Arteta out or trust the process? Arsenal’s collapse sparks familiar debate

Mikel Arteta Arsenal Tottenham 2021-22Getty Images

A quick glance at social media in the hours following Arsenal’s defeat at Newcastle on Monday night was all you would have needed to get a sense of the scale of disappointment amongst the club’s fanbase.

Almost immediately, ‘Arteta Out’ was trending, as is often the way after a poor result.

Arsenal’s manager has made some big strides this season in his attempts to bring the club back together after such a difficult few years, but the fall out created by the back-to-back defeats against Tottenham and Newcastle shows that some division still exists.

So too did the reaction to the news that Arteta had been handed a new three-year contract by the club earlier this month.

While the majority of Arsenal fans were happy that the club had tied the Spaniard down to a new deal, there were some who were confused by the timing of the announcement, given the season had yet to reach its conclusion.

And those supporters who questioned the wisdom of awarding Arteta a new deal without a top-four spot having been secured have been quick to voice their discontent following the last two defeats which have all but ended Arsenal’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

When asked whether this season will now be viewed as a missed opportunity, should Spurs get the point they need at Norwich this weekend to secure fourth spot, Arteta said: “It will be for sure because we were there and mathematically it was in our hands.

“That feeling could be there if it happens, and it will take some time to go away. 

“But that is part of football and you cannot take notice of what happened a week or two weeks ago whether it was positive or negative.”

The debate over Arteta is nothing new. 

It’s something that has gone hand in hand with the Arsenal manager since he was appointed.

Two successive eighth-placed finishes in the Premier League have ensured there are plenty who feel he is not the right man to take the club forward and those detractors remain, even though the Gunners can finish no lower than fifth this time around.

But is that fair?

At the start of the season, few would have given Arsenal any hope of going on to secure a top-four spot, especially after they opened the campaign with three straight defeats and went into the first international break bottom of the table without having even scored a goal.

Internally, the club’s target was to finish in the top six and bring European football back to Emirates Stadium - something Arteta has achieved comfortably.

So in that context, he has achieved exactly what he had been asked to do.

And there is no doubt he has created an atmosphere around the club that hasn’t existed for a long time.

While his detractors may continue to vent their frustrations on social media, the support Arteta has received from Arsenal’s fans inside stadiums this season - both home and away - has been huge.

And even if results do go the way they are expected to this weekend and Arsenal do finish fifth, it would be no surprise to hear Arteta’s name sung loudly by supporters inside the Emirates during the game against Everton on Sunday.

“It’s been a long journey and a very challenging one this season,” Arteta admitted, ahead of the game.

“But I think that we have come a long way as a club and as a team. I think we have transformed the energy, the vibe and expectation of this football club again. 

“We've done it together, showing incredible unity between the staff, the players, everybody in the club, and especially with our people, which has been incredibly supportive throughout the season, especially in difficult moments.”

It’s clear that Arteta does still have the support of the majority of match-going fans.

The Spaniard has urged supporters to ‘trust the process’ since he first arrived and has consistently warned that there is no quick fix to the problems that have plagued Arsenal in recent years.

There are many who are happy with the decisions he’s made, such as getting rid of the club’s high earners and building a hungry squad of young players, many of which have come through the academy.

And for large spells this season, there have been obvious signs of improvement on the pitch - although a lack of goals continues to be a problem.

Arteta’s detractors point to his decision to let star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leave in January without signing a replacement as a major reason for their failure to get over the line in the race for the top four.

But Arsenal’s manager remains unmoved in the face of that criticism.

“No,” he said, when asked earlier this week if he had got things wrong in January.

“Everything that we did do, was trying to reach the objectives that we had after January – which was to try to be challenging the top four.

“And financially to be stable and in a position that come the summer we could do certain things and not be completely locked."

Mikel Arteta quote

Inside the club, Arteta still has the full support of the hierarchy and there is no chance of him being replaced this summer.

That is why he was handed a new contract earlier this month and the disappointing end to the season will not change how he is viewed internally.

There is an understanding that the rebuild is far from complete and there will be some significant business done in the transfer window, even if Arsenal do miss out on the Champions League.

And that is what Arteta wants to focus on. 

“We want to take the club to the next level,” he said. “That's the ambition. 

“In order to do that we have a very clear plan again in how we want to do and execute it. There are no secrets. We need to increase the quality and the depth of the squad.

“We are going to have certain resources, not unlimited resources, some resources. And with our resources we have to do what we have to do in the best possible way.”

Whatever happens during Sunday’s season finale, the debate over Arteta will continue throughout the summer.

The 40-year-old has worked hard to bring the club together again following his arrival and, even though he has had some success with that, there is still a long way to go before everyone comes on board.

He is well aware that success on the pitch is the only way to do that and, although there has been progress this season, it has not been big enough to silence all of his doubters.

The reaction to the defeats at Tottenham and Newcastle is proof of that.