By signing Rice, has Arteta signed his own pink slip?


For as hard as it is to imagine a preseason fraught with as much anticipation and excitement as this one already is, I have to play the role of wet blanket. Those of you who have come to expect an almost Panglossian optimism from me may want to ensure that a fainting couch is at the ready. To quote Tom Waits, the higher that the monkey climbs. the more he shows his tail. Put another way: having raised expectations through the proverbial roof, will it all come crashing back down on Arteta’s head?

Having spent 144m in £2020-21, £165m last year, and £193m (and counting) so far this summer, we now have the the biggest net spend of any Prem club over the last five years. That includes the staggering fee we paid for Declan Rice, making him the most expensive English player ever. On one hand, a lot of this spending was necessary to address gaping holes in our squad, and that spending was almost impossible to offset by selling those players. We were never going to recoup much from the likes of Mustafi, Torreira, Lacazette, or Aubameyang. On the other hand, some of the spending seems, well, redundant? Having been widely if incorrectly panned for splashing some £54m on Ben White, we’ve added Tomiyasu and now Timber for a combined £50m.

Whatever the details, the devil is in the deal(s) Arteta has struck. Having signed Declan Rice, an established Prem player with 43 caps, Arteta surely knows that this could be a make-or-break season for him. On paper, he now has a squad that both stronger and deeper than the one that spent 93% of the season top of the league. Man City have largely tread water, signing Kovačić but losing Gündogan. Liverpool have been more aggressive with the signings of Mac Allister and Szoboszlai. Man U have added Mason Mount. Newcastle have added Tonali. Tottenham have added Maddison and Guglielmo. Were it to stop here, it would be hard to resist the obvious conclusion that Arsenal really should win the Prem. Given how close we came last season—with, among other injuries, Jesus and Saliba each missing one-third of it—and given how aggressive we’ve been in this first month of the transfer window, winning the Prem is no longer an aspiration. It’s not even the ceiling.

It’s the floor. If the upcoming season ends without us winning the Prem (and perhaps adding another FA Cup or League Cup to the haul), it will be seen by many, some of them rationial, level-headed people, as an abject failure. Anything less than that long-coveted league title, given the lavish spending of these last three seasons, and Arteta might want to get back on LinkedIn. Forget the FA Cup and League Cup. Those are but garnishes to the main course. Maybe appetisers.

Prepare yourselves for a season packed to the gills with stories that predict Arteta’s imminent demise unless or even if we’re twenty points clear by Christmas. Every loss, every draw—hell, every conceded goal—will portend that pink slip. Rival fans, the punditocracy, even a sizable contingent of this club’s fans will demand near-perfection and will bray and screech and caterwaul in equal measures at the slightest wobble. However, little if any of that will matter if KSE continues to back Arteta, little of that sturm und drang will matter. In for a penny, in for a pound? They’ve stood by Arteta through those two eighth place finishes and have shown none of the caprice of, say, Chelsea or Man U or Tottenham, each of which has churned through managers like sharks through chum. Not my best simile, but you catch my drift.

If they continue to back him, it may not matter much what the chattering class or the peanut gallery have to say. Let’s hope for the club’s sake if not for Arteta’s that this season delivers on the vast promise & potential we saw last season. Even if it doesn’t, I hope we all keep our wits about us…

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26 thoughts on “By signing Rice, has Arteta signed his own pink slip?

  1. Kelechi

    I really think that winning the Prem is still a hope not an expectation. Citeh are still a cut above, and Champions League will take a lot out of us. If we kept Partey and stay injury-free, we have a chance at winning the Prem.

  2. Ahmed

    the delusion is real. you lot overspend on one player and now you think you’re destined to win the Prem and even do a domestic double? You’re gonna bottle it all just like you always do, Arsenal are champions when it comes to bottling. Has any club bottled the Prem more times than you? Rice is decent player, but you’ll be lucky to qualify for Europa League with him in the middle of the pitch.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      So we overspent on Rice. Name even one player who’s as good or better, available at a lower price, and who wants to leave his club. I’ll wait.

    2. Andy

      Ha ha, nice one Ahmed.. Are you a jealous spurs fan?
      You’re right though, having only won the prem 13 times we are serious bottlers 😂😂

        1. Andy

          You’re in shambles? That’s in York isn’t it?.. oh and it’s “an intelligent”, not “a intelligent”. Perhaps you should go to school occasionally instead of getting your mum to read other teams blogs to you, you absolute melt!

