Welcome to Arteta-stan, where no one may question Arteta’s “process”…


After my ham-handed attempt at satire, I thought we’d return to something a bit simpler. Behold: Arteta-stan. Here, Arteta is well on his way to restoring Arsenal to its former glory. The road has been…bumpy? There were the two eighth place finishes, for one (or two). There was the bottling of fourth place last season and (what would some would call) the bottling of the Prem title this past season. However, those seem to have been mere growing pains, a part of that much-vaunted “process” we’re being asked to trust.

First, the “stan” thing. Depending on who you ask, its etymology—the word’s origin and evolution—might be a Jabberwockian portmanteau of “stalker” and “fan”, or it might derive from Eminiem’s 2000 hit song “Stan”, which tells the story of a passionate fan named Stanley who fervently believes every word that Slim Shady utters. Arteta-stan represents a mindset or place in which Arteta can do no wrong.

Arteta is not nearly as good as his stans—his unquestioning followers and defenders—insist. It’s too early to re-name the club Artetanal. On the other hand, he’s not nearly as bad as his blinkered detractors allege. As always (ironically, perhaps), the reality is much more nuanced and elusive.

When he took over in December 2019, we were 10th in the Prem. Sokratis, Mustafi, Luiz, Holding, Mari, and Chambers were our CBs. Kolasinac was favoured at left-back, post-ACL Bellerin was at right-back. In front of them were Ceballos, Guendouzi, Xhaka, and Torreira. Lacazette, the striker, scored ten goals all season. On the left, Aubameyang scored 22 goals—but he scored 12 of those before Arteta arrived. Of the remaining 10, five came against clubs that finished in the bottom half of the table. To have finished eighth, then, was a salvage operation. Yes, we did win the FA Cup, beating Chelsea and Man City in the process, but this felt like an anomaly rather than a portent.

2020-21 began the purge. Emi Martinez and Guendouzi were sold. Ozil, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Sokratis, Mkhitaryan, and Torreira were loaned out (and would either be sold or see their contracts expire). In came Magalhães, Partey, and Ødegaard, but it was still a makeshift squad that included far too many inadequate players. Aubameyang had started his sulk, scoring just 10 goals while suffering from malaria, niggles, and disciplinary benchings. A pall hung over the squad, but one could see fits and starts. We progressed to the Europa League semifinal, bowing out to Unai Emery’s Villareal side, who would go on to defeat Man U to hoist the trophy. Still, though, pertinent and persistent questions around Arteta were being asked, and deservedly so.

in the 2021-22 campaign, real reasons for hope began to emerge. In addition to signing Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, and White, Arteta convinced Ødegaard to make the move to Arsenal—the first of many portents to come. The season started abysmally, with three consecutive losses by a combined scoreline of 9-0. Without European competition, we crashed out of the FA Cup at the first asking but made it to the League Cup semifinal before still-good Liverpool dumped us. We looked likely to secure a fourth-place finish until injuries to Partey, Tomiyasu, and Tierney sabotaged us and we finished a mere two points below Tottenham and five below Chelsea. Still, Saka and Smith-Rowe hit double-digits for goals scored, and Martinelli wasn’t far behind. Ødegaard added seven goals and five assists; but for Smith-Rowe’s injury, all of these would become precursors to future production.

In this last season, not only did we come within a Saliba injury of winning the Prem, Arteta convinced Martinelli, Saka, and Saliba, to renew their contracts, with Ødegaard all but promising to do the same. Arteta’s passion and personality have repeatedly been cited in each of these negotiations, plus those with Havertz and Rice, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that he is a manager for whom very good players want to play. Saka, for one, is easily among the most-valuable and most-vital wingers in the world, up there with Vinicius, Foden, and Rodrygo. Martinelli ain’t too far behind.

Of course, all of this is just whistling past the graveyard if Arteta can’t build on this past season’s surprise success. He’s gotten the financial backing. Finishing second to Man City may have been ahead of schedule, so to speak, but there will be few if any excuses should we finish outside of the top four. Yes, we’ll have Champions League matches to play. Yes, Liverpool and Chelsea will be much stronger than they were last season. I hesitate to set hard and fast targets, but Arteta will have to show that he can build on last season in some way, shape, or form. Some kind of silverware and a top-four finish is probably the minimum.

