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Tuesday Cannon Fodder: criticism

Arsenal FC v Fulham FC - Premier League Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

It’s Tuesday and I’m feeling ornery this morning. So I’m going to rant a little bit because I’m peeved with the discourse, both on TV and online. And before you start — yes, I know that I could simply choose to ignore it. Arsenal do not get the grace, patience, and favorable treatment that other clubs do.

For example, people are criticizing Mikel Arteta and the club for buying Kai Havertz (even though he’s been mostly fine so far) because of the price tag Arsenal spent to acquire him. I don’t recall (and still don’t see) the same level of judgment for, say, Tottenham buying Richarlison. Or Manchester United buying Antony. Or Chelsea buying Mudryk. The list goes on and on. There are dozens of signings that, on a longer track record, have been demonstrably worse than Havertz has been in a three match (four if you count the Community Shield in which he was excellent).

I’ll grant that Havertz wasn’t great against Fulham. Those lowlights of him misplacing passes stick out like a sore thumb. But the entire left side wasn’t working. Leandro Trossard was so poor he was subbed off at halftime. Gabriel Martinelli looks lacking confidence and is taking too many touches. But for some reason, people want to pin the blame on Kai Havertz.

He’s been mostly to completely fine for Arsenal. It’s a small sample size, but I’ve seen nothing in the sample that makes me at all concerned about him moving forward. And I’m anticipating seeing him playing with Oleksandr Zinchenko behind him. You know, in the lineup that he was originally envisioned as joining. All we’ve seen from Havertz has come with three different fullbacks playing behind him, yet people already want to write him off as a transfer failure.

Here’s a comparison between Kai Havertz for Arsenal with Granit Xhaka last season. He’s been a significant upgrade on Xhaka in nearly every statistical category. Apparently that’s not enough. Apparently Havertz needs to be a star from day one.

I’ll be generous for a second: some of the ire directed at Havertz might be because people don’t really understand what his role in the formation is meant to be. I’m sure that both he and Mikel Arteta know and are working on it. But the pundits, so-called pundits, and casual observers don’t. I’m not confident enough to describe it, either. But my reaction is to wait and see, evaluation, and try to understand before passing judgment. Again, let’s see how the left side of the attack looks with some lineup stability.

Here’s a look at Arsenal’s performances in the three matches to open the season compared with the same fixtures last year. Arsenal were basically the same team they were in those games and have been slightly less unlucky. Arsenal have taken 7 of 9 points. Only Manchester City have more from their first three matches. And yet if you ask most people, the sky is falling and Arsenal have no chance to compete for the Premier League title. This version of Arsenal isn’t there yet, but as long as they’re continuing to grow and improve, and not leaking points as they do so, I’m fine with it.