Further Evidence That Fans Are Too Hard On Arteta

The ones that got away?

My Post a few days ago showing how Arsenal’s form since Boxing Day has been good enough to secure a top four finish if spread across a whole season prompted a vigorous debate.

If anything the weight of opinion was stacked against my optimistic outlook, with a sense that many supporters (including those who comment here on AA) have little faith in the ability of Mikel Arteta to bring back the good times to N5.

That more pessimistic outlook may well prove to be correct, but I’ll keep banging my drum for our young manager until the facts tell me otherwise.

And to that end I wanted to say a quick word about some of the “alternatives to Arteta” whom fans have mentioned over the last year-to-18-months.

I think it’s fair to say that most of us were prepared to give Arteta a chance when he was appointed, but that we undoubtedly had reservations about the fact that he was young, inexperienced and had never managed any club let alone a ‘top’ club like Arsenal.

But when things went a bit south in the first half of this season I read (and heard) a lot of comments along the lines of “we should have gone for…”

Among the names in the frame were Carlo Ancelotti, Brendan Rodgers, David Moyes, Marcelo Bielsa, Ralph Hasenhuttl and Rafa Benitez. Some people even mentioned a certain Jose Mourinho, but the less said about that the better.

Taking a quick look at how those ‘alternative Arsenal managers’ have done over the last season or so quickly demonstrates that there are no easy answers in football.

Brendan Rodgers has been the one clear success story, head and shoulders above the rest. He has steered Leicester City to an FA Cup win and almost certainly a Champions League place next year.

But after that, the other contenders aren’t so impressive. David Moyes has probably overachieved at West Ham given how poor they have been in recent years. At one point the Irons were looking like a good outside bet for a top four finish, but they have fallen away badly in the latter part of the season and it’s not inconceivable that Arsenal could overtake them. Their late season decline reminds me of what used to regularly happen when Moyes was in charge at Everton.

And speaking of Everton, Ancelotti was probably top of the list of managers whom some fans said we should have appointed instead of Arteta (he took up his post at Goodison at almost the same time that Arteta took over at Arsenal).

Rather like Moyes, Ancelotti had an impressive first half of the season but Everton are currently one place and one point above us in the table and, again, we may well finish ahead of them.

Leeds, too, had a strong start to their campaign but have fallen away really badly under Marcelo Bielsa and now languish in 10th place, while Southampton, under Hasenhuttl (a manager whom I was touting as a possible prospect for us!) are in 14th after a poor season.

And what of Rafa Benitez you may ask? Well, he left his Chinese league club in April, having had a very indifferent season with them. He has not currently found a new coaching role.

I’m sure there are many other managers who were mooted in relation to Arsenal and whom I have overlooked here, but some will have been unattainable for a club like ours and others unavailable as realistic options for other reasons.

My point is not to criticise the coaches mentioned above: they are mostly very good. It is to make a plea for judging Arteta by a reasonable standard. If we had had Ancelotti, Bielsa, Benitez etc would we have had a better season in 2020-21? We’ll never know, but it certainly wouldn’t have been as simple as “appoint Ancelotti, get top four” as we’ve seen with his campaign at Everton.

This debate will no doubt rumble on for a long time (probably until Christmas, by which time we will know whether we are properly competitive under Arteta or whether it’s time for a change), but the comparison with other “might have been” Arsenal managers is an interesting diversion in the mean time.



31 Responses to Further Evidence That Fans Are Too Hard On Arteta

  1. Didrik Plehn says:

    State of the club when Arteta got appointed, all the problems he inherited. Arteta has been our manager for approximately 17 months, and it has been the most challenging 17 months since the 50s, which is easy to forget. I’m not happy with everything he has done, but for me it’s cost / benefit. We don’t get a success guarantee with our next manager either…

    I don’t agree with your opinion about David Moyes, he has done a great job with West Ham, and he did a great job with Everton. In my opinion he can make mediocre teams much better, but he shouldn’t be considered as an Arsenal manager.

