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Does Mikel Arteta deserve more time at Arsenal?

Sports Mole assesses Mike Arteta's time in the Arsenal dugout and determines whether the Spaniard is still the right fit for the job.

Mikel Arteta's Arsenal have finally got off the mark for the new season with back-to-back victories over Norwich City and Burnley, but the Gunners coach continues to divide opinion among the Emirates fanbase.

Over a year on from guiding Arsenal to their record-extending 14th FA Cup triumph, Arteta is navigating his side through their first campaign without European football for 25 years - a factor which many believed would spell the start of better fortunes domestically.

However, with just six points to boast from the first 15 on offer in the Premier League this season - and some of the same old problems arising in their two league wins - fears of another underwhelming campaign still linger in the minds of Gooners.

Here, Sports Mole assesses the highs and lows of Arteta's early time in the Gunners dugout and whether the 39-year-old deserves more time in North London amid talk of the axe.


The Good

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, May 9 2021© Reuters

Victories over Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City in his first half-season in charge represented quite the way for Arteta to endear himself to the Arsenal faithful, although that was when his three-at-the-back Gunners side set up to absorb the pressure and use the pace and precision of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the counter.

The skipper's powers appear to have waned, but at the other end of the pitch, Arteta is reaping the rewards of having each member of his first-choice backline fit. Gabriel Magalhaes and Kieran Tierney continue to prove their quality week in week out, Takehiro Tomiyasu is proving to be an excellent piece of business, Aaron Ramsdale has been a breath of fresh air, and Ben White's potential is evident despite his somewhat shaky start.

Much has been made of Edu's role in the transfer market, but there can be no denying that he and Arteta have overseen some astute arrivals over the past two windows, from Martin Odegaard and Thomas Partey to Ramsdale and Tomiyasu, and the introduction of Hale End academy products turned Arsenal's fortunes around last term.

During the final 20 games of the 2020-21 Premier League season, Arsenal's 37-point haul could only be bettered by Champions League winners Chelsea (41) and domestic champions Manchester City (48) and a tally of 50 wins from his first 92 games in charge - averaging 1.8 points per game - is not the worst return in the world.


The Bad

Arsenal's Granit Xhaka and Ben White look dejected after Brentford's Christian Norgaard scored their second goal on August 13, 2021© Reuters

If defeat to Brentford did not prove that Arsenal are still a far cry from where they want to be, subsequent defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City certainly demonstrated the gulf in class. Shipping five goals to the latter with Sead Kolasinac, Rob Holding and Calum Chambers in defence - while William Saliba starts week in week out for an in-form Marseille side sitting second in Ligue 1 - raised the same old questions once again.

Arteta's perceived stubbornness to stick with under-performing players is certainly not helping his cause either. Alexandre Lacazette arguably looked brighter than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in pre-season but just cannot get a look-in right now, while Gabriel Martinelli's talent is also being wasted on the bench as a highly inconsistent Nicolas Pepe's struggles in England continue.

Over the course of 180 minutes against Norwich and Burnley, Arsenal had 43 shots - 26 of which were on target - yet they only chalked up two goals. Neither of those strikes were evidence of well-worked training ground moves either - Aubameyang tapping home from a goalmouth scramble and a piece of Odegaard magic from a free kick - and such lack of ruthlessness is sure to harm Arsenal against the European-chasing clubs.

The Gunners boss admitted that his side "should have scored more" against Burnley, with the Gunners' sloppiness in the final third coming to the fore as a steadfast defence bailed the underperforming attack out of trouble. There is only so much that Arteta can do from the sidelines while watching another attack break down, but Arsenal's profligacy - whether it is down to confidence problems or another reason - must be rectified as the Spaniard seeks to shift to a 4-3-3 setup.


The Verdict

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta on August 28, 2021© Reuters

Having now been in control of the reins for over 18 months, Arteta has had more than enough time to settle in, establish a first-choice XI and identify which areas need strengthening in the transfer market, and to his credit, the latter has certainly been achieved.

Arteta has evidently learned from the best in Pep Guardiola - who has been an avid supporter of his former assistant, even in the wake of that 5-0 Etihad drubbing - and it is easy to forget that he is still a managerial novice as he approaches his 40th birthday next year.

In terms of potential replacements that have been touted, Christophe Galtier, Graham Potter and Thomas Frank are enjoying life at their respective clubs and are unlikely to consider leaving, while it would be a huge shock if Antonio Conte agreed to take over.

Arteta is said to enjoy a particularly strong relationship with Josh Kroenke and as such is expected to retain his position for the time being - probably the wisest choice when taking everything into account - but should the Gunners be mired in mid-table obscurity by Christmas, the powers-that-be may want to think again.


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Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring against West Bromwich Albion in the EFL Cup on August 25, 2021
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