Is Arteta still the right man for Arsenal?

After five consecutive victories for Arsenal towards the end of 2021, Mikel Arteta was showered with praise for steering the ship back on course following a grim start to the season.

January, however, has been a brutal month for Arsenal: winless in five and scoring just one goal in the stretch of matches. Questions are, rightly or wrongly, once again being amplified about Arteta’s competency. The transfer window becomes increasingly important.

Heading into a welcome international break, Arteta has the club sat in sixth position, but the postponements and games in hand paint an unclear picture of what the table would look like if every team was on a level playing field.

Arteta is now in his third season at the club. He has finished eighth twice, although one was after taking over when the club was languishing in tenth place.

Is Mikel Arteta still the right man for Arsenal? The importance of securing a top four finish in the Premier League has never been more apparent

Despite consecutive eighth placed finishes, Arteta has been under remarkably little pressure. Meanwhile, Unai Emery, who was sacked while Arsenal sat eighth, was extremely close getting top four in his first season, missing out by a solitary point.

The lenience and tolerance for Arteta’s failures has been in stark contrast to Emery, who finished higher in this first season than Arteta has into his third.

Since taking over in December 2019, Arteta has spent a small fortune to assemble the squad to shape his vision. He has ousted those deemed insufficient and signed players who fit into how he wants to mould the team.

While some fans may point to the squad to absolve Arteta, he is the person who, for example, signed off on the decision to hand Granit Xhaka a new contract.

The youth of the squad is also wheeled out as an excuse for the inconsistency, but subordinating the club’s progress for romanticism of young players is a recipe for perpetual disappointment.

Arsenal will now end the season without a trophy, crashing out of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup in the span of a couple weeks. For many Arsenal fans, though, as disappointing as the limp defeats were, focusing solely on clinching Champions League football would be of more importance.

But if Arteta does not achieve top four, will his position be untenable? That seems unlikely. The club’s goals are vague and expectations have been so dramatically lowered that finishing eighth is now acceptable so long as there is progress within the process.

This season would have been the prime opportunity to ascend Manchester United and Spurs, who were enmeshed in turmoil as they sacked their managers. With both clubs set to be even stronger next season, the top four battle will be more competitive, requiring Arsenal to invest heavily too.

Arsenal fans have been patient with Arteta, but the patience and support may begin to erode if this season fizzles out again. And if Spurs finish above Arsenal in the Premier League table, especially considering how poor their squad is, the fans may finally turn on him. It all comes down to where Arsenal are in May.