Friday, August 12, 2022

Current Situation At Arsenal – Going In Deep As To Why They Are At The Bottom Of The Table?

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Satyam Mukherjee
Avid Arsenal fan and a lawyer currently practising in Calcutta High Court.

Arsenal were on an all-time high towards the end of the 2019-20 season. They beat Manchester City in the FA Cup semis against all odds. Their rookie manager even led them to a FA Cup victory beating Chelsea in the final. Mikel Arteta slowly started to prove his doubters wrong along the way. He had a balanced team and made them play in a certain way that was reminiscent of the Wenger era. His team had the belief to play out from the back and effectively finish moves upfront.

A Complete Arsenal 2019/20 Season Review - FA Cup winners.
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 01: The team react as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal drops the FA Cup Trophy during the celebrations after the FA Cup Final match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on August 01, 2020 in London, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

That good form continued into the next season as they beat Fulham away. However, it has come tumbling downhill since then as they went on to their worst losing streak. Somehow Arteta managed to turn it around against Chelsea and since then they had a respectable showing on the table. However, they did lose their Europa League semifinal tie against ex-Arsenal boss Unai Emery, who eventually won the tournament. Arsenal finally finished 8th in the league and missed out on every European competition.

Mesut Ozil Saga

Be that as it may, the league finish, the solid defensive display or even the Emile Smith Rowe emergence into the squad was not the focal point of last season. Something started happening in the club which is still a mystery to the fans. It started with Mesut Ozil, who was frozen out by the manager. We can never know whose decision it was, but the German maestro’s comments about world politics ticked the management’s eye. It is not unfathomable that the situation went from bad to worse when Ozil publicly showed eagerness to finance the Gunners’ mascot after they released him due to Covid financial issues. The star man under Arsene Wenger was slowly shifted out of the club with no reasonable explanation. He even tweeted recently at the current state of the Gunners making it abundantly clear that it was Mikel Arteta who froze him out.

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 28: Mesut Ozil of Arsenal reacts during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Arsenal FC and FC Basel 1893 at the Emirates Stadium on September 28, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Matteo Guendouzi’s Misfortune

French youngster Matteo Guendouzi instantly became a fan favourite upon his arrival in 2018. He was instrumental in most of the games under Unai Emery in the 2018-19 season and the Arsenal faithful were really excited with the prospect that was Guendouzi. However, in that wretched Brighton game, where Leno got injured by Neal Maupay, the Frenchman went aggressively to defend his teammate. It seems neither the manager nor the management liked that very much. The French youngster was dropped from the team in the next game and was eventually shifted to Hertha Berlin on loan. Arsenal chose Elneny in his spot, whose days seemed to end before he was loaned to Besiktas. However, the Egyptian is still at the club, whereas Guendouzi has been loaned out again to Marseille.

Arsenal's Guendouzi gathering interest of European clubs (Guendouzi is seen in the photo)
Brighton & Hove Albion v Arsenal – Premier League – Amex Stadium Arsenal s Matteo Guendouzi and Brighton and Hove Albion s Neal Maupay right battle for the ball during the Premier League match at the Amex Stadium, Brighton. EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or live services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xGarethxFuller/NMCxPoolx 54230959

Neither the management nor the manager came out and explained why Guendouzi was treated the way he was, thus a potential world-class midfielder being wasted to mismanagement.

William Saliba’s Mishandling

William Saliba was brought in from the French league for a hefty fee of £27m  as the fee looked normal considering the French defender was a perfect profile player Arsenal needed. He had magnificent spells in France before his move. However, he never saw the light of day in the first team. He was loaned out to OGC Nice last season when everyone hoped he will be playing from the current season. Shockingly Arsenal kept Chambers and Kolasinac at the club and brought in Ben White while shifting the French centre back on another loan to Marseille. While every coach who managed Saliba was full of praise for him, Mikel Arteta, surprisingly, came to the conclusion that Sead Kolasinac was better than him.

Marseille are closing in on Matteo Guendouzi - A good move?
WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 08: William Saliba of Arsenal U21, U 21 during the EFL Trophy match between AFC Wimbledon and Arsenal U21 at Plough Lane on December 8, 2020 in Wimbledon, E EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or live services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications AFC Wimbledon v Arsenal U21 – EFL Trophy Copyright: xSebastianxFrejx

Whether Saliba’s friendship with Matteo Guendouzi and Mesut Ozil upon his arrival at the club became the issue or not remains unknown.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s Come & Get Me Plea

The Englishman had the world on his feet in 2019 with his selection in the national team. He was often deployed as a wingback at Arsenal under Wenger, Emery and Arteta. He was in the team when Arsenal beat Chelsea in that FA Cup final and things looked great for him as Arteta found a way to integrate him into the first team. However, since then he has suffered a similar fate to Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi. Cedric Soares was brought in upon the suggestion of Technical Director Edu with Maitland-Niles losing his place to Bellerin and Cedric eventually. The latter two are somehow still at the club where Ainsley being fed up with the mishandling, recently threw a tantrum on his social media.

Tottenham are interested in Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles - A shock target.
Bournemouth v Arsenal Premier League Ainsley Maitland-Niles of Arsenal before the Premier League match at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxCHN Copyright: xJeremyxLandeyx FIL-13988-0076

Mikel Arteta & Edu – The Master Minds

Arsenal fans always wanted Thierry Henry to come back to the club and take charge of the Gunners in hopes of reliving the glory days. They got their wish partly granted as we saw ex-Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta take the charge at the Emirates, although he had no prior experience of managing any team in the top five leagues. His job resume simply had a bold lettered phrase – “Assistant to Pep Guardiola”. However, that was enough for Arsenal to gift him the job.

Initially, it worked out as Arsenal won the FA Cup and Community Shield. However, Arteta’s lack of depth has been severely evident this current season. The Gunners are at an all-time low. They have lost all three opening games without scoring once. Arteta still looks confused after 3 years at the club as to how he wants his team to set up.

However, one cannot blame the downfall of Arsenal solely on Arteta. Arsenal have been on the end of very poor transfer decisions since the departure of Arsene Wenger. Technical Director Edu personally brought in players like David Luiz, Willian who had massive wages. There was no future with them as they were past their prime when they arrived. So those moves left Arsenal in massive financial jeopardy. It was recently reported that Edu and Arteta have fallen out of each other’s favours as they see the project differently as one is advocating for a quick fix while the other thinks the club should plan for the long run.

Arsenal’s Plan To Reconstruct

Arsenal’s plan this summer has always been to welcome more youth to prepare a team for the future. Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale and Albert Sambi Lokonga look like very good prospects considering their respective ages. The Gunners even managed to offload players with high wages. Instant success might not be a priority around the Emirates right now as the club looks to build up from scratch again. However, that strategy will not be as lucrative to the fans.

It’s the first time in the club’s long and illustrious 134-year history that they have lost their opening three league games without netting at least once. It was obvious that Arsenal’s start to the season was going to be difficult, with a trip to newly-promoted Brentford on the opening night followed by back-to-back matches against last season’s Champions League finalists, Chelsea and Manchester City.

But nobody would have expected things to be this bad after the opening three games. Arsenal now head into the international break bottom of the Premier League. Fans would be hoping for Arteta to continue with the future plan along with some respite for the present.

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