He was fans’ favorite, the beloved of the board and many felt he should have landed the job earlier but was “cheated” out of it by former Head of Football, Raul Sanhelli who preferred Unai Emery and schemed him into the job at the very last minute.
When results under the Spaniard went South and Arsenal were in the hunt for another manager, the voice was loud and resounding in favor of Arteta. He had the backing of Director of football, Edu Gasper and the blessing of his boss, Pep Guardiola. His arrival looked like Arsenal had finally gotten the long term replacement for former manager, Arsene Wenger in his former player.
The love story looked got even better when Arteta took a rag tag team under Emery and guided them to FA Cup glory, setting a record as the Arsenal manager with the shortest stint to a trophy. Many expected that as Arsenal won the FA Cup last season and followed it up with Community Shied victory over Liverpool this season, they will mount a healthy challenge for a top 4 finish this season and follow it up with a title challenge next season afterall the former Guardiola understudy had audaciously promised to deliver the UEFA Champions League to Arsenal within 4 years but things have not gone according to plan.
The Gunners are not involved in the title race or top 4 battle, they are currently embattled in a relegation tussle after lying in the 15th spot after just a win in 11 matches and 4 home losses already. What could have gone wrong with “Project Arteta”?
It is easy to swiftly say the players are poor and accuse the board of not getting top notch players that could have galvanized the team but that does not in any way excuse Arteta’s incompetence. The board might not have given him all he demanded but they did well to give him most of the things he requested for.
He asked for David Luiz’s contract to be extended and it was granted. He asked that Willian be signed from Chelsea and it was granted, the Brazilian got an offer Chelsea could not match, a 3 year deal on hefty wages. He got a new center back in Gabriel Maghalaes with the icing on the cake being the arrival of Thomas Partey from Athletico Madrid.
Prior to the signing of Partey, Arsenal have never successfully triggered the release clause of any player, they always try to negotiate the price down and end up scuttling the deal. The attempt to sign Luiz Suarez from Liverpool by triggering his release clause fell through but this time around, the Gunners ensured they did all that was necessary to see the Partey deal through. The only player Arteta requested for and did not get was Houssem Aouar and it was not out of not trying.
When Arteta saw that Aouar deal was going to fall through, why did he not consider a plan B? Emiliano Buendia of Norwich City was available and could have done a decent job but a move was not made for him.
Christian Eriksen was made available by Inter Milan, why did he not go for him? Despite not being able to sign a creative midfielder, he still went ahead to ostracize Mesut Ozil from the Premier League and Europa League squad. His excuse that he has given Ozil ample chances to prove himself holds no water when he continues to start Willian despite him churning out hapless performances or how do you explain an attacker that has just one shot on target all season?
The draw against Southampton sort of gave Arteta some reprieve but the loss to Everton has dislocated the camel’s back and it does not look like it is going to get any better any time soon considering the next three fixtures in all competitions.
Up next is the Carabao Cup quarter finals against Manchester City and Premier League clashes against Chelsea and Brighton. Failure to win both matches could see Arsenal officially in the drop zone and would the management still be unconcerned should that happen?
It is sad that a managerial career that promised so much is delivering so little and that is down to the obstinance and arrogance of Arteta. It is late but not too late as he can still salvage the situation but he needs to come off his high horse. He needs to re-absorb Ozil back into squad, Arsenal need his creativity. He needs to drop Willian and play someone else, he needs to show everyone that game time is down to performance and not favoritism.
Arsenal will rise again but will Arteta still be standing then?