Everton 2-1 Arsenal: How long does Arteta have left?
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
A provocative headline yes, but is it particularly unreasonable? When a team that is supposed to be challenging at the top end of the league slumps to their 8th defeat in their opening 14 games, experiencing their worst start for 46 years and in the process finds themselves just 4 points above the drop zone, it's natural that question marks are raised over the future of the man in charge. Whatever your view of the players, the age old cliché that it's easier to change the manager than the entire playing squad stands strong.
At many clubs of an equivalent size to Arsenal, Mikel Arteta would've been given his marching orders several weeks ago. If Chelsea were in this predicament, Roman Abramovich would've accessed his trigger happy side and replaced the coach that had shown any signs of leading his side to this sort of drastic demise. Not that we want to be run in a similarly brutalist way to our West London counterparts, but perhaps an indication that we are operating in a manner that doesn't match the ambition of the clubs that should be our direct rivals.
The strange thing is, unlike his predecessor Emery, I don't find myself begging for Arteta's dismissal. I'm not staunchly 'Arteta Out', whilst I was almost certainly staunchly 'Emery Out' at some point last season when it was evident that if we kept with the experienced Spaniard, we wouldn't win a single upcoming game. Why I have this perhaps foolish faith in a coach's ability to turn it around when there's very little evidence to point to to suggest he's capable of doing so, I don't know.
Maybe it's just purely out of hope. Arteta captained the club, and was popular when doing so, he communicates very well, and sold us fans a dream of a perfect Arsenal when he took over, in which he'd transform the mentality and culture at the club, and eventually lead us to competing for the top prizes while playing football with our distinct 'Arsenal identity'. He painted the picture of a paradisiac Arsenal, and sounded extremely convincing when expressing how he was going to create this. At the back of my mind, I guess I'm still hoping that he will be able to pull off such a vision, and that going through this short-term pain is part of the long-term process.
The reality is, short-term pain can only be so painful before it is truly detrimental to the long-term strategy. Relegation is not something a club of Arsenal's size and stature can afford- and it's increasingly looking like a plausible prospect. Yet another defeat last night on Merseyside left us glancing over our shoulder at the likes of Burnley, Fulham and Brighton. The fact we were more focused on Newcastle and Fulham's late kick-off rather than Spurs and Leicester's Sunday afternoon encounter tells it's own story.
There was little sign yesterday to suggest we're going to turn this dire form around. Another lacklusture display where we failed to create a single clear cut opportunity, whilst also conceding two sloppy goals, suggests we're only getting worse. After signs of improvement against Southampton and Burnley shed a bit of light on our dark fortunes, this was brought crashing back down to earth with a timid display last night. Our tactical analyst, Vinay, will get into the nitty gritty elements of the game in his piece later, but all I can say from a personal perspective is that it was really not very good.
Arteta now faces a crunch period that can lead to a definitive answer to the question at the top of this page. As I've stressed in previous articles, the board have invested heavily in this project and coach, so will give it every opportunity to work. After we play Chelsea, we'll have played the current top 11 in our opening 15 games. Then comes a run against sides around us- Brighton, Palace, West Brom and Newcastle. If at least 9 points are not attained from these four games, we'll seriously be in a relegation dog fight and that will surely be Arteta's time up. As much as I want to believe in the long-term vision, if it's going that badly in the short-term, you have to make changes.
In an era where top clubs are supposed to be untouchable, and relegation for those most financially able should be unthinkable, Arsenal have proven that this is only the case if the right decisions are made by those in executive positions within the club. Damning.