burnley – but ultimately we lost the games we did because we did not do enough to win. It is that basic.
The run of 7 games without a win has likely cost us European football this season.
During that run we continually shot ourselves in the foot – mistakes for goals, silly red cards, not scoring when on top. It certainly feels a season of what ifs.
We will probably end up missing out on European football by a couple of points.
That is Xhaka not doing that pass v Burnley, it is David Luiz not being sent off v Wolves. That Lacazette goal not being disallowed v Leicester City. Nicholas Pepe’s sending off against Leeds. Xaka not being sent off against Burnley.
That poor run of form ended on Boxing Day when we beat Chelsea at home.
Since that date only Manchester United and Manchester City have got more points. That is a period of 22 games.
Yes, I get that we have played 36 games and you can not discount the 14 games that went before, but it is clear that Arteta has turned us around following that poor run.
We have had some disappointing results since Christmas – the limp home draws against Crystal Palace and Fulham and defeats away to Wolves and Aston Villa. The Villarreal no-show. But overall the form has been good and the table since Christmas shows that.
But the table for the season has us where we deserve to be.
The question moving forward is which Arsenal is Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal?
Is it the side that would have us 3rd over the last 22 games? Or the one that had us 15th after the first 14 games?
Victories against Crystal Palace and Brighton in the last 2 games of the season should save Arteta’s job.
And then we move onto next season.
If he starts the season in the same form we have been in during the last 22 games, we brush that bad run of form early this season under the carpet and move on.
He has another horrendous start to the season and the naysayers will increase.
For now, I am back in the “stick with him” camp. Although defeat to Crystal Palace on Sunday will quickly change that again.