    Keep up the good work with your blog 👍

  2. RockyLives says:

    Thanks Didrik

    There was a time in the late Wenger period when Moyes seemed to be the top name on most fans’ lips to replace him.

    I agree he has done well at the Hammers, but, like you, I have my reservations about whether he could ever take a club to the very top.

  3. pbarany says:

    I generally like your posts, but this seems to be a pretty biased one.

    It doesn’t seem a suitable performance indicator for Arteta that “how did others do who were recommended, considered, or even rumored to manage Arsenal”. Or maybe put it like this: does the accumulated table points show the managerial performance? I doubt that. Let’s not take long term points and silverware into consideration this time and focus solely on this campaign. I think Klopp made a terrible job this season (though it doesn’t mean he is a poor coach per se). Possibly not making the CL cut is unacceptable – not only with Liverpool’s traditions, but mostly with them being the title holders, but even more so starting the campaign with a squad worth over 1B. And if we take the squad value – reflecting depth, quality, quantity into account – which I’m 100% sure we must, but everybody is entitled to their own opinion and performance indicators – will we see how good Rodgers really did, and how superior Ancelotti is to Arteta, independent from who will peak the other at the end of the season by a point or two. They all did it with a lesser squad. In fact Dean Smith did a lot better job with Aston Villa, probably Bielsa too with Leeds than us. So when we say “oh, it is a lot easier for Pep as he manages Manchester City”, this aspect should be applied to Arsenal, as Mikel not only led the team to the worst league performance – at least in my lifetime – but also amortized the squad value with the 3rd highest rate since his appointment.

    I’m quite sure though he is a better coach already than he was a year and a half ago. So there is a high chance – almost certainty – that he would manage Arsenal better next season than he did this campaign. But there are 2 dilemma remains:
    1. Will that be enough? Are we better off if we end the season at #8 place or this season’s #9-10? If we prioritize the league position – or playing in Europe – Mikel has little chance compared to more experienced coaches with better tactical awareness. (I’m not talking about big Sam, but Gasperini, Favreu, Jardim, Valverde, so we don’t have to compare Mikel to the big guns like Zidane, Allegri, or Guardiola)
    2. Does he deserve to keep managing the club, after he not only couldn’t improve upon Wenger’s twilight years, but proved to be a worse coach than Emery in almost every possible way? (The number of goals conceded, his English skills and his adorable post-match explanations/excuses are the only notable exceptions.)

    When SportBible lists Emery among the worst managerial appointments of the last decade, that doesn’t flatter Arteta either…

  4. RockyLives says:

    Well argued points pbarany

    I would just counter that an awful lot of Arsenal fans think our recruitment has been terrible in recent years and that our squad is very poor (and in no way comparable with the likes of Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and ManU).

    If that’s true, then Arteta’s raw materials are not much better than those that Ancelotti, Smith and Rodgers have at their disposal.

  5. RC78 says:

    Overall, I think Arteta has done a decent job delivering a trophy on his first season with us but it is fair to say that this season, our team has disappointed. I think we should be a lot closer to a Top 5 finish than we currently are. I also think that we should have done better in all Cups, including the Europa league.

    I think that Arteta basically has until 31st of December to show he has improved the team and its results. Ultimately, we want to be competing for the top prizes and fare well in all competitions. While some of our squad is useless, we also have some talented players and apparently, Arteta and Edu will be backed again by the owners to invest in identified players this summer. This summer is the summer of all summer for Arteta and our club in a way – get this summer right and we will be ok for another 18 months, get this summer wrong and we will be stuck as an average team for at least another 18 months….so based on this, I am happy to give a full assessment on Arteta (and Edu) at the end of this calendar year and not beforehand.

    As for coaches, Ancelotti and Rodgers are superior to Arteta IMHO. And the good thing with these coaches is that their teams play good football and as managers, they are usually very liked by their players.

  6. RC78 says:

    Thanks for another fine post Rocky

  7. Didrik Plehn says:

    We have a mediocre unbalanced squad with some very promising players.

