Earlier this week, I wrote about Arsenal’s disheartening display against Aston Villa. One that saw the Gunners with an opportunity to move the ball, attack, create chances, score, continue their run of good form, and put real pressure on the teams that separated them from qualifying for the Europa League through the league, but resulted in a half-hearted, toothless, example of what a team looks like putting together 500 side-to-side passes with their 70% possession.
There were a few further thoughts and reflections, but all in all, not much new was learned about this Arsenal side and the first half was so stale that the two major points of interest were Villa’s goal and a sign flown overhead by a small group of supporters that said, “Back Arteta Kroenke Out”.
In all likelihood, the sign shouldn’t have even been a talking point. The sentiment itself is nothing new. Someone wants Kroenke out and they believe people should put their trust in Arteta? Yes, well, thats how most people feel. I’m all for wanting the Kroenkes to be held accountable for their ownership. Everyone within Arsenal should be held to high standards. And I’m all for people wanting to hear the cry, but let’s temper our belief and expectations. Flying a plane over is not going to make Stan sell, protesting and calling for him to sell won’t make him sell, and this global pandemic that saw his teams bleed cash won’t make him sell. In all reality, Stan Kroenke will be the owner for aa long time, especially if he has entwined himself and club through his loan action earlier in the mont when KSE took on Arsenal’s debt.
The game was so poor from an Arsenal perspective, that after the match, media interviewing Arteta skipped the formalities and jumped straight to the plane to get Arteta’s thoughts. “I have full support from the Kroenkes, from the board, from the sporting director,” said Arteta, “and we are putting a very strong plan together to try to do as much as we can in the shortest period.”
Of course Arteta is likely to say this. What did anyone expect? Him to rant hellfire about his bosses? The problem is people have a difficult time believing. If Arteta says he is backed, feels he has the backing, and is trying to reassure us all, that’s fantastic. But we don’t see the backing where it counts. Not just the backing of Arteta, the backing of Arsenal. Backing Arteta verbally or being excited for what he brings is great, until it’s time to “put your money where your mouth is” and THAT is where Arsenal supporters are concerned there won’t be backing.
This week offered 3 solid examples of why Arteta needs and deserves the full arsenal of support. Dramatic wins against Liverpool and City where Arsenal are punching well above their weight, dominated for 90 minutes, scrapping to make tackles, and yet Arteta is getting more from these players. Following those performances, a flatline. A dud against Villa in a match that only had stakes because of how hard to team worked to make it mean something, but there wasn’t enough quality or legs to push on and make it count.
Inconsistency has been a real issue this season, and is often a real issue for incomplete teams. The reliance on everyone doing their jobs, diligently, and coming together isn’t there and a dependability on individual brilliance from stars has taken over. Arteta nearly said as much in his recent interview ahead of Arsenal’s final match against Watford.
“We haven’t been consistent. Because we obviously had a lot of issues as well in the background, a lot of things that had happened. But at the end of the day, we weren’t good enough to be with the top teams. That’s not a lie and it shows the big room for improvement and the gap that is still there and has to be minimised really, really quickly in order to be in a good position to challenge those teams.”
Kroenke may not be leaving, but the obvious fact is that Arteta has earned the full extent of backing the club can offer him. He has put out a changed product that shows signs of being built upon a solid foundation, a feeling that didn’t exist under Emery despite early results, he has won over supporters though transparency, energy and honesty in the media, and through it all, he has become a strong face for the club. All of this, in his first 4 months of actual matches with the team.
“We have a beautiful challenge, a very demanding challenge but a beautiful challenge ahead of us. We have to get this right and bring this club back to where it belongs which is with the top teams in the country and in Europe. In order to do that we have to make a lot of good decisions,’ says Arteta, and he is right. The least the club owner can do is give him a complete set of tools to do the job.