Now, we learn whether Mikel is more than a chequebook manager…


It’s been four and half years now since Mikel Arteta took the wheel. For the first three and half years, give or take, we could attach numerous asterisks and caveats to the two eighth-place finishes, the failure to qualify for any European competition, and then the fifth-place finish when we might have and perhaps should have finished fourth. To wit, he inherited a disjointed, dispirited squad. The culture around the club was toxic. COVID was swirling, Now, with those excuses fading into the rearview and with KSE spending in the transfer market like never before, we have a chance to see just what Arteta is capable of.

Arteta’s 2020 FA Cup victory was based on a starting lineup that he had inherited from the leftovers of Wenger’s tenure and Emery’s ill-fated time. Only a few players from that squad are still with the club today: Pepe (on an almost-permanent loan these days), Holding (being shopped around), and Tierney. Everyone else is gone.

They’ve been moved on, which, in and of itself, is a feat worth commemorating. It’s not easy to convince some other club to take on the wages not to mention the inconsistent performances and various other headaches associated with the likes of Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Ozil, Mustafi, Sokratis, Mkhitaryan, Luiz, Maitland-Niles, Lacazette, Aubameyang, Willian, Torreira, Willock, Chambers, or Bellerin, to name just a few off the top of my head. Say what you will about the fees involved; moving such players on given their wages must have been enough to make Atlas himself envious.

Shedding unwanted players freed Arteta to give minutes to those inherited players who could perform—Saka, Martinelli, Saliba, Tierney, Xhaka—and to integrate the players he wanted such as Ødegaard, Ramsdale, White, Partey, Magalhães, Jesus, Zinchenko, Trossard, Havertz, Timber, and Rice. In short, this is now truly and thoroughly his squad. He owns it. He’s built it. There can be no more excuses about those who are deadwood or those who are nicking a living.

KSE have invested quite a lot in support of Arteta over the last three windows. With that comes the inevitable accusation that Arsenal are now buying their way to success (as if that accusation has stuck to Chelsea, Man U, or Man City…). At a deeper level, though, perhaps deeper than the fans of these other clubs can fathom, the fact that Arteta can now claim full responsibility for this squad carries with it certain responsibilities.

During the 2022-23 season, Arteta could claim that his tactical options were limited by the players he had available. An injury to Jesus forced him to play Nketiah. An injury to Saliba forced him to play Holding—and White couldn’t get up the pitch as ambitiously, depriving Saka of service, and on and on. Still, Arteta steered this ship to within a few weeks of winning the Prem. The excuses were abundant.

Such excuses may be somewhat scarcer in the season to come. It’s not just that we’ve made Declan Rice the most-expensive English player ever. It’s not that we’ve signed Havertz or Timber, either. Smith Rowe is back to full fitness. There’s depth at just about every position except behind Saka and Ramsdale. Arteta’s shown that he can lead a misfit squad to something resembling success. Now that he has a squad he can call his own, a squad that allow him a wide range of tactical options, we have to ask whether he’s up to task. It’s a fair question, given how long we’ve wanted to see our manager get the backing necessary to compete for silverware.

We have that now. Arteta’s been given ample financial backing. Can he live up to the pressure created by that financial backing and by last season’s unexpected progress? He’s under the gun. Under the cosh. Under the…um…uh…well, I can’t think of a third idiom to complete the triumvirate. More’s the pity.

I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say that we want Arteta to make the most of this. It would be churlish and even spiteful to want him to suffer, as if there were some cathartic value to jettisoning the manager at the first signs of struggle. Sadly, we know all too well that every fanbase includes in it that kind of spiteful cutting-off of the nose to spite the face.

For what it’s worth, Arteta is the manager for the foreseeable future. I’m not insisting that we give him our blinkered, 100% support, regardless of results on the pitch. I’m suggesting instead a bit of patience as we attempt to build on what was almost an infamously unexpectedly glorious season.

The future shines brightly. It shouldn’t blind us to our faults or weaknesses. It shines like a beacon beckoning us forward.

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16 thoughts on “Now, we learn whether Mikel is more than a chequebook manager…

  1. Jax

    May I be the first pedant to point out the (almost) forgotten man of Arsenal: Big Mo Elneny, who has never let us down, always puts in a shift and is reputedly the most popular squad member. Still in recovery after his first long injury lay off, but hopefully ready for the season to come. And what terrific hair!

  2. consolsbob

    Interesting point about it now being ‘his squad’. Nowhere to hide now if he wanted to, which I doubt. I back him to succeed. Everything that players say about him shows their belief ‘in the process’.

    I did write a guest blog on ACLF once, titled ‘There is an elephant in the room’. Basically pointing out that all the failures of the team at that point were inevitably down to him. His players, his purchases, his training and motivation.

    Ruffled feathers on what at that that time was a strongly pro Wenger site. Ultimately led to a civil war with several regulars leaving to establish a ‘loyal’ site of their own. Wenger was next to God in their eyes. It is still going!

    I don’t expect a similar situation to arise here….

    1. Eoin ó Conchobhair

      Nowhere to hide indeed, but Arteta doesn’t seem like the hiding type. He doesn’t have the same financial restraints Wenger could hide behind, he’s gotten the backing from Silent Stan.

      Jon, you make good points here. Now that Arteta has purged the deadwood (most of it anyway) and been given the players he wants, it’s up to him to show that he can make this squad more than the sum of its parts.

      back to you, consolsbob – winning brings agreement. As long as we’re winning, there won’t be much to criticize. Whenever it was that you wrote about Wenger was probably when we were struggling – and frustrations were bubbling, maybe boiling over. For as good as things got before going to pieces last season, optimism is on the rise.

