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Team Review – Arsenal
League Position: 11th
Runar Alex Runarsson
This season has made the sale of Martinez to Aston Villa seem like pure folly. Leno has not reached the level he was at before his injury allowed Martinez a run in the team and neither of the back ups really instil great confidence. While Runarsson does show potential, he is not ready yet, while Leno is not looking to be the keeper that the Gunners need. It is an area that they do need to look to improve on with a top class number 1, if their aim is to challenge at the sharp end.
In a lot of respects there is a lot to like about the defender pool at the club. Gabriel looks excellent and is only 23, Holding looks solid and Tierney has become a cult hero among the fans for his performances already, despite injury problems. With Mari now starting to impress as well, there is clearly a good foundation to build on. There are a few issues obviously, Luiz was a monstrously expensive mistake, Sokratis is not good enough and Mustafi is just an embarrassment and barely deserves to be called a defender. Then there is right-back. Neither Bellerin nor Soares look anywhere near as good as they were a few years ago. It is not far off a title-winning defence and certainly should be capable of challenging for the top 4.
Emile Smith Rowe
Again there is a good foundation with Partey, in particular, as well as Smith Rowe and Saka. Willock and Maitland-Niles (if he ever gets used correctly) look to have a lot of potential as well, though it is a very young core. The experienced pair of Elneny and Xhaka have shown they are simply not good enough and Ceballos offers little when it is actually needed. But it is a promising group, it just needs a bit more experienced quality.
On paper it looks an excellent forward line, but in reality it is a little different. Martinelli, Nketiah and Nelson all have great potential, but they need some experienced help. Pepe has been a huge flop, but Willian has managed to make him look like a bargain in comparison. Which takes some doing considering Willian was a ‘free’ transfer! Aubameyang is meant to be the leader and is club captain, but since getting his new contract it is noticeable that he has barely broken sweat on the pitch. Amazing how often a huge salary on a long term contract kills a player’s drive and determination. The one who I believe is an excellent player, Lacazette, is someone Arteta clearly does not like. You can hear Arteta constantly chip away at him, no matter what he did Arteta would be telling him to do something else, up until Lacazette, clearly massively frustrated and fed up with being targeted, bit back. Since then he has barely played. It feels very personal between the two, which is something that should never be allowed to happen by a manager.
Manager: Mikel Arteta
He is young and learning, but somehow the media have already decided he is going to be the greatest manager in the history of the world. In fact he was already anointed such before even getting a management job. It is bizarre how much protection Arteta gets from the media, who are full of excuses for his errors, rather than pointing them out. He will have to be incredibly self-aware or surround himself with staff who are not afraid of pointing out the mistakes he has made if he is to learn. The worry is that Arteta is not known for being a man to alter his thinking, as you can see from his constant chivvying of certain players. It is very similar to Pep Guardiola in a lot of respects, but Guardiola does not succeed because of that, he succeeds because he is managing the best team in his league and is then given hundreds of millions to throw at buying players each season to keep it the best. Arteta is not managing the best team in the league, he needs to learn how to adapt, to make-do and mend at times. Only time will tell if he is too stubborn to do so or not, but this season is a difficult one to judge him in, as there has been so little time for actual coaching compared to normal seasons. He has the tools there to challenge for a top 4 place, it is up to him to figure out how to use them properly.
This is a team good enough to contest their beloved 4th place trophy, right now it is just sitting in the bottom half of the table. There have been some better results of late, though it must be pointed out that two of those results came against struggling teams so they should be expected, rather than the pleasant surprise they have been for Gooners. A lot of it has come from throwing in youngsters, but young players are inconsistent, so they cannot be relied on for the second half of the season every week. Arteta will need to find a way to still pick up results even when they are underperformning and not just revert back to lifeless team performances. If he can keep them moving forward as they have been in the last couple of weeks, then there might well be a chance at a bright future. Arteta will need better help above him though, ones that do a better job negotiating contracts so that the team is not constantly hamstrung by high salaries requiring more and more loans to keep on top of them.
Written by Tris Burke January 08 2021 10:15:03