When a team is playing well and everything is clicking, the manager is the one that usually receives the plaudits. Unfortunately, the reverse is true as well. Things are currently so bad at Arsenal that Mikel Arteta has found himself under a growing amount of criticism and increasing pressure to turn things around fast. It’s obvious that the results have been awful, and the goals have dried up. While there have been rumors that Arteta has just a few matches to save his job, the board has, at least publicly, offered him support and told the fans to believe in “the process.”
The Spaniard was brought in one year ago to improve things following the firing of Unai Emery. Under Arteta, a disappointing 2019-2020 season finished on a high note with victories over Manchester City and Chelsea on the way to winning the club’s record 14th FA Cup. The Gunners then began the new campaign with victory over Liverpool in the Community Shield. Since then, however, it looks as if the club hasn’t been moving backwards so much as plummeting off a cliff.
In addition to the team’s stuttering offense, another area of major concern for Arsenal under Arteta is team discipline. It is common for teams to experience some internal strife throughout the course of a Premier League season. The Gunners, however, have had more than their share of trouble on and off the pitch in the past year.
Gabriel has been one of the bright spots during this dismal run, but when the Brazilian was given his marching orders versus Southampton, you could almost hear the sound of Arsenal fans throughout the world screaming in unison at their televisions.
Since Arteta took over as manager last, December bad behavior and a lack of adherence to rules has become all too commonplace for the Gunners. Arsenal have received seven red cards with Arteta at the helm. The next closest club, Brighton, has picked up three in this time frame.
Here’s a look at the red cards:
- January 11, 2020 – Crystal Palace 1 Arsenal 1 – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang straight red card in the 67th minute after VAR review for a mistimed tackle on Max Meyer
- January 21, 2020 – Chelsea 2 Arsenal 2 – David Luiz imploded in the 26th minute when he received a straight red card for bringing down Tammy Abraham in the penalty area (if red card assists were a statistic Shkodran Mustafi would have received one for his misplaced back pass that led to this passage of play.)
- June 17, 2020 – Manchester City 3 Arsenal 0 – Luiz capped his own dismal performance with yet another straight red card in the 49th minute. He brought down Riyad Mahrez in the box which gave Man City a penalty and Luiz an early shower.
- July 7, 2020 – Arsenal 1 Leicester 1 – With Arsenal ahead 1-0 Eddie Nketiah came on as a substitute with 15 minutes remaining in the match. Four minutes later he was the recipient of a straight red card for a bad challenge on James Justin.
- November 22, 2020 – Leeds 0 Arsenal 0 – Nicolas Pepe foolishly received a straight red card for a headbutt on Ezgjan Alioski in the 51st minute.
- December 13, 2020 – Arsenal 0 Burnley 1 – Granit Xhaka ridiculously grabs the Clarets’ Ashley Westwood by the throat and is shown a straight red card in the 56th minute.
- December 16, 2020 – Arsenal 1 Southampton 1 – Three days after Xhaka’s stupidity, Gabriel sees red for a second yellow card following a foul on Theo Walcott in the 62nd minute.
There have been other examples of bad behavior under Arteta.
- Following Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat at Brighton in June, Matteo Guendouzi grabbed Neal Maupay by the throat. It was the final straw for Arsenal. If reports are to be believed, Guendouzi had a number of discipline issues on the training pitch and at team functions. Thought he did not receive FA punishment for the Maupay incident, Guendouzi’s behavior was deemed unacceptable by Arteta. He was exiled from the squad for the rest of the season and sent out on loan this year.
- During the last month’s international break Willian decided that a pandemic was the perfect time to take a trip to Dubai without informing his club. It was later reported that Arteta had to lay down the law to the veteran Brazilian for ignoring the English government’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.
- While Willian was off in Dubai, another story circulated involving a training ground fight between Luiz and midfielder Dani Ceballos.
- A story this week in football.london alleges that Arteta has lost the confidence of his team. The report states that a number of senior players are upset over the manager’s decision to drop Mesut Ozil, Sokratis and William Saliba from the squad. It also reveals that players many resented how Arteta publicly trashed Nicolas Pepe, following his red card at Leeds.
Arteta heads into the busy Christmas period under intense pressure. His team have gone ten league matches without keeping a clean sheet and the Gunners are mired in 15th place. The players have let their manager down, but it is Arteta that may be the ultimate victim of the team’s lack of discipline and poor play.