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      eek, thanks for the catch! I was all hung up the other day on another -ness word (wishing that obsequiety existed rather than obsequiousness). You had me even more worried that I had somehow misspelled capriciousness, but I at least dodged that bullet.

  3. Palladio43

    I agree. Having assembled, revised, reassembled, and otherwise, revamped the squad, sometimes Even by replacing some of his own choices and purchases, MA will no longer be able to attribute any failures to the Wenger era or to the management that followed.
    Even worse, if seen as an omen of ill-fortune, Arsene Wenger has blessed the purchase of Rice and predicted that Arsenal will win the PL. He also, of course, indicated that he had been hamstring by limited funds in his efforts.

    Hmmm, how long before Arteta or a successor complains about lack of funds due to the expansion or reconstruction of the Emirates?

    1. Eoin ó Conchobhair

      It’s all on Arteta now. This is his squad, he’s built it at considerable expense. If we don’t win the Prem, I think the consolation prize is winning the FA Cup and Carabao Cup as well. Pep has shown that he wants to win every available trophy, we have to show the same ambition. Kroenkes are flexing the financial muscle, now it’s time for Arteta to prove he’s worth all that spending. If he can’t, we have to find someone who can.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Oh, I will. I most certainly will. I loved this past season even if we apparently “bottled” it. I just wanted to get out in front of the lofty expectations/demands some will put on us. Too many fans invest too much of their emotional well-being in the fortunes of people they’ll never meet. I’ll enjoy whatever this season brings.

  4. jw1

    ‘Arteta surely knows that this could be a make-or-break season for him.’

    Not yet it isn’t. Despite my confidence in Arteta’s project, he’s still a manager accruing experience. He’s only ever been in the #2 seat at City when it comes to steering a club to compete on multiple fronts. The past two seasons we’ve exceeded our stated goals (from each August)– and flattered to deceive until the late-stages of each. Our lack of quality depth and ill-timed injuries dashed those heightened expectations.

    If it all goes right– it could be stunning.
    But if not, and we come close on a couple of those fronts– there’s no possibility KSE will even consider sacking a manager– that has rebuilt the club from the trainwreck AW left behind– into which crashed a second Sanllehi/Emery trainwreck.

    ArtEdu’s five-year plan to win the PL is still a year off. It’ll be fair to have this conversation next Summer– if we haven’t brought home a trophy this season.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      I think I share your faith in the manager and in KSE, which is a strange position to take after years of wondering whether the Kroenkes were serious about doing more than just owning this club. I do think they’ll show some patience. In his short time, Arteta has shown that he has a clear vision for how he wants to play, and this has translated to a relatively clear vision for the kind of player the club should sign. Numerous players have been quoted about the influence his personality and passion have had on their decision to join the club or renew their contracts.

      It’s exciting to think that we’re ahead of schedule, but that may not do much to mitigate the high expectations our pace has set.

      1. jw1

        Think it runs even deeper than playing style and player recruiting. Those are aspects you expect proficiency from any manager hired. What Arteta’s vision entails goes to club culture and infrastructure. From Per Mertesacker’s leadership at youth levels, to the staff at Colney, to the renewed enthusiasm inside the stadium on game days. It’s tangible.

        Fortunate in having been a fan of teams that have won multiple championships in every major sport– over decades. When you’ve seen success occur at the highest level of a sport– you recognize traits that are foundational for success. I’m seeing evidence of it now at Arsenal.

  5. paul35mm

    Raising expectations is a dangerous thing, ask Arsene Wenger. 20 years in the top four and that was the least expected. Unai Emery was supposed to bring the team back to title ocntention. He didn’t. Arteta came in, finished 8th and the club claimed it was ‘progress.’ He finished 8th again, and that was called ‘progress.’ He finished 5th and people were disappointed at not making top 4, but still giddy at the ‘progress.’

    Last season Arsenal were 2nd, and were genuine title challengers. The club has spent money more money than Man City, Man U, Liveprool, Newcastle more than everyone except Chelsea. Arsene Wenger, with 20 top 4 finishes and 3 titles never got to spend that kind of money on players. And second place… wow! Second place! When Arsenal finished second to Leicesters miracle season, fans demanded Wnenger get sacked.

    Perception matters a lot more than reality in football. What kind of disconnect with reality led Leeds to sack a manager that revolutionized the team and how it played in Marco Bielsa to appoint a Premier League newbie. Marsch ‘saved’ the team form relegation by a whisker, brought in a bunch of Premier League neophyte players, and was leading the club into oblivion when he was sacked. Leeds were relegated a season later. It is entirely possible that with Bielsa in charge, Leeds would still be in the Premier League.