Anything less than that, and we may have to cancel the new business cards and stationary listing the club as “Artetanal”.

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7 thoughts on “Welcome to Arteta-stan, where no one may question Arteta’s “process”…

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      You had me curious, so I spent a few minutes scrolling through some old posts and didn’t find much evidence that I ever hammered him. I may have done so had I been blogging continuously but had stopped for a few years (including Wenger’s last year, all of Emery’s time, and Arteta’s first two season). Maybe your memory is strong than mine though.

      I’m exploring that middle ground between his cultish supporters (one of whom I may have flirted unwittingly with becoming) and his deranged critics. I think the expectations will be massive after how close we came to winning the Prem and the amount of investment we’re seeing.

  1. Palladio43

    We generally tend to remember only the winners and, of course, the extreme losers. The vast gray center is of no consequence. Arsenal assumed, having hi invincibles, that finishing high enough to qualify for the CL was sufficient even if below the top of the CL. But kissing your sister never matters. As you have already indicated finishing out of the top four or finishing second are what is now what matters when we consider Arteta’s achievement. Those first two years in the gray center are being ignored or whitewashed, much as are some of his decisions and some of the acquisitions.
    If Arsenal falls short again, whether in PL, CL, or even the FA and other cups, that is all that anyone will remember. Now it is, to a major extent, his squad, and we can only go so long blaming the Pepe’s and a few others on his predecessors. Arsenal used the building of a new stadium as a crutch for so long, one almost expected that a new stadium plan might soon appear on the horizon to begin the cycle once more.
    If Rice, et al fail to achieve, the first head to fall will be that of MA, especially in this day of rich owners who only care about victories and increased values of their investments. The same is true of the long suffering fandom, who remember days of glory and will not be willing to countenance more years of empty trophy cases and having to see MC pale blue or MU red, let alone Chelsea blue on the podium.
    Arteta’s achievement this past season was laudable, but in a short time, only that we lost too many winnable matches against minnows will be remembered and not the injuries that may have led to those draws or losses. The pressure is very much now on him to achieve and whether it was luck or skill that got us to near the top, the bar is now set and if we do not win, nobody will forgive top four let alone second this time.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      It’ll be interesting to see whether the Kroenkes will show the same ruthlessness or capriciousness as Abramovich or other owners who demand an immediate return on investments. I suspect not – if there is a backslide or regression next season, we may see some of the explanations/excuses: young squad, young manager, return to form of other clubs, difficulty of UCL fixtures, etc. Having invested so heavily creates a Damoclean sword over Arteta – but also over Josh Kroenke. To have supported Arteta to this extent only to sack him at the first wobble would indict Kroenke as well.

      1. jw1

        Arsenal were inches from losing the club’s identity, its’ DNA– when Emery and Sanllehi were flushing Arsenal’s entire culture.

        That the club has rejuvenated almost every aspect– from inside London Colney to a heightened experience at The Emirates– is down mostly to the vision of Mikel Arteta.

        It would take a massive event to change the tide of goodwill and trust that KSE have in Arteta. The club and the fans are in a very good place.

        Can’t fathom a reason for considering failure at this point.
        Simply a self-defeating exercise.

  2. A Simple Truth

    Interesting attempt at summarizing MA’s tenure thus far, but I would strongly suggest that your assessment of the man, visa vie the publicly expressed words of some current and prospective players, and the perceived tenuous nature of his employ should things regress, considering our particular owner, are a tad naive…first and foremost, if there’s one thing players have come to understand, especially during MA’s reign, speaking out of school usually leads to an extended stay in the sin bin or worse, unless your name rhymes with Franit Fhaka…furthermore, why would anyone being offered a king’s ransom and previously unheard of assurances to boot, bite the hand that feeds…as for my second point, if you’re a follower of the ongoings within Kroenke’s sporting empire, you will notice that he not only tends to hire off the beaten and path, he likewise provides a considerably longer leash than most…as such, I would suggest that the drop-off would have to be rather precipitous for any drastic measures to be taken…Cheers


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