Mikel Arteta went into this season knowing his job was nowhere near as secure as he would like it to be and with fans back in the stadium, his process needs to start delivering very soon.
Arsenal were one of the best teams for the second half of last season. Stand still long enough and somebody will tell you about that.
We struggled at the start of last season, so the narrative goes, because Mikel Arteta didn’t get to have a full pre-season with them.
So what’s the excuse this season? The Euros? The Olympics? The injuries?
Sure, it was unfortunate to lose Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette on top of Thomas Partey and Gabriel, and they no doubt could have made a difference against Brentford on Friday night as Arsenal went down 2-0, but Arsenal also said to be trying to sell two of those three players. What will we do then?
Mikel Arteta strikes me as a man who needs everything to be perfect. Just look at his hair.
If the wind is right, and the players all in the same zone at the same time, and nothing goes wrong, then it works. But life and football aren’t like that. Games are played on pitches, not paper. There is no perfection, even Pep Guardiola will tell you that and he’s been at this game a lot longer than Arteta.
It doesn’t matter if, deep down in the minutiae, the stats shows that Arteta is making progress, the naked human eye and brain are telling Arsenal fans something very different, and that is what will determine Arteta’s future.
Arsenal won their last four league games last season, and of their last 20 matches in all competitions, they won 11 (lost 4, drew 5), beating Chelsea, Tottenham, and Leicester.
Compare that to the first 20 of the season and you see stats of P20 W13 D1 L6. Leaving aside the fact different competitions were involved, for the sake of making a point, that means for the first part of the season, when Arsenal were sh*t we picked up 40 points and, for the bit of the season Arsenal were meant to be much better, 37.
So where is this progress?
It doesn’t matter if it’s there if you need to dig down into the weeds of Arteta’s tactics to find it. If it can’t be seen by the naked eye and it isn’t translating into improved league form, it doesn’t exist.
I’ve spoken long and often about the issues Mikel Arteta has. How his inexperience in man management is costly, how he has already mastered the art of saying lots without saying anything at all in interviews, and how he is so focussed on perfection, the stick up his arse is stifling Arsenal.
You wouldn’t think from all that that I have genuine fondness for Arteta, but I do. I’m no tactics guru like Stephen Bradley, but I also know what my eyes tell me.
They tell me Arsenal aren’t making progress as they should. They tell me that we should be seeing more from what we have and they tell me that Arteta’s inexperience is proving to be costly.
Next up is Chelsea, who have already saved his Arsenal job once. Can they do it again?