Arsenal are in big trouble and, even if they change the manager, they will still be stuck with a bunch of players who aren’t good enough, but if Mikel Arteta wants to turn things around, he needs to let go of something he has obviously picked up from Arsene Wenger.
I can’t say I’ve paid enough attention over the years to know if Pep Guardiola has a habit of sticking by underperforming players out of a heightened sense of loyalty tied to what they do in training/who they are as a person but it was certainly one of Arsene Wenger’s biggest faults. He was too loyal to players who didn’t deserve it.
As the Arsenal team was announced on Sunday ahead of the Burnley game there were groans of unsurprised dissatisfaction. Everybody who was available from the team that made a Horlicks of things at White Hart Lane was named in the starting lineup, the only change enforced with Mohamed Elneny replacing Thomas Partey.
The team that started against Burnley was as close to Mikel Arteta’s preferred starting XI as we can get.
While we have seen there are players Arteta is only too happy to throw under the bus, there are others who start no matter what.
Serious questions have to be asked, for instance, about Willian’s contract. Does it contain an obligation to start? What other reason can there be for his continued inclusion? It’s certainly not his creative input.
Then there’s the likes of Granit Xhaka who seems to get selected no matter how poorly he plays.
The problem with basing all your selections on what you see in training is that you ignore the fact that training is not a high pressure situation. I can practice a speech to perfection in my living room but it means nothing if I end up forgetting my words when faced with the faces of real people.
Wenger was far too loyal to far too many players during his time at Arsenal. Along with his stubbornness, which grew with his age, it was perhaps his biggest flaw.
Loyalty, when used right, is an incredibly powerful tool.
Loyalty for loyalty’s sake, however, never leads anywhere good.