The Truest Test of Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal Reign

Arsenal, Mikel Arteta (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Mikel Arteta (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) /

We never get much reprieve as Arsenal fans, do we?

It seems like Arsenal have been eternally condemned to an infuriating, never-ending cycle of mediocrity. Just 12 months have passed since the dreadful second half of Unai Emery’s tenure finally drew to a close. Then, at Christmas, Mikel Arteta appeared on the scene and we started to believe again, turning around our worst season in a generation, which culminated in a brilliant FA Cup triumph in August.

We have all been doing our best to remain calm and patient as Arteta implements his ideas, to ‘trust the process’ as it were, and up to this point that has been manageable, given our Wembley success and the marked improvement defensively.

However, the weekend ‘performance’ against Aston Villa has officially brought his honeymoon period to an end, and both his mettle and our patience will be sternly tested after the international break.

Speaking pitch-side after the Villa defeat, Arteta expressed his anger regarding the display, conceding on the official club website that:

"“Since I arrived here, it’s the first time that I’ve felt we performed really under our standards.”"

While the acceptance of responsibility is admirable, the truly worrying aspect of his interview is that this is definitely not the first time we have performed this poorly.

On Sunday, as was the case against Leicester, Man City, Liverpool, West Ham and Sheffield United, the tempo of the play was far too slow, too many touches were taken on the ball and our decision-making and quality in advanced areas were typically poor.

We have also been conceding possession very easily of late and are far too defensive-minded to dictate the play or create regular chances. Meanwhile, our predictability makes us easy to play against. The absence of an attacking midfielder means we always attack down the left-hand side, to bring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang into the game.

This is something opponents have recognised and they now team up on the captain, knowing that if you stop Aubameyang scoring, you stop Arsenal scoring.

Contrary to what Arteta believes, a result like this has been on the cards for some time now, and he has plenty to consider before the trip to Elland Road in two weeks’ time. The calls for Aubameyang to move centrally are growing louder, while surely giving Joe Willock a chance in the middle is worth a try, or picking Reiss Nelson over Willian.

dark. Next. Any Solace?

Of course, I’ll continue to back Arteta, but we have grown too accustomed to such mediocrity and both patience and time are in short supply.