Arsenal failed to qualify for Europe last season for the first time in 25 years and must improve this time around.
Although many fans were willing to give manager Mikel Arteta the benefit of the doubt last campaign, he simply has to lead the Gunners to better than an eighth-place finish now.
The former midfielder oversaw a terrific end to the 2020-21 campaign with the North Londoners winning six of their last eight games, however, he hasn’t been able to carry that momentum into the new season, and the pressure is starting to mount following a hugely disappointing defeat to Premier League newcomers Brentford on August 13th.
The Spaniard was a fan favourite as a player, and the majority of fans are willing him to succeed. However, his tenure has so far failed to progress and the club have been, somewhat unrealistically, linked to former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte in recent days.
For the first time in the best part of two decades, Arsenal were not particularly well-backed for a top four finish this season, despite their late-season form. The Gunners have become hard to trust, and punters have tended to swerve them when it comes to pre-season bets. It’s been five seasons since the Gunners finished inside the top four and as a result, many bettors have opted to take advantage of the increased number of pre-season football betting markets and back the Gunners to finish outside of the top six, or in some cases, in the bottom half. Mikel Arteta will be desperately hoping to change that perception over the coming months.
Changing the Dressing Room Dynamic
Arteta was appointed to try and change the dressing room culture at Arsenal, something his predecessor Unai Emery had failed to get on top of.
Under Arsene Wenger, the players tended to rule the roost, with the Frenchmen often letting the more senior figures in the dressing room have their say. However, Arteta is aiming to create a level playing field and a number of outspoken individuals such as Mezut Ozil have already been shown the door.
The club are also aiming to reduce the average age of the playing squad and as a result, there have been a number of younger players who have been given the chance to impress in recent years. As a result, there have been several bumps in the road. Nevertheless, the project is ongoing and therefore fans may have to be patient over the next couple of seasons.
Is Arteta the Right Man?
Arteta certainly has the credentials to succeed and having worked under Pep Guardiola, he has decent experience and connections in the game. He is meticulous and surprisingly astute when it comes to setting up his XI, however, he has so far been unable to turn the tide.
At Manchester City, several young players including Jack Harrison remarked upon his ability to feed them vital information and he has been credited with improving the all-round game of many academy graduates. With the likes of Emile Smith-Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah having featured prominently since Arteta’s arrival, he certainly appears to be the perfect candidate.
However, fans are beginning to lose patience, and the owners will be keeping a close eye on proceedings. He appears to be a terrific coach and has plenty of knowledge in the bank, however, questions remain over whether he is a strong enough leader for this football club.
He is a problem solver, and was an excellent foil for the more ponderous Guardiola, however, he simply has to improve performances and take the club forward during the 2021-22 campaign.
Will Arsenal Break Back into the Top 4 this Season?
With Chelsea having signed Romelu Lukaku and Liverpool looking somewhat refreshed, it may be tough to break back into the top four this season. Arsenal have made a poor start to the new campaign, and although their squad is far from complete, they need to improve significantly.
Thomas Partey’s injury is unfortunate, however, his return should help to improve in the final third. Ben White is highly-rated and once he feels comfortable in his new surroundings, he should be able to fulfil his potential. Less is known about Nuno Tavares and Albert Sambi Lokonga, however, both could easily make contributions this season.
The club certainly have potential under Mikel Arteta, however, it may be another season of disappointment. Things are heading in the right direction, however, changing the dynamic and the culture of the club is a seemingly lengthy assignment. With the majority of their top six rivals in rude health, the Gunners are unlikely to make their Champions League return anytime soon.