    I wonder how our season would have been without Saka and ESR? We have delivered much better from December to May than August to December. I’m almost certain we will manage top six next season, with a decent transfer window perhaps top four.

    Our main objective next season should be CL qualification. Much more convenient to play Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Europe.

  8. LBG says:

    Another fine post, Rocky,which, most will know I agree with almost completely.
    The comparison with other “possibles is legitimate, and a comparison with the current squads of those “possibles” is just as legitimate.
    Didrik “state of the Club…..problems inherited”
    As I have commented before, our recruitment for eight years before Arteta took over was worthy of relegation!
    Some were not even journeymen; several were only there for the beer( money); some had been there for too long and had lost true drive; most had little idea what fighting for the badge really meant.
    At the same time, the structure upstairs was dismantled – intentionally I feel by the Kroenkes. Take out any who are outspoken. We, the owners, want a steady, undemanding ship- whether at Board level, coaching or scouting level.
    Arteta is climbing a mighty mountain and he is only just at base camp. He now needs his team to pull together. His blooded youth to come forward and tell the slackers to fuck off or shape up. And he needs patience from us and, as always in footie, a lot of luck.
    I choose not to analyse the possibles’ squads, but I defy readers to find truly weaker squads than our own.

  9. RockyLives says:


  10. LBG says:

    RC says ” ultimately, we want to be competing for the top prizes, and fare well in all competitions”.
    My concern is, without the bottomless pits of money that Manshitty, Chelski and Manure have, without kicking out the disinterested Kroenkes, can ANY coach get his team in that position of genuinely “competing?”

  11. RC78 says:

    If Rodgers manages with Leicester to get a Top-4 spot and an FA Cup, I am sure we can as well 🙂 A little bit of oil/gas money wouldn’t hurt in the process, of course

  12. pbarany says:

    You are right, Rocky, we are venturing in the realms of subjective perceptions and (likely biased) evaluations, but I – for one – think that we have a great squad capable of doing big things. Last year we not simply won the FA Cup, but were better than every opponent, including – but not limited to – Chelsea and Man City. I honestly believe that Xhaka is a great player ridiculously underrated. Furthermore Gabriel is excellent, Tierney either already the best LB in the PL or will become such in the next 1-2 seasons. (OK, I have said the same on Bellerin which didn’t materialize, but he is not that liability as many fans and pundits believe.) Partey has obvious qualities just need a proper formation and partner – whom could be Xhaka, Aouar, Gravenberch… Saka and ESR have great skills, already competitive, and will continue to develop. Pepe is a lot better than Zaha – who are always rumored to join, and I could go on… In fact I don’t see any position where we don’t have good players, but it obviously doesn’t mean we have world class everywhere. And we have great squad players (often misused), who can help with rotation, like Chambers, Mari, Guendouzi, Elneny, AMN, Soares, Martinelli, Nketiah, etc.

    So I don’t see we have a very poor squad. And I don’t agree that we have poor recruitment at all, wemade plenty of good and great signings without splashing cash like MU or Chelsea; however we are one of the – or maybe THE – worst club when it comes to selling, trimming or letting go (Cesc, RvP, Sanchez, Ramsey, Cazorla, koscielni, Monreal, Wilshere, Ozil, Mustafi, Mkhi, Papa, Torreira, etc.) It is subjective, but if you are willing to consider my view on having a strong squad, then the conclusion is obvious: we need a proper coach/manager that is able to handle it. To bring out the best from everybody, to tailor the formation and tactics to the opponent, to make useful changes during game management, to give opportunities to academy players, to play entertaining, exciting attacking football again, etc. And I don’t see “it has been the most challenging 17 months since the 50s”, we just struggle, because Arteta is a mediocre coach. Wenger had his fair share of challenges when key players left even an invincible team, when oil money changed the game, when greedy agents convinced their players to run down their contracts. Emery had his struggles with no left footed CBs, and with an overall error-prone defense. And it is impossible to overlook that Arteta has a significantly better team than Unai. He has made strong reinforcements like Partey and Gabriel, he has Tierney who only had a handful of fit games under Emery, he got rid of some older, under-performing players like Sokratis, Mustafi and Mkhi, plus Saka, Nketiah and Smith-Rowe are obviously better players than they were 2 years ago. Yet, Emery managed to collect 70 points in his first season with Arsenal, while Mikel will be congratulated if we get to 60…

    I know, this is not a popular or likeable stand, bit I think fans are not hard enough on Arteta, as not playing in Europe is not just bagging rights or vanity. It is – without exaggeration (!) – the single worst thing happened to Arsenal in the last 30 years.

