A picture that will be splashed across the internet. Granit Xhaka being sent off in the 58th minute by Graham Scott, all but ensuring Arsenal continues their descent from bad to worse. Another shocking moment of indiscipline, another red card, another poor result. Arsenal lose 1-0 to Burnley at home for the first time in over 40 years and the first time ever at The Emirates.
It was just about 90 minutes of frustration, ironically, aside from the 10 minutes of play that proceeded Xhaka’s sending off where Arsenal showed just a small glimpse of ability to up their tempo and play with a bit of intent.
To add insult to injury, the game winning goal in the 71st minute would come off the head of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and beat Leno off a corner kick for an own goal. As if his own woes couldn’t get any worse, his goal drought continues while he tallies a goal against Arsenal. One cannot imagine that will do wonders for his confidence leading up to Southampton.
Frustration, frustration, frustration. It’s just about the only thing these games leave you with, from start to finish. For once, the conversation may not be centered around the tactics. After all, Arsenal managed an xG of over 2.00, they just didn’t finish. The conversation will certainly start and stop with Arteta, his selection, and who are selected time and time again regardless of their play.
Arsenal Lineup (Burnley): Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Xhaka, Elneny, Saka, Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Subs: Runarsson, Ceballos, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Willock, Nketiah, Smith Rowe
It’s a side filled with three or four questionable selections that we have seen over and over and over again, yet Arteta has seemingly learned little from. Willian is a disaster time and time again. Xhaka was been poor, slow, tepid in his play, yet somehow rash and reckless with his attitude. His red card is 100% warranted and frankly, it’s an aspect of this game that we have seen a lot while at Arsenal.
Bellerin is a player that I feel has been criticized a lot this year by people with a hyper focus on poor aspects of his play, while not adequately acknowledging the positives he was bringing. Those positives — ball carrying, chance creation, attacking threat — have dried up and we are left with a play struggling immensely.
Finally, Lacazette, a player that has been in poor form for the last four or five months, now being forcefully shoved into a 10 role to try and make it as an attacking midfielder? Is that his fault or Arteta’s? A little bit of both. He can’t hack it as a striker any more which is certainly his fault, but the solution is NOT to play him in the midfield. There were some okay moments from Lacazette, but the idea that he is going to solve our issues between the lines, seems more of a dream. One that’s quickly becoming a nightmare.
These are just four people worth calling out, while I am sure many fans will have their own names to add to the list. But where does the blame fall?
A person can look at the events of this game and it’s easy to say they aren’t Arteta’s fault, and they aren’t. A reckless red card from Granit Xhaka, an own goal, a second moment of madness from Elneny that could have seen him be given marching orders just as easily as Xhaka. Lacazette doesn’t finish his chance in the first half to give a bit of comfort. The list could go on and on, but it has to be coupled with the overarching fact that Arteta is picking these players, and he is picking them often.
If good teams find ways to win, bad teams find ways to lose. And right now, Arsenal are a bad team routinely finding different ways to lose games. Two red cards in their last four league matches, own goals, poor finishing, over committing numbers, and players out there doing…whatever it is they are doing.
The blame lies with all involved, but the solution falls heavy on the man tasked with finding it. So far we have seen little changes, tiny alterations, but no sweeping changes. Well, now may be the time for a few sweeping changes.
Arteta has placed his faith in veterans who aren’t cutting it. Reports suggest he is beginning to lose sections of the locker room under the influence of a few key veterans. Yet, he continues to hand them the keys to his, and the club’s fate.
We can center this point around Xhaka, since yesterday it was his actions that were by far the most egregious. I will admit that my patience with Xhaka ran out a few years ago. I have long felt that he puts a serious cap on how good Arsenal’s midfield could be, he is seemingly difficult to play alongside as seen by the number of decent midfielders that look shocking with him as their partner, and I have voiced my belief that things wouldn’t get better until he was upgraded upon. Don’t take this as an agenda, but days like yesterday make me feel aggravatingly right.
This isn’t to say a side cannot win games with Granit Xhaka. Arsenal can and have. But there is so much about his game that is just poor. He’s not got enough attack in him to be a real attacking midfielder. He’s not got enough legs in him to be a real box to box midfielder. He’s not got enough discipline or mobility to be a stout defensive midfielder. So what is he? He’s just this Frankenstein’s monster, mutt midfielder that has a left foot and decent passing range. Arsenal NEED to sever ties. For good.
He was given his clean slate when Arteta arrived, he played decently in down the stretch last season, but he has reared his ugly head more and more lately. It wouldn’t surprise me if his play picked back up in correlation with Arsenal picking their game back up, but that’s not because “when Xhaka plays well, Arsenal play well”. No, it’s more “When Arsenal play well, Xhaka’s play hasn’t cost them, wasn’t as cautious as usual, or the quality was good enough”. I am done with him, and Arsenal really should be too. A 3 game ban offers us some respite.
But if this is the case, why is Arteta giving him control of the midfield? Xhaka is out of form and Lacazette is out of form. Two people given control of a matches fate by being plugged into the heart of the fight. Stop giving them these opportunities and put your faith in others, Mikel.
A final thought, and it comes in the vein of ‘Arteta Out’ or ‘Arteta In’. It is certainly the question that everyone is considering right now. I think it’s worth asking if Arsenal Football Club can even afford to get rid of a manger the way they scalped their internal structure and hitched themselves to Edu and Arteta, but I suppose if Arteta is not the answer, keeping him around does more harm than good. But I digress.
When it comes to answering ‘In or Out’, it is worth taking a second to ask if Arteta is the root of Arsenal’s problem. Would another manager really be the solution or would it be a recycling of the same thing we just went through to push off this exact moment next year? Arsenal have problems deeply rooted in their organization and playing staff, and they have gone unchecked for far too long, papered over by bandaid purchases, a few okay final season under Wenger, and a couple pieces of silverware.
There is not single solution to this issue. There is no player that solves this. No manager that fixes this on their own. There is a string of steps that need to be taken in the next YEARS to remedy the years of problems. Arteta has lost part of the locker room? Well, maybe it’s a part of the locker room worth losing.
Southampton midweek and they are buzzing in fourth place.