      1. consolsbob

        Fair point but I have to tell you that I wanted Wenger gone for several years and was angry that he was trashing his reputation and killing the club by the end. He had to go. Now, in the calm of the day, we can recognise what he did achieve during most of his reign, and it was a reign.

    2. Jon Shay Post author

      Ah, yes, the old WOB/AKB schism. That’s one for the history books if not the rubbish bin. I do hope we can all avoid a similar one should the results fall short of expectations (which are sky-high after this summer’s spend and last season’s “bottle job”).

      The feeling emanating from the club is strong – whereas setbacks used to feel calamitous, there’s a new feeling that setbacks will only re-double the players’ determination, and that’s a strong sign that Arteta has done more than sign some players; he’s built a culture of success.

  3. Mike VW

    The idea that Arteta is a “chequebook” manager is silly nonsense I’d expect from a Chelsea fan or Man U fan, fanbases blind to their own clubs’ behavior. Yes, we’ve seen 200m spent in this window, but where does that fall in the top 10 biggest windows of Prem history? Does it even make the list? The reality is that the club have spent more aggressively in the last three seasons but they were essentially rebuilding an entire squad from scratch while Chelsea, Man U, and Citeh have been bolstering squads that were already full of talent.

    If they’re jealous, they’re threatened. Scared even. We’ve seen what Arteta can do when he has just 14 or 15 players to call on. There’s pressure on him now that he has a deeper squad, sure, but that’s natural. I

  4. A Simple Truth

    few points

    (1) I could never quite understand how MA’s most ardent apologists hid behind the whole covid narrative, as if that only applied to our club…btw that “disjointed, dispirited squad” was the only group, under Arteta’s tutelage, who found a way to win when it mattered most…seeing how we tripped over our collective di**s two seasons running, one might suggest that the one upgrade we needed most was in the managerial department…I guess only time will tell

    (2) to pay homage to someone for conducting one of the worst asset management periods in the history of the PL is beyond laughable…of course, no one blames him for the deadweight he inherited, albeit that’s generally the case for all new managers, but to actually heap praise on him for actually paying players to ply their trades elsewhere is at best disingenuous…in fact, this is one of the key aspects of his rather logical “chequebook manager” designation…600M net spend versus 100+M in sales…enough said

    (3) just to set the record straight I truly hope that MA comes good, especially in the business end of the season, as this would mean that we’re actually progressing and not simply trending in the “right” direction…that said, the whole “patience” narrative can no longer be propagated by those firmly within the Kool-Aid camp, as that would be a clear sign that the “blinkered” supporters had once again hijacked our club


    1. consolsbob

      You have a strong view of his failings and you don’t believe that he was ever the best choice for the job, I get that. What I don’t understand is your insistence that those who believe him to be a good manager and good for the club are somehow deluded on ‘cool aid’. Seems to me that today alone has made it clear that he has to show us what he can do now. The implication being that all support of a manager is conditional on that manager being a success.

      1. A Simple Truth

        I think you’ve drawn the wrong conclusions from my above commentary…I certainly hold no ill-will for those who’ve taken a commonsensical approach to our present managerial situation, but when it comes to the excuse-laden nonsense being propagated by some, such as the whole covid garbage or any attempts to prop-up his asset management nous, I will remain ever vigilantly opposed

        now if he finds a way to properly redress both his tactical shortcomings and his well-known selection-based issues, I will be elated…tbh I would have been far more convinced, even if we had finished in 3rd or 4th, if he had made tangible strides in those aforementioned departments and had likewise properly dealt with our most pressing needs first in both the winter and summer windows…after all this was supposedly a 5 year plan, so he should have acted accordingly, instead of doing what he did following our rather fortuitous FA, when he opted for short-sighted solutions rather than staying the long game course

        much in the same vein as Pool, we came into the summer window knowing full-well that we needed to reinvent our midfield, but instead of targeting those needs first and foremost, we went into luxury buy mode with Havertz being our first priority signing…meanwhile Pool signed two highly sought-after midfielders and is presently pursuing a logical 3rd…not to mention, Klopp’s first two signings cost less than our only true midfield pick-up, who btw is largely a one-sided player…of course, who knows how this will pan out, but from a logically-deduced odds perspective, I would suggest that constantly going against the grain, when you’re still learning on the job, might be unwise

        1. consolsbob

          A reasonable argument. He is a young, inexperienced manager. Where you see failings, I see naivety. I also see inspiration. The making use of subs and similar issues can be learnt, although Arsene never seemed to.

          I will stick to my personal experience to push you a little harder. You labelled me yesterday as an Arsene diehard. I was not and am not. So you see something that is not there and use it as a stick.

          Unnecessary, don’t you agree?

          1. A Simple Truth

            unless you and jw1 are one in the same, I never even replied to use yesterday until you took a potshot in my general direction…not to mention, my response to jw was directly related to the fact that his two greatest managerial heroes just happened to be two individuals who stayed well beyond their respective best before dates…as for your potential diehard status, I would suggest that you’re more card-carrying member than objective observer, but I could be mistaken…either way that’s your prerogative and I certainly don’t begrudge you that…Cheers

            1. consolsbob

              Card carrying member? Of what? Enlighten me. You certainly did include me in your critique of the views of ‘Wenger loyalists’. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

              If your intent is to make peace and retract your over aggressive ripostes to those who have different views from your own, I am all in favour. Drinks all round!

  5. consolsbob

    Well, another keeper. Good. Ramsdale needs a kick up the backside. Never bought into the hype he receives

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      He has the makings of a very good keeper, but, to be honest, he’s been given a bit of a pass by many because he’s got personality and he occasionally comes up with something vital & dynamic (he’s bit a like Podolski in both regards). He’s still a very young keeper (just 25 in May) and needs someone to push him and maybe mentor him as well.


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