Why Arsenal’s season is going wonky

OPINION: A managerial gamble of this scale has not been taken since Charlie Bucket was handed the keys to a chocolate factory

Thursday, 9th December 2021 — By Richard Osley

Mikel Arteta IMG_7781 (1)

Gunners boss Mikel Arteta

AS Everton inevitably ended their poor run of form by bossing Arsenal in every department including the head-stamping, it might have made you think how many businesses of this size – businesses are what we used to call football clubs – would put somebody with no management experience in charge?

A potshot gamble of this scale has not been taken since Charlie Bucket was suddenly handed the keys to Willy Wonka’s slave labour confectionery factory on the only basis that he liked chocolate and wasn’t a grabby little brat.

Chances are the kid didn’t know much about sales and marketing: the Wonka profits nosedived, the chocolate river had to be closed and we never did get a truly everlasting gobstopper.

At Arsenal, Mikel Arteta was appointed to the manger’s job without ever having a similar post at another club; he just liked football and wasn’t an annoying brat.

His CV simply ran: Hung out with Pep Guardiola, watched Pep Guardiola, have the same shoes as Pep Guardiola.

There’s a labour shortage in the UK at the moment and careers advisers sometimes suggest applying for a role just a small rung higher up the ladder, but getting the job was, for Arteta, what is commonly known as a “right touch”.

Even Aston Villa let the similarly young and hopeful Steven Gerrard get his feet wet in the main role at Rangers before taking him on as their manager. We’ll see, but he seems better from what he has learned on the job in Scotland.

Aren’t most careers supposed to grow by working yourself up to a prime job? The Arsenal gig is a privileged position to earn over years and after successes.

There’s a theory that it’s all very deliberate: if you throw such a big bone to a new starter, they can’t help but be grateful, and in return won’t cause too much trouble and pester on about needing new signings.

Who knows what the thinking is behind closed doors?

But even the armchair fans had a right to be confused when Arteta reached for Eddie Nketiah, who has already indicated he wants to leave, as a substitute against Everton ahead of club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or the team’s most expensive player, Pepe.

Arteta can play the chin-stroking wizard as much as he likes, but overthinking these things has already cost Arsenal many times; not least the occasion when the team was sent out without a real striker in a crucial European match.

We could list many more bizarre in-game decisions, but in the end the stats don’t lie: the purple patch of recent weeks was built on wins against the teams in the lowest positions.

Arteta’s Arsenal has folded on tougher terrain.

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