Arsenal are being left behind and Mikel Arteta is failing to achieve balance but the players are not without blame

Farcical Arsenal

A year to the day that Arsenal sacked their replacement of Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery. In that year, the club has won a trophy and addressed areas of need in the transfer market but the results on the pitch would say little has changed.

The 2-1 home defeat to Wolves was Arsenal’s third home loss on the bounce, and it displayed all the shortcomings of a side lacking in direction, determination and spirit.

The first place to start must grow from the clash between David Luiz and Raul Jimenez. The Mexican was stretchered off after an aerial collision with the Brazilian which left Luiz with a serious cut to the point that blood was seeping through the heavily wrapped wound. Yet he remained on the pitch, reportedly all the relevant checks were conducted and yet he was replaced at half time.

Luiz was at fault, not solely, for both Wolves goals and seemed static as both Podence and Neto reacted quickly to pounce on rebounded strikes. Behaviour akin to that of a player not fully with it. With him withdrawn at half time, serious questions should be asked. If he was not fit to play the remainder of the match, the medical advice given to keep him on from the point of injury is surely askew?

Arteta said in his post match press conference, “I just had news from David that the doc made all the tests and followed all the protocols to make sure that he was fine. He responded really well to all of them, but it was a nasty cut.”

“David wanted to continue and he continued, but at half-time we decided to take him out because he was uncomfortable heading the ball.”

Frankly, a criminal health and safety decision.

Captain not so fantastic

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang signed his new bumper Arsenal deal in the summer and it was lauded as one of the key pieces of business for the summer. In the announcement video, the Gabonese forward spoke of his desire to become an “Arsenal legend.”

The only legendary part of Aubameyang’s performance was how disinterested a forward and captain of the club can be when their side need the talismanic figure to be the difference. A lack of chasing, effort and simple application was strewn throughout his display. Loose balls were falling yards from his feet in the box as the number 14 stood flat-footed and with no desire to reach them.

Arsenal are being left behind and Mikel Arteta is failing to achieve balance but the players are not without blame

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 29: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Emirates Stadium on November 29, 2020 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

A Reiss Nelson cross late on was curled fantastically into an area in the box any striker would thrive to throw themselves at. Aubameyang was trudging around by the penalty spot seemingly unconvinced his teammate could send in the appropriate ball.

Which, in fairness, is understandable considering the lack of quality Arsenal’s set-piece situations have presented this season. In fact, Arsenal’s first league goal from open play came from a corner routine very clearly implemented to avoid a dead ball kick from the quadrant. Then, comedically, when Nelson came on, the first opportunity of a corner was hit straight at the first Wolves’ player’s head. You could not write it. But this does not excuse the 31-year-old’s attitude.

Aubameyang needs to step up, press and fight otherwise the acrimonious attitude towards the previous mega contract reciprocate will quickly transfer to him.

Symbolic decline

Granit Xhaka may be the best example to sum up Arsenal’s decline. The Swiss midfielder was purchased from Borussia Monchengladbach for £35 million, the same summer in which N’Golo Kante signed for a lesser fee for Chelsea. The deviation in both midfielders’ paths has been stark.

There was a moment in the game where the ball fell to Gabriel in his own half, a player which has been one of the few signs of progressive hope in the squad. Gabriel’s touch brought the ball forward and he looked to play it ahead of him as the seconds ticked by. However, before he could reach it, Xhaka strode in and pinged the ball straight back to Bernd Leno. If a more symbolic action to represent Arsenal’s current state exists, I doubt we’ll see it.

The new signings of Kieran Tierney, Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel and Thomas Partey show things are possibly turning but it is evident beyond measure that whilst the regressive personnel of the past continue to dominate the side, progression will be near impossible.

Arsenal are being left behind and Mikel Arteta is failing to achieve balance but the players are not without blame

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 19: Gabriel Magalhaes of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at Emirates Stadium on September 19, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

The saddest part for Arsenal is that it may already be too late. Sides such as Wolves themselves, Leicester and Spurs have shown longer-term removal of bygone players and investment into profiles which suit, progress and improve the cornerstones of the squad.

Arsenal have, for too long, wasted money on unproven talents from abroad and not invested in key Premier League players. The only examples of EPL buys are Willian, David Luiz, Cedric, Petr Cech and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the last five seasons. All surplus to requirements at their clubs and all with big question marks over their effectiveness upon arrival.

The recruitment of the club has been naïve, shallow and rushed.

Arteta

The attachment a former player has with a club when they take charge can make it more difficult to criticise them when things go wrong. There is a desperation for them to succeed and bring back the good times. Any Arsenal fan can take solace in the improvement of the defensive structure of the team and the confident words spoken in interviews and press conferences but the truth is that Mikel Arteta has not improved the side overall.

One step forward in defence has left the side a minimum two steps back in the offensive region. Arsenal were fluid, brave and incisive under Wenger and whilst continually frustrated with defensive errors which ultimately cost them competitiveness at the highest level, their verve pushed them to remain chasing the pack.

Under Emery, it was worse. Defensive frailties remained but were arguably more exposed as the Spaniard’s game plan to allow opposition sides to attack backfired spectacularly. But offensively Arsenal were still a threat and reached a Europa League final with a wonderous attacking performance in Valencia.

Ultimately he had to go. He had lost the dressing room, the team’s mentality was on the floor and no longer willing to fight. Arteta may have got the ‘new manager bounce’ but it is evident now Pep Guardiola’s former assistant has gone too heavily in the other direction in an attempt to solve the side’s major problems in defence.

Balance is needed but it seems that Arteta is unable to find it with these players. Would any other coach fair better? It is hard to imagine but whilst a long-term plan may be the goal and the process may need to be trusted, football is a game of results. If the results do not improve in the short-term, the long-term vision may never even have the chance to surface.

And with the North London Derby approaching fearsomely, the concerns appear only set to grow.

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Farcical Arsenal A year to the day that Arsenal sacked their replacement of Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery. In that year, the club has won a trophy and addressed areas of need in the transfer market but the results on the pitch would say little has changed. The 2-1 home defeat to Wolves was Arsenal’s thirdFootball (soccer) greatest goals and highlights | 101 Great Goals – Feed

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