‘Arteta has made mistakes, like Luiz & Willian’ – Arsenal may have to turn to youngsters, says Smith

David Luiz Mikel Arteta Willian
Getty
The ex-Gunners striker says too many players “lack the desire and hunger” for a fight at the Emirates, leaving their manager in a difficult situation

Mikel Arteta was always going to make mistakes as a “rookie manager”, says Alan Smith, with the offer of a new contract to David Luiz and the signing of Willian considered to be two early errors of judgement.

The Gunners turned to a familiar face for inspiration back in December 2019, with another change in the dugout made after the decision to part with Unai Emery.

Arteta responded to an SOS call from north London and left Pep Guardiola’s side at Manchester City in order to fill the first managerial role of his career to date.

He has offered the odd sign of encouragement, with FA Cup and Community Shield successes overseen, but consistency has remained elusive for those at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal are currently enduring their worst start to a season in 39 years, leading to questions being asked of those on and off the field, and Smith admits that an inexperienced coach is being let down by so-called stars and his own decision making.

The former Gunners striker told the Evening Standard, with tactical tweaks potentially in the air: “Too many senior players are letting him down. Too many appear to lack the desire and hunger for what is turning into a long, cold winter.

“I said last week Arteta is bound to make mistakes as a rookie manager. And he has.

“Extending David Luiz’s contract cost the club a lot of money without giving the team anything extra. Likewise, the expensive acquisition of Willian didn’t look good business at the time. It looks even worse now following several anonymous outings that reek of a player with little to prove or achieve towards the end of his career.

“These two, of course, are not solely to blame for the worrying position Arsenal now assume. The other two main attackers — Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — can’t buy a goal or indeed find any inspiration for the uphill task.

“As a manager, that’s got to make you think. Standing on the sideline at Dundalk, Arteta saw some young players busting a gut to impress, eager to make a mark at senior level. We’re talking about youngsters with lots of potential such as Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock, Folarin Balogun and Emile Smith-Rowe, a player rated very highly by many at the club.

Article continues below

“Would it be out of the question to throw some in on Sunday to offer fresh ideas and enthusiasm? I mean, we’re talking about Burnley, not Bayern Munich. That’s not to disrespect Sean Dyche’s side, a team struggling just now but one that could easily embarrass the Gunners.

“Fighting for their lives, the visitors won’t lack for passion and spirit. If Arsenal don’t match that, the situation could get worse. Because of that, maybe it’s time for Arteta to make a statement by picking the kids.”

Arsenal will play host to the Clarets languishing in the bottom-half of the Premier League table and with dreams of forcing their way back into top-four contention already starting to fade.

Close