He can do no more.
Of course, this is not to say Mikel Arteta is infallible. Singling out obvious errors in his management since taking over Arsenal is not as simple as closing your eyes and pointing, but creases need ironing.
Most notably, since he took the reins, no side has dropped more points from winning positions in the Premier League. Equally, statisticians will direct their gaze towards this season’s figures, which show that only West Brom have had fewer shots so far – some sides have still only played two matches – and just five teams have conceded fewer shots on their own goal than Arsenal.
As mentioned, not infallible.
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But how responsible is Arteta for this? In fact, are these numbers good in comparison to the squad he’s inherited?
Finishing eighth last season was woeful. There was the upturn when the new boss arrived, but all facets of that campaign were physically and emotionally draining. Saddest of all, it got to points where – I think I speak for more than myself – I wasn’t even that bothered about losing. It was expected. You want to be upset when your side loses, feel anguish and disappointment, not brush it off due to a crippling expectancy of failure.
In the dugout the team were being poorly led, while up above there was a lack of transparency, among many other things. Nothing was going right and hope was a mere mirage across a barren wasteland.
Arteta has revitalised us. To leave Anfield thinking ‘if Alexandre Lacazette buried that chance, we could have got something’, is streets ahead of ‘well, at least it wasn’t five’.
In the Liverpool defeat, barring Willian, it was the same team. The same ten players who’d succumbed to pressure and mismanagement and were deserving of nothing more than finishing in eighth place. Arteta is surpassing expectations. His best central midfield duo is Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny, yet on Merseyside Arsenal were still in the game until the final minutes.
This group of players, this club, can’t take the next step with what they have. The fact that a top four berth is even under discussion is nothing short of remarkable. All the above stats which work against the Spaniard’s tenure don’t rest solely on his shoulders.
He needs help. What is ‘help’? It’s investment. You know it, I know it, he knows it.
Less than a week left.