Arsenal hired former midfielder Mikel Arteta as its new manager last Friday, and the 37-year-old Spaniard has plenty to do in order to return the Gunners to relevancy in the Premier League. The North London outfit currently sit 11th in the league table and have had a poor run of form over the last two months, leading the club to sack Unai Emery at the end of November.
Here’s a list of three things we feel need to be addressed by Arteta:
Figure out Özil’s future, and do it pronto
Much has been made of Mesut Özil’s future at Ashburton Grove, and this has to be something Arteta addresses in the first two weeks of his stewardship. Sit the German down and find out where his head is at. Is it on politics and things away from football, or is it on playing for Arsenal — or elsewhere?
If it’s on political matters, fine. We won’t discuss politics here, and Özil has a right to speak his mind in whatever forum he wishes. He shouldn’t, though, take away from the football club, and he shouldn’t need Arsene Wenger to speak for him.
If it’s playing for Arsenal, great. The supporters hope he can regain his edge and help the club get out of mid-table. It won’t necessarily be on Özil should they fail to make European football next season, given other problems on the pitch, but not making a European competition next season — and sure, Arsenal are still in the running for this current season’s Europa League title, and a spot in next year’s Champions League — would and should be considered an epic disaster.
If it’s playing elsewhere, so be it. If that’s the case, put Özil out on the market and start fielding offers, with a deadline of the middle of January. Don’t let it linger until the end of the transfer window, as you can use whatever fee you can get for the midfielder on other problem areas in the team before the window closes.
Fix Arsenal’s biggest problem: recruitment
Alan Scherer said it after Emery got the sack — and let’s face it, Emery was set up to fail; any manager who replaced Wenger would have a microscope as large as the Hubble on him the moment he took his seat in the dugout — Arsenal have a problem with recruitment, and not only that, the fans have, at times, expectations that are too high on the players they have brought in.
A lot of the players in Arsenal’s squad aren’t the happy go lucky crew of years past. There’s a mood about them that makes you just not want to support them. They lack the fire that was there a decade ago.
If Arteta, a former Gunner, can bring that pizzazz back to Arsenal, players with verve and energy, the North London side can be fun again.
Sign better players? How about fix the style of play?
Oh, if it were only so easy.
We can’t say “spend more,” seeing Arsenal spent £132 million in this past summer’s transfer window. The fact of the matter is, they’ve spent on the wrong players.
The Gunners only have 48 goals across all three competitions so far, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring 13 of them. Gabriel Martinelli, the Brazilian, has mainly scored in Europe — but there won’t be another European match for Arsenal until February. Alexandre Lacazette, who flourished a year ago, has only six goals, with five in the league. Nicolas Pepe, who the club purchased from Lille in the summer, has only scored twice in the league; right now, that’s £18 million per goal, including the two he’s scored in the Europa League.
Outside of that, only four players have scored goals in the league.
But quite possibly it comes down to the way the Gunners have devolved over the last season and a half: they aren’t playing the beautiful football employed by Wenger — and that had its own foibles — and it has shown in the way Arsenal have played as of late. There is no passion in their football, and Arteta will need to bring that back to bring the club back to relevance.
This is Arteta’s first managerial job, and it’s a big one. If he can do all of that — the first is pretty simple, I would think — then he will be applauded.
If he can’t… Arsenal may be in a bigger hole than anyone have realized.