    Arteta and the ‘new’ Arsenal approach to player management has been ruthless, self-serving, and supposedly better, but the only trophy is the FA Cup, won in Arteta’s first season with a team made up of most players (mostly) brought into the club by Arsene Wenger. In reality, by the standard set by fans when they demanded Arsene Wenger’s head, Arteta has been sub-par, but the perception is that the team has made progress. Progress from 5th is not 8th, but in Arsenal world it is. Progress from 2nd is 1st. Progress from Europa League embarrassment is… Champions League embarrassment? A Champions League trophy?

    Should Mikel Arteta’s job depend on achievements of that magnitude? It depends on whether perception or reality is your measuring stick. Held to the Wenger standard, he’d be out already.

    As a supporter, I want the team to do well, and as a rational person, winning a title is so dependent on all sorts of small things that can go for or against a team it is silly to say that if a team doesn’t win the title, it’s a disaster.

    Leicester won the title after being awarded more penalties than seemed possible, having no major injuries, and with a number of perennial powerhouses like United and Chelsea, at sea. It was a confulence of factors that made a title possible and the Foxes did it. A title is always an unrealistic goal, but given the constant insistence by the club management that everything since Arsene Wenger’s sacking has been progress, anything less than the title is failure and Arteta has to go.

    1. A Simple Truth

      paul35mm-nice to hear from you again, as it’s been awhile…I can remember your balanced and reasonable offerings on JA before I was summarily dismissed from that forum for speaking my truth…if you could, say hey to Dan Kit for me, as it’s been more than a year since he and I last communicated…at that time I operated under a couple different handles, most notably either TVRL or TVRL4, but I fell victim to the then emerging pro-Arteta echo chamber that AdPat had spent considerable time and effort forging…I miss engaging with likes of Durand, Ken and Reggie, but once Pat had grown increasingly intimidated by my ability to ruffle the right feathers, I knew that excommunication was going to be his only recourse…tell them if they’re looking to find my sorry ass this might be a good starting point…much appreciated

      as for the matters at hand, still not sure I’m buying into the whole win or bust narrative…if you carefully examine Kroenke’s MO, when it comes to his managerial maneuverings, there’s no doubting that a causal relationship exists between his financial outlay and expected results, but I would suspect that he won’t have to be glancing over his shoulder until the year following next, unless something totally unexpected occurs…personally I’m not a proponent of this longer leash gifting, but knowing MA’s mastery for conjuring up a vast array of seemingly plausible excuses, I tend to think he’s going to be allowed to see out his largely fabricated 5 year plan

  6. consolsbob

    Ah, a serial paranoid. I understand now. The website of which you speak, I know not but there are so many of which that is true.

  7. Arjun

    I dont think there is any way to win anything major anymore without spending money in a specific place. I think I see what the problem here is. After the heyday of the Wenger years (where we did spend a lot of money, relatively speaking), we were a team that spent frugally but brilliantly, and expected results since we were almost always competitive until February/March. But here is the rub, there is no link between spending in the transfer market and winning trophies, there is however a considerable link between a team’s salary budget and winning trophies. Teams that have good players that are well paid, win trophies.

    Yes we have spent a lot of money, but that money wasn’t spent on luxury items (Ozil, Auba anyone?). We have spent them on quality add-ons, and I have no doubt that if not this year, next year we will produce results. People say that “oh Arsenal need to show that they are here to stay” to them I say “Who are you? and Why are you in my house?” but I also say, what has Arteta shown that makes you doubt his ability to get the most out of his players? The buyin from the players is there, the confidence and perhaps a little revenge factor has been provided by City, we have seen the development incrementally, hell he has even won a trophy. There is absolutely nothing in this whole picture that points to some kind of regression. Maybe one or two players will, but as a whole I have no doubt we will take another step forward.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      very well said, Arjun. A lot of fans focus only on the size of the transfer fee and overlook wages (although they do frequently track together). What we paid for Alexis, Ozil, and Aubameyang both in fee and wages was exorbitant and unbalanced to the rest of the squad. Under Arteta, the spending is up, but it continues to be, in your words, brilliant. While some may criticise the fee we paid for Rice, I would challenge them to name 2-3 players at the same position, at or above his level, whom we could have gotten for a lower fee or wages. This is the water we’re all swimming in.

      My own opinion of Arteta is quite high – this post was an attempt at looking into the future in which there will be heightened pressure, but most of that pressure will come from sources that don’t make decisions for this club. I suspect we’ll get off to a “slow” start as he integrates new players but that we’ll be right back in the fight to win the Prem.


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