It is the first time since 1954 that the Gunners have lost their three opening games of the league season with last Saturday’s (Aug 28) 0-5 hammering by Manchester City really exposing many of the issues facing the club.
It would be churlish to be overly critical of any team being overturned by City, the reigning champions with an embarassment of riches in a deep squad populated by household names and seasoned internationals.
However, it is the manner of the performance that will most trouble Arteta. There is no shame in getting beat by any team but doing so with an obvious lack of application and a sub-standard attitude is not acceptable, least of all by the legions of Arsenal fans that demand better.
By the end of the game against City, Arsenal had managed to retain only 19% of possession and registered only one shot at goal - and that was off target. It is little wonder they have still yet to score in the Premier League this season.
Injuries have hampered the playing personnel, with £50 million (B2.2 billion) signing Ben White the most obvious absentee, although the responsibility is on whoever steps into the team to not only take their chance personally but to give their all and perform with pride for the team. BBC reporter Simon Stone summed it up perfectly when he said, “the Gunners defence was so flimsy, it scarcely did justice to their status as a Premier League outfit.”
For a central defensive partnership of 1.82 metre tall Calum Chambers and 1.88 metre tall Rob Holding it was sheer embarrassment to see the diminutive figure of City’s Ilkay Gündogan rise above them both to head in the opening goal after just seven minutes, thus opening the floodgates for what was City’s biggest ever win against the Gunners.
Granit Xhaka will take much of the blame for the outcome last weekend, and rightfully so. As an experienced professional the onus on him to lead and set the example to younger players around him was significant. Yet his mindless foul on João Cancelo 10 minutes before half time exemplified the lack of discipline and focus throughout the club right now and resulted in him receiving the 11th red card of his career. The fact his manager offered a gesture of sympathy as the ejected player passed him was worrying as there was no defence against his conduct.
Arteta looked shell shocked throughout as City bombarded his team into submission, likewise afterwards as he tried to explain the debacle when, in all truth, there was no true explanation to be given.
It is, admittedly, only three games into the campaign but the signs are ominous. The opening day defeat against newly-promoted Brentford set the tone and served as an indication of the tepid performances that were to follow. Critics have pointed to Arteta’s penchant for constantly changing his line-up and tactics, perhaps even over complicating things. Simon Jordan, the former Crystal Palace chairman turned pundit on TalkSport, believes Arteta simply isn’t ready for the Arsenal job.
“Arteta is a lot of theory and not enough practice – meaning he may not be fit for purpose at this moment in time,” Jordan said on Monday (Aug 30).
“This group of players aren’t strong enough for him to learn his trade with and he won’t be given the forbearance for much longer,” he added.
His opposing manager last weekend Pep Guardiola, who Arteta was assistant manager under at City before taking the Arsenal job, disagrees.
“I am not talking about a friend, I am talking about a professional,”Guardiola said. “I don’t have any doubts. He is so strong, he will recover, he will analyse and I am pretty sure he will be back on track.”
The first game back for Arsenal after the break is against Norwich who are one place above them in the table. It is a huge game that the Gunners simply have to win, no excuses. Then they face Burnley, always a tough test and especially so for a fragile team currently so low on confidence. They will need to stand tall and be counted or else be bullied into another defeat.
After that is the London derby against Tottenham who, just to rub salt into the wounds of the Arsenal faithful, currently sit top of the table, the only team with a 100% record.
To say that encounter will be a spicy affair is a gross understatement. Arteta will just be hoping that between now and then he has done enough to cling onto his job.
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