Four reasons why Arsenal could miss the Top Four

Of them terrible results and two even worse performances in less than a week drastically reduced Arsenal’s chances of reaching the Champions League. Before the international break, they had their destiny in their hands; now, after losing sluggishly to Crystal Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion, they will be hinged on Tottenham Hotspur’s downfall, at the precise point where they seem to want to pull away. So what’s wrong? Here are the four main reasons why Arsenal are likely to miss out on the top four.

Four reasons why Arsenal are likely to miss out on the Top Four

  1. Not just losing Aubameyang, but not replacing him

On Saturday 11 December, when Mikel Arteta left then Arsenal captain and main striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out of the squad for the home game against Southampton, allegedly because he was returning late from a trip to France , Arsenal and their manager had almost two months to find a replacement if, as now seems certain, Arteta had decided by then that he would get rid of the Gabonese. The failure to do so after mistakenly targeting just one potential Fiorentina replacement Dušan Vlahović, who always looked likely to join Juventus and duly did so, left Arsenal with just two recognized centre-backs Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah (aka ‘Lackofthreat’ and ‘Notyetiah’ as ​​fans have dubbed them’), who have barely scored a Premier League goal between them since Aubameyang’s departure. As written in January, the decision to let Aubameyang go and not even seriously attempt to replace him was “bordering on recklessness at best and almost criminally irresponsible at worst.”

Unfortunately for Arteta and Arsenal fans, that turned out to be the case, as the team function effectively without a striker of any kind. While it’s undeniable that Aubameyang’s goalscoring has largely dried up since his FA Cup heroics in 2020 led to his huge new contract, Arteta still had to make up for his complete absence from the squad, either by moving Gabriel Martinelli in a central striking position, or even simply deciding not to let Folarin Balogun go on loan to Middlesbrough. The fact that he didn’t make such plans and foolishly relied on two non-scoring forwards to get him the goals he needed was a ridiculous gamble that happened, as one might expected, backfired.

  1. Arteta’s lack of managerial experience

Increasingly, Arteta looks like a novice operating against the elite and as a result he is overwhelmed as a manager. It can be legitimately said that all the managers of the four clubs that are now above Arsenal in the Premier League have genuine elite managers, who have won either major domestic titles or Champions League titles or the two: Pep Guardiola (two Champions League titles with Barcelona and countless domestic titles with Barcelona, ​​Bayern Munich and Manchester City); Jurgen Klopp (winner of the Champions League with Liverpool and winner of the national title in Germany and England); Thomas Tuchel (Champions League winner with Chelsea and French champion with PSG); and Antonio Conte (winner of national titles in Italy and England). Against such seasoned managers and winners of several trophies, Arteta can only appear inexperienced and inexperienced.

To demonstrate the importance of having an elite manager, just consider Antonio Conte’s impact on Spurs. Arguably Arsenal and Manchester United have better squads and squads than Spurs, but Spurs now look likely to beat them both to Champions League qualification, and the most important reason for that is Conte’s presence. After almost experiencing something of a culture shock when he joined Spurs, the first big club he managed that was not a guaranteed trophy contender, he settled in and set up the team, making additions shrewd such as loan signings Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur from Juventus (elite managers tend to have elite contacts) to complement the already powerful punching power of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. The result was six wins in seven at the right time. Therefore, it is impossible not to conclude that if Conte had been nominated by Arsenal or Man United, they and not Spurs would be in the box-seat for the Champions League.

  1. Arteta’s tactical madness: One-man midfielders don’t work at Arsenal

Inevitably, due to his complete lack of managerial experience, Arteta makes mistakes at work. It’s understandable and maybe even to some extent forgivable. However, what is neither understandable nor forgivable is the fact that he keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. In particular, his insistence on trying to play either Martin Ødegaard or Emile Smith Rowe as central midfielders, when both are clearly attacking-minded No.10s, effectively leaving Arsenal with just one midfielder. orthodox central ground alongside them, is sheer tactical madness.

Arteta has tried it three times now in vital games and each time it has failed spectacularly: against Villareal in the second leg (at home) of the Europa League semi-final last season, when Thomas Partey was left alone in the middle of the park; against Manchester City earlier this season, when the problem was compounded by the fact that Arsenal’s only orthodox central midfielder, Granit Xhaka, was foolishly sent off; then again against Brighton this weekend. And the fact that Arteta effectively handed the individual midfield role to Albert Sambi Lokonga, a youngster who had barely played for months as Partey was injured and Xhaka was deployed at left-back in the absence of Kieran Tierney, only accentuated the error. Lokonga was completely outplayed by Brighton’s central midfielders, particularly Enock Mwepu, who capped off his fine performance with a superb goal. Fernandinho, at Manchester City (Arteta’s former club), or Patrick Vieira at his imperious best may well be able to play alone in midfield, but Partey, Xhaka and Lokonga simply cannot, with for result that the whole team is completely overwhelmed. imbalance.

  1. The Kronkes’ continued lack of leadership from the top

Arsenal fans’ opinion of the Kroenkes, owners of Arsenal, has probably softened a bit in recent months, with the realization that, for all their obvious flaws, the Americans have at least prevented Arsenal from fall into the hands of Alisher Usmanov, another Putin. -affiliated oligarch who is now under Western sanctions, with all the uncertainty that would have created.

Nonetheless, the Kronekes can still be attacked for all their other flaws, especially their almost entirely absent ownership at the club. A direct comparison can be made between Stan Kroenke’s handling of his own personal pet sports project, the LA Rams American football team, and his and his family’s hands-off management of Arsenal. At the beginning of the year, when the Rams had a chance to reach the NFL play-offs and then compete for the Super Bowl, Stan Kroenke in particular and the Kroenkes in general went out of their way to support them, trading future draft picks against established players. stars, such as Vonn Miller and Odell Beckham Junior, who duly saw the Rams cross the line to win only their second Super Bowl and their first in Los Angeles.

In contrast, Mikel Arteta and Edu, Arsenal’s technical director, received no help from the Kroenkes in January, during the crucial transfer window month. Far from signing established stars to try and back Arteta as he launched an unlikely and almost totally unanticipated challenge for Champions League qualification, the Kroenkes stayed in America, offering no practical or even symbolic support to their manager. inexperienced and equally inexperienced technical director, with the result that Arsenal didn’t even make the kind of loan signings that completely galvanized Spurs.

There are plenty of other reasons why Arsenal are likely to end up missing out on the top four and Champions League qualification, but these are the main four. The lack of a reliable striker and goalscorer, the manager’s inexperience and tactical weakness, and the continued absent ownership of the Kroenke family have created a situation in which Arsenal will likely miss their best chance in years to return to the premiership. European. club tournament. And while it’s commendable that many Arsenal fans still have faith in Arteta, if he can’t capitalize on the complete absence of European football this season to reach the Champions League, how much more will it be? difficult next season if they are in the Europa League. ? And if the team’s current slide continues and they don’t even qualify for the Europa League, Arteta’s position will be under threat again.

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