Well, “eviscerate” might be excessive, but the Spaniard did have some strong words on the season:
I can’t believe this is the closest I can get to Lego Arteta.
We have a very good team but we are missing that little thing which makes a difference. We can’t be in that position, because we have the best basic structure I’ve ever seen at a football club, great philosophy, good players, we’ve got financial backing to do whatever we want, unbelievable crowds for the stadium. That’s where we need to find the key, but with 10 games to go, it’s an impossible catch (the title chasers) and that, for me, is not acceptable. I think everybody knows that. I think the board knows that and hopefully this summer we’ll do something about it.
On its surface, this is some tough talk bordering on condemnation. It even sounds a bit like throwing in the towel. Once you use the word “impossible”, you leave yourself very little wiggle room. The fact that we’ve left ourselves very little wiggle room is, of course, the bigger issue. With ten games to play, however, “impossible” feels like too strong a word. We will have to hope that other teams drop points while not dropping any of our own, but this is not impossible. A baby counting all the grains of sand in the universe in the blink of an eye is impossible.
Maybe it’s just the eternal optimist in me, but I see grains of hope in Arteta’s comments. First of all, he’s the vice-captain, and it’s his job to take the lead on issues like this. The same statement from another player might feel too much like complaining. I don’t mean to criticize Vermaelen by implication. Arteta’s comments are most important to me when he talks about structure and philosophy. He’s previously spent time at Barcelona and PSG, as well as Everton, Rangers, and Real Sociedad. The following is more-true of certain clubs than others, but for Arteta to say we have the best structure he’s seen is meaningful. To compare us to Barcelona especially is strong praise indeed. Yes, he switches from “great” to “good” when he mentions players, which he may not mean anything by, but it’s true. We’d be hard-pressed to label any of our current players “great”. That will change, in some cases due to development and growth and in other cases through acquisition, to which Arteta himself alludes.
He mentions the board and diplomatically “thinks” they know. They’d better know. The idea that we somehow need or should fall out of fourth is some kind of wake-up call to spur the board into action is, on its face, ludicrous. If they don’t see that the club is regressing and that fans and players are frustrated, they should be ousted, bought out, fired, whatever it takes, and replaced with people who believe in the club and have its competitive success as their highest priority. Financial stability is great and will become more important under FFP, but at the end of the day, the purpose of the club’s existence is to win games, not balance books. There are times when these two goals are at odds with each other, of course, but we’ve proven better than most at reconciling them and look set, as Arteta suggests, to make some moves to strengthen the squad come summer.
I’ll disagree with Arteta’s “impossible” comments, but I admire the man for his forthrightness and for his belief in Arsenal.