What Does Mikel Arteta Need to Address to Make Arsenal Great Again?
|Published: 1st January 2020 09:59|
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Mikel Arteta has plenty on his plate after returning to Arsenal as manager. Taking on this demanding job just as the hectic festive fixture list hits means games come thick and fast.
What are the pressing issues facing Arteta at the Emirates Stadium? How can he make the Gunners a force again? This is the scale of the task he confronts in the N5 postcode of North London.
It can be very odd when there are still old teammates from your playing days at the same club. Mesut Ozil, the mercurial playmaking talent who sat in front of Arteta, is a difficult distraction.
For good and bad, the ex-Germany midfielder causes controversy. The latest of these has implications for Arsenal and the Premier League in general as brands in the Asian market.
Whatever you think of China, any sportsperson expressing personal political views while active makes for uncomfortable reading. Ozil may or may not have a point, but the club haven't backed him.
Arteta needs to get his old teammate focused on playing football again rather than another sideshow. Ozil has seldom showed anything like the quality that caused him to become the Gunners' record signing in 2013 and, if his influence is so peripheral it can't reimpose himself, he needs to be moved on.
Older football fans will remember a time when the Arsenal dressing room at Highbury was full of strong characters. You cannot really say with the exception of Arteta, they have had much leadership on the field in recent years.
He did this at Rangers, Everton and the Gunners. Taking responsibility and ownership of things are traits fundamentally lacking in many high-profile signing made by the club for a long time.
One of the nails in predecessor Unai Emery's coffin was the disastrous appointment of Granit Xhaka as captain at Arsenal. Arteta will want a skipper that leads by example and organises - just as he did at Everton and while a player at the Emirates.
If no such characters can be found, then don't be surprised if the Gunners aren't in the winter window to find someone. Arteta needs a vocal presence on the pitch and in the dressing room that is going to call out others who don't perform.
Getting back into the top four was the original season target for Arsenal. It would be kinder to lower those sights a little and aim for the top six with the latest football betting with bet365saying they are 11/4 chances to make it.
Emery was perhaps unlucky that he was hardly able to field first-choice Gunners full backs Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney together due to respective injury problems. Defence hasn't been settled or at full-strength all season.
Tactical changes between three centre halves with wingbacks and a traditional back four haven't helped matters either. Entering the Christmas period, only one team outside the bottom six had a worse defensive record than Arsenal.
That simply has to change and tighten up. Emery's signing of David Luiz from Chelsea clearly hasn't worked based on that damning evidence, but Arteta is short on alternatives to the maverick Brazilian.
The Gunners need to toughen up. Sorting out this area of weakness is one of the biggest challenges for Arteta that may take time with moving players out and finding ones to replace them.