Little over a year ago, Mikel Arteta was celebrating his second trophy as Arsenal manager after beating Liverpool in the Community Shield.
Granted, that particular trinket might be derided by some but, by beating the then-Premier League champions, Arteta was proving himself as a top coach having led his side to big victories over Manchester City and Chelsea en route to winning the FA Cup.
The Arsenal job is FAR TOO BIG for Arteta! Hear more on The Football Terrace…
Now, the Spaniard’s position at Arsenal looks to be under intense scrutiny.
Knocked out of the Europa League in frankly pathetic fashion by former manager Unai Emery, Arsenal are gearing up for their first season away from the continental stage in 26 years.
Clearly, there are question marks over Arteta’s ability and, given his lack of experience, his suitability for the role was always likely to be scrutinised as soon as things started going badly.
However, it cannot all be down to him. After all, according to UnderStat data, they are underperforming in terms of their expected points and a number of their showings have been criticised by pundits.
Club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been disciplined for his behaviour, while Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville slammed the ‘little mafia’ of players who appeared to want to leave the club during a loss to Liverpool last month.
So, GIVEMESPORT writers Jonathan Gorrie, Sam Brookes, Joshua Cole and Christy Malyan have given their verdicts on who has let Mikel Arteta down the most this season.
“*All stats correct prior to this week’s football”
Without a doubt, it’s Willian.
Handed a big contract (which SpotRac claim is worth around £190k-p/w), the Brazilian has barely done anything of note since swapping Chelsea for Arsenal. Clearly, questions must be asked of who sanctioned the deal but, even if time is catching up with the 32-year-old, he’s been shocking.
One goal and five assists is a pitiful return for a player who’s previously excelled in England and pretty much all of his averages for key attacking metrics are down. Indeed, according to WhoScored data, Willian manages much fewer shots (2 to 0.8), key passes (2.1 to 1.3) and dribbles (1.8 to 0.5) per game this season compared to last.
That is a remarkable drop off in form and, although a player over 30 cannot reasonably be expected to put in the same dynamic performances as they did earlier in their careers, the difference in just a year has been huge.
“Dani Ceballos has been dismal.
“His first season at the Emirates was a solid one, and it was understandable that Arsenal wanted to keep him on for a second year. However, he has offered so little in 2020/21.
“Mikel Arteta has consistently handed him opportunities, but he has failed to take them. Instead, he has complained about how he is better suited to La Liga. When Arsenal fans have needed their players to knuckle down, Ceballos has just been making excuses as to why he is playing so poorly.
“No one wants to hear that.
“To cap it all off, he was then sent off in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final against Villarreal.
“This was one of the side’s biggest games of the season, and he let the team down massively.
“He looks set to depart the club in the summer, and it is unlikely that he will be missed by the Arsenal faithful.”
“It has been a season to forget for Arsenal fans who have witnessed their side fail to push on under the guidance of Arteta following last year’s FA Cup triumph.
“One of the main reasons behind their underwhelming displays in the Premier League this season has been a lack of goals as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has only managed to find the back of the net on 10 occasions in 26 appearances.
“In danger of becoming another Mesut Ozil regarding the fact that he has struggled to replicate the form that he illustrated before agreeing a lucrative deal with Arsenal, the forward will need to step up to the mark again.
“Providing that Aubameyang makes a welcome return to form next season and the Gunners get their recruitment spot-on in the transfer window, there is no reason why they cannot put their recent woes behind them.”
“I’m constantly being told Hector Bellerin is a Barcelona quality player by the transfer rumour columns. And yet, here’s a Spain international in his prime years at the age of 26 who can’t even hold down a spot in an Arsenal side that might finish the season in the bottom half.
“Bellerin should be a one-man wrecking ball down the right flank at this point in his career after exploding onto the scene as a youngster, naturally equipped with all the qualities needed to thrive as a modern day full-back. But I can’t remember the last time he truly dominated a game for Arsenal. I also can’t remember the last time that scintillating pace was used to help out Arsenal’s ever-overloaded centre-backs.
“Sure, he’s had his fair share of injury problems but Kieran Tierney has shown on the opposite flank what a truly committed, industrious full-back looks like these days. Bellerin just doesn’t resemble one anymore and during a season where Arsenal’s truly elite players should be sticking out like a sore thumb, he’s battling Calum Chambers for a place in the starting XI.
“He’s massively short-changed Arteta this season and quite frankly, if Barca do make a bid this summer then the Gunners should bite their arm off.”