  13. LBG says:

    Your considered views are very welcome on this site and, as subjective perception is want to do, a disagreement is likely.
    Adjectives are canny parts of speech and needless to say open to interpretation.
    Ignoring the big mistakes already solved of Mustafi, Socratis, and Kolasinac, a d presuming for a squad to be “great”, there must be at least some great players in it, I have a question for you.
    Of the players listed below, would you describe any of them, at this moment, to be “great” players, or even worthy of being in a “great” squad?
    Willian, Luiz, Xhaka, Ceballos, Bellerin, Soares.

  14. LBG says:

    Where is RA when a bit of Shakespeare is required to lighten the mood?
    But at least Leicester beat the Chelski.😁

  15. RockyLives says:


    What a good comment.

    Funnily enough I agree with you about our squad (and about Xhaka, although that’s not a popular opinion).

    Regarding recruitment you are spot on about the problem being how we dispose of players, not how we recruit them (although I think there has been a separate issue with some – though by no means all – of our signings being poor, including Mustafi, Kola, Willian).

    Since winning the title, Leicester have stayed competitive despite selling key players because they have brought in very large sums for those players and then spent wisely on replacements:
    Chilwell £45m
    Maguire £78m
    Mahrez £61m
    Drinkwater £34m
    Kante £32m

    Meanwhile we have been paying people to take players off our hands.

    Regarding Arteta we’ll have to agree to disagree for now. I still think he might come good next season. If he doesn’t I’ll be happy to swallow my slice of humble pie.

  16. RockyLives says:

    Yes, where are you Redders? We need you…

  17. LBG says:

    Sorry I forgot you answered my Xhaka query…..just giving you a second chance!

  18. Didrik Plehn says:

    pbarany- It seems like you blatant are ignoring facts.

    State of the club when Emery got sacked. Total shake up in more or less in all departements, not many left of our previous management or key employes. Even people we hired in 2018 / 2019 have left included Raul and Sven Mislintat. Arteta inherited lots obstacles, conflicts and players with a very negative influence on the dressing room, most of them were offloaded December/ January.

    We have had three managers and one interim manager since January 2018 and it seems to be difficult to get results with our squad. Young players don’t win you titles and you can’t have too many of them in your squad or Xl at the same time. Yes, Arteta has probably a better squad than Emery got, but in football you don’t always get what’s expected due to known and unknown reasons.

    In addition to all our internal and external obstacles did we also get the pandemic and lockdown, not particularly beneficial for a young manager with a struggling club. Three weeks after we finished the previous season we started a new, without summer break and proper pre-season preparations. Not particularly beneficial for a young manager with a struggling club. This season we are playing same number of games in a shorter time span, never happened before. We have more or less played two seasons without a proper break, with a more challenging game schedule than ever before.

    What other managers could have done in the same situation with our current squad is meaningless to discuss, it’s a question with no answer. I’m behind our manager and players and I have enough perspective to understand that being Arteta during the last 17 months must have been very complicated. I’m quite sure that Arteta would have done better in a normal season with summer break, and proper pre-seasons preparations. In my opinion Arsenal’s main problem isn’t the manager, but the owner and board.

  19. LBG says:

    Hear hear! And shouldn’t football be an art, anyway?

  20. Aaron says:


    As usual, another fantastic post to get people involved.

    Will echo the sentiment that ksE is the root of all evil.

    However, you know it is coming, Bielsa has been crushing it, no and’s, if’s, or but’s.

