Edu backs Arteta, but mixed messages make it less convincing

What do Edu do? A question we’ve asked on the podcast more than once. I was chatting to someone about this over the weekend in the context of how there’s been such silence from ‘executive level’ during this period.

I know Mikel Arteta is the manager, and thus part of that group, but Edu is also in a very high profile position and in the not too distant past, when things were going badly under Arsene Wenger, the silence from that level was often deafening. Ivan Gazidis, who could talk the hind legs off a donkey at any kind of kit launch or vaguely positive commercial event or function, was never anywhere to be found when the shit was going down. I often felt like insisting he wore shades and bandages, so the The Invisible CEO could be seen as he skulked his way around the corridors of Highbury House.

Ahead of tomorrow’s game against Southampton, the Technical Director has given an interview to a section of the print media – arranged before Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Burnley by the way – calling for patience and backing for Arteta.

Citing the crazy year we’ve had, with no pre-season, lockdown, and genuine upheaval at executive level with the departure of Raul Sanllehi and our main contracts guy, he said:

“It’s normal and easy to be driven by the results. But for me, the main point is when I see something in which I can see the future, see where we go, the way we’re building things, starting to see it on a daily basis.

“So the way we work, the way we train, the way we behave internally, if you see the quality of the work, if you see the quality of the people, if you see properly what’s happening here on a daily basis, it’s nothing to compare with the results.”

It is very, very hard, venturing on impossible, to convince people that the future will be better when the present is so bad. The future is aspirational, we live in the now, and week after week, we’ve endured an Arsenal team which is so far removed from anything we want it to be.

It’s also hard to be convinced by what Edu says when, as Lewis Ambrose points out, the messages are so mixed.

That is the thing about a signing like Willian, it has to work straight away or it looks awful. A 19 year old winger, or even someone like Pepe who was older but had plenty to deal with in his first season, is someone who you can advocate for needing time to settle, to develop, to grow.

When you hand a three year deal to a 32 year old who has stunk the place out in almost every game this season, you can’t really insist they’re given that same consideration. Their experience, their ‘oven ready’ status is really the only justification for that kind of transfer anyway, and when you, as Technical Director, are part of the team to sanction it, it reflects as much on you as it does the player. Edu’s close relationship with Willian’s agent also means his attempts to defend his compartriot stand up to far less scrutiny than they might otherwise.

Again, as I said yesterday, the collective malaise is real, it’s affecting everyone. If a rising tide floats all boats, the opposite can also be true when it goes out. However, you expect more from senior, experienced players, and so far he has been one of the most disappointing performers this season. It’s true to say he’s capable of better, as is Aubameyang, as is Lacazette etc, but it doesn’t help us making contradictory excuses for him when he’s not.

Reports of dressing room unrest over the weekend add another layer to what’s going on. There have been denials, but those are par for the course. I will say this though, if someone like David Luiz – a man with a long track record of falling out with coaches and managers – has turned on Arteta after the way the manager backed him through and through despite red cards and more penalties than any other player in history has ever conceded, he can get out.

Regardless of what happens with Arteta, it’s characters and signings like that we don’t need. An old player, signed on massive wages who is supposedly a really positive character until he decides otherwise. At times like this, you need your senior players to help pull things around, so if the stories that the two aren’t speaking are true, let’s not ignore the player’s side of it in our current dismay at the job the manager is doing. Both things are a problem, not just one, and we can’t really expect things to be radically different under a new boss if you give him the same group of players who have demonstrated their character – and footballing – deficiencies time and time again.

Nevertheless, the spotlight is firmly on the manager. He’s had the backing of Vinai in the last few days, now Edu. I could be wrong, but I genuinely don’t think this is the ‘dreaded’ vote of confidence that comes before a manager gets the chop. But, with Southampton and Everton on Wednesday and Saturday respectively; an EFL Cup tie with Man City next week; and then the visit of Chelsea, no amount of patience, understanding, or belief in the future will be sufficient without some good results.

What exactly he does for tomorrow night remains to be seen. The absences due to suspension of Hector Bellerin (1 game), and Granit Xhaka (3 games), means some changes are enforced, but if there were some greater acknowledgement of under-performing players and the need to see them sit down while someone else is given a chance to impress, that would be a decent start and, I think, buy him some much need goodwill (at least in the hour before kick-off).

We’ll preview the Southampton game on tomorrow’s blog. For now I’ll leave you with yesterday’s Arsecast Extra, which is pretty heavy, but that’s just how it is at the moment.


This Arsecast Extra was recorded with ipDTL

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