Last night wasn’t season over, not really, because in all honesty, Arsenal’s season never really got going in the first place. Performances and results have been hit and miss, one or two results haven’t been helped by shoddy officiating but mostly, we’ve either had a defensive nightmare moment or when it comes to the final ball or shot, Arsenal have been pretty poor.
Unless by some miracle we push hard and finish in a Europa spot, which is very unlikely I hasten to add, for the first time in twenty five years, Arsenal will not be playing European football next season. It’s a sign of how far this club we all love has regressed. The match last night was pretty boring, cagey as neither side wanted to make the first mistake which led to a goal. The Villarreal players used all the tricks in the book to con the ref who duly obliged and right at the end both he and VAR bottled a big decision. Pepe should have been awarded a penalty. That aside though and despite how poorly Arsenal played at times, enough chances were created to win the match. Holding headed over twice, Aubameyang hit the post twice and Pepe hit one wide of the woodwork. Martinelli and Lacazette, both no doubt desperate to score, got in each other’s way when either one might have prodded the ball towards goal.
I see little point in dissecting the game because it was a rinse and repeat of so many other performances at The Emirates this season. What happens now is probably the question many of us asking. I suppose there’s only one of two answers.
1. Sack Mikel Arteta?
2. Carry on with the plan Mikel Arteta was tasked with executing?
Thankfully, that’s not a decision you or I have to make because it’s a tough one.
Thomas Tuchel has shown how different a group of players can play with change. Under Frank Lampard, Chelsea were struggling but here they are now in the Champions League Final and possibly considered favourites to beat Man City.
On the other hand though, Ole Gunnar Solskjær has shown that with time, things can turn around. They too are in a European Final and must be favourites to beat Villarreal.
If Arsenal were to sack Mikel Arteta, who could they turn to? A serious question and not a deflection or reason not to make a change if change is what you think Arsenal need.
Perhaps being knocked out by Villarreal is simply a reality check. A reality check reminiscent of two years ago when Chelsea thrashed us 4-0 in Baku. Arsenal, under their current coach/manager simply aren’t doing as well as you/I think they should be with the squad the club has assembled. The football on show isn’t very good.
Of course we’ll all question why player X, Y and Z didn’t start the match but it doesn’t seem to matter who plays, our football seldom looks natural, complete or free flowing. It’s easy to beat the likes of Sheffield Utd, West Brom or similar but all too often, Mikel Arteta has struggled to out think his opposite number. Whether or not summer signings would make a difference I don’t know, but I’m far from convinced they will. Saka, ESR, Partey, Pepe, Aubameyang, Odegaard, Martinelli – There’s a lot of talent there but seemingly, not enough to break down a defensive setup. Simple things like Leno releasing the ball quickly so an Arsenal attack can go full throttle against an out of position defence isn’t happening. If the basics are missing, although Ryan doesn’t seem to suffer from the same, what chance do Arsenal have? When one of the most exciting attacking footballers at Arsenal is deemed fit enough to face Sheffield Utd at the weekend but not right to start against a pretty average Villarreal defence, something is wrong. When Willian is considered to be a better option from the bench than say Balogun or Nelson, something is wrong.
Inevitably, Mikel Arteta was asked whether he’s the right man to take Arsenal forward:
I wouldn’t be sitting here if I couldn’t. You will see it. It’s not about talking, it’s about showing it on the pitch.
I don’t want to jump on the ‘Arteta out’ bandwagon but it’s the ‘showing it on the pitch’ which isn’t working. His players aren’t performing very well.
Personally, I think the board will back Mikel Arteta. Give him another summer and the start of a new season with fans back in the stadium and go from there.
See you in the comments.