    In 2018, they were 13th in the Championship, with little budget, and 1 spot below us this year. I have watched many of their games in the last 2 years and they are leagues above us in the entertainment factor and getting the most out of a squad.

    Not saying it is sustainable or he is the right coach for us, but it can be done with youth, scouting and coaching.

    As an aside, if AFC had chosen moaninho, I was out forever, just let it be known.

    Mid December it is or maybe not.

  21. RockyLives says:

    Didrik – another very good comment. It has been a pleasure having you and pbarany join the conversation today.

  22. RockyLives says:

    I just listened to the Arseblog Arsecast Extra podcast and it seems like my post about our form since Boxing Day has had some impact in the Gunnersphere as they dealt with a couple of questions on the subject.

  23. Didrik Plehn says:

    Even Guardiola and Klopp needed time and big investments to be successful. I love Arsenal and have done it since 1971, I’m convinced that we are going to be successful again. In the meantime we should support our club and get rid of the hostile atmosphere surrounding our club. It’s only beneficial for our opponents 👌

  24. Didrik Plehn says:

    Many thanks RockyLives, I enjoy very much to read objective blogs about our club 👍😍

  25. RockyLives says:

    We welcome all viewpoints on here provided the discussion is respectful of others and not abusive.

    I hope you’ll keep commenting in the future.

  26. Didrik Plehn says:

    LBG – I agree with you, but we need some trophies as well…

  27. Rasp says:

    Great work, thank you Rocky. The quality of the post has been matched by some quality responses and some excellent new bloggers on the site.

    As you know I’m also in the ‘give Mikel more time’ camp. We can never know how much say any manager has in recruitment and the introduction of a director of football adds further doubt …. so I hope Mikel and Edu are singing from the same hymn sheet.

    Just a quick point about this season. We relied heavily on Auba to provide the goals last season. This season for whatever reason he hasn’t come close to that form and so we had to work out a different way to score … and latterly that has been successful. We have lacked goals from midfield for a couple of seasons now, but there are signs ESR has added goals to his game … but what about trying Willock instead of Ode next season. With Willock playing the way he is, the thought of ESR, Saka, Willock, Martinelli, Pepe and KT is mouthwatering.

  28. omgarsenal says:

    rocky….strangely enough, when we were mooting replacements for Wenger, I felt Arteta wasn’t the best choice. I did promote the idea of Tuchel or Loew and never considered any of the names you mentioned in your article, since I felt that most of them had not done that well in the EPL or elsewhere and trying to replace a giant like Wenger called for another giant. Since Arteta’s initial successes, i have seen a manager working under exceptional circumstances, in the most difficult period of Football’s history, fighting against some of his own Board and serious annual injury conundrums which have ruined his orderly plans. Yet he has done very well in the second half of the season and while we may not be in Europe or in the top 4, we are seeing the steady development and improvement of our youth players and reserves and I am confident we will see a better team take the field in 2022.

  29. JM says:

    CEO Vinai Venkatesham – “no confidence, with him managing the financial side previously, could he be the competent main man now?”.
    Director of Football Operations Richard Garlick – “since he is new although he is with experience in the EPL, 100% support behind for now”.
    Technical Director Edu – “50/50, he should be the glue to link Garlick, Arteta, Mertesacker and the scouting team together. Please make it work”.
    1st Team Manager Mikel Arteta & Academy Manager Per Mertesacker – “50/50. I would give them, if they are still around, a minimum of 5 years to maximum of 10 years, to get our club to consistently challenge for top 4 in the EPL and win the EPL title at least once”.
    Chief Scout (who??) – “It is an unknown right now”.

    Board (Stan & Josh Kroenke, Tim Lewis and Philip Harris) – “no confidence, please invite Brady, O’Leary and Flamini into the board at the very least”.

  30. LBG says:

    So much fun with the suggestion Harry “wants to break free”, to prove ” the only way is up”.
    It is almost as good as Arsenal winning a trophy! 🤣

  31. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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