December 6, 2021

Arsenal in crisis: How low can they go?

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How much pressure is Mikel Arteta under? Just how low can Arsenal go? The Pitch to Post podcast panel discuss the crisis at the Emirates.

The Gunners were beaten 1-0 by Burnley on Sunday night, thanks in large part to Granit Xhaka’s sending off for grabbing Ashley Westwood by the throat, meaning Arteta’s side have just 13 points from 12 games.

This was the first time Arsenal have lost four in a row at home since 1959, it was Burnley’s first top flight win over Arsenal since 1974, and Arsenal’s 10 goals from 12 Premier League games is their lowest return since 1981. A truly record-breaking season for all the wrong reasons so far for Arsenal.

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Will Arteta be sacked?

ARSENAL 0-1 BURNLEY 3:01
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Burnley’s win over Arsenal in the Premier League

Sky Sports’ Gerard Brand

You can plan for the future, you can sit down as a board and say: “This is our direction, we’re sticking with it” – but it only takes one person on that board to say: “I don’t like this” for that stance of solidarity to drop. And in fact, if one person on that board starts doubting, that gives permission to others on the board to doubt, and that’s when it all falls apart.

There may be a grand plan here but the interests of club will come first, not Mikel Arteta’s interests. Arsenal have 13 points from 12 games. This isn’t an early season dip, this is a dozen games now, we’re nearly a third of the way into the season.

If they carried on at this rate they’d end up with 41 points at the end of the season. That was good enough for 15th place last season.

I think he will get a bit more time, and this time is crucial, because things can turn really sour if those players down tools. We’ve seen it time and time again – players can get managers sacked. I think some have already downed tools, you can tell by the number of changes Arteta makes.

He has got a huge job to keep them onside otherwise I think he will eventually go. It’s Saints at home on Wednesday – they’ve lost one in 10!

I don’t think Arsenal or Arteta can use the excuse of this being a bizarre Premier League season. They’re 12 points off the top with 12 games gone. This is below mid-table form, and they look a below mid-table team on the pitch. The performances haven’t warranted any sort of result, and that’s the worrying thing.

I think they’re going to end up finishing mid-table this season, but that’s nowhere near good enough, no matter what the Premier League looks like at the moment.

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Xhaka’s actions unforgivable?

Granit Xhaka appears to grab Ashley Westwood by the throat before his sending off
Image: Granit Xhaka appears to grab Ashley Westwood by the throat before his sending off

Sky Sports’ Kate Burlaga:

Xhaka’s let his side down. We’ve just been here too many times before with him. Arteta then actually tried to excuse it in some way, claiming it was part of this superior will to win. That may be the case for the initial challenge, but not the afters. Not getting in faces, putting your hands on someone’s throat.

This is a senior player. He’s captained Arsenal – although plenty would have questioned that – and is an experienced international with 80 Switzerland caps.

Discipline issues?

Arsenal have received six Premier League red cards since Mikel Arteta’s first game in charge in December 2019, double that of any other side in this time.

You could have some sympathy for him last season when he was jeered by the fans, that wasn’t nice to see. But this pseudo tough guy thing keeps continuing and it’s nonsense for me, it’s a temperament problem. It’s happened before, and if it keeps happening, that’s a point where you don’t just look at the player, but the manager picking him.

When was the last time Arsenal were ‘on the up’?

preview image 2:32
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said his side controlled a large part of the game against Burnley and should have had the game won long before Granit Xhaka was sent off

Sky Sports’ Gerard Brand

There have been moments where they’ve had a good team and there’s been lots of hope, but it always seemed to be hope, optimism, dreams, not actual quality to win games, and the success that comes from it.

They haven’t been in the Champions League quarters for a decade, they haven’t been in the Champions League since 2017.

Arsenal were probably the best team in Europe for three years in the early 2000s, and those memories and feelings last, they stick with Arsenal fans, that becomes a benchmark and it’s been nowhere near since. It makes it hard for them to take, I think. Manchester United are going through the same thing now, earlier stages of course. Liverpool had it for 30 odd years – they’ve only just got out of it. But this is so low and I think the fans deserve better from the players.

From what I can see, there’s a nice vibe around Arsenal – they’re always laughing, joking and smiling at training, they all seem to be pals, they do their Adidas promo videos, they’re cool, they connect with the fans well on social media, they’ve got good merch, they’ve got class off the pitch in their image – but on the pitch, and behind the scenes with the structure, there’s little class. In football, I think class and a winning mentality aren’t mutually exclusive.

I wonder what Arsene Wenger thinks of all this. He got a lot of stick in his latter years at Arsenal and although some of that was deserved, he did keep them competitive in the top four.

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Senior players letting side down

Pitch to Post
Image: Arsenal’s senior players are letting Mikel Arteta down

Sky Sports’ Kate Burlaga:

I was so struck in the north London derby by the sloppiness from Bellerin, the sideways passing from Willian, the way Aubameyang was beaten in all of his duels, besides from how peripheral he was in his attacking role.

Willian made a great start to life at Arsenal but he looks a shadow of the player he was, he doesn’t look like he knows what to do with the ball in the opposition third – two of his 14 crosses found a team-mate against Burnley, and what really struck me was the fact he made four forward passes. Four! The amount of times he went backwards was quite startling.

I think they look shorn of leaders still. Arteta has sided with experience time and time again, and it’s not been vindicated. That’s where the patience wears thin with supporters.

Souness: Arsenal players are just not good enough

Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness:

“Arteta has been let down by his players. These players are not good enough to play for Arsenal. They are a country-mile from where they need to be. They are not a very good team.

“Before the game l wrote down the players l would put my house on. I like Leno and Tierney. Aubayameng is a top player. That’s three. And l am going through the rest of them and l am struggling.”

Smith: Arsenal must stick by Arteta

Mikel Arteta
Image: Arteta’s Arsenal have just 13 points from 12 Premier League games

Sky Sports’ Alan Smith:

“Arteta has made mistakes, but you will along the way. Extending David Luiz’s contract, Willian seems a strange signing and he’s on a lot of money, and someone like Cedric Soares coming into the club. They are spending a lot of the “wage-bill on players of a certain age.

“Arteta will be scratching his head on how to turn into around. But as a manager you are only as good as your players and he hasn’t got a good enough group. He has some promising lads who are doing well in the Europa League and he will be looking at that for the Southampton game and beyond. He needs to do something, he needs to change this pattern.

“I can’t remember a time when Arsenal have been in this position.

“Arteta has kept faith in Xhaka, surprisingly l think, and he has blown it. It’s just that lack of discipline letting the side down. When you are in a hole, you don’t need to keep digging. He has let his team-mates down and it has cost them the game.

“There are so many problems at the football club. Behind the scenes, there will be players pointing the finger at Arteta. He has to cope with that. You just hope that the hierarchy stick with him and give him the authority to do what he will be trying to do over the next couple of years.”