Arteta’s two mistakes in two games threaten to wreck Arsenal’s season at the time when Pep Guardiola gets things spot on

MIKEL ARTETA is used to being questioned in the Arsenal hot seat.

From when he first took over – back in December 2019 – to those two eighth-placed Premier League finishes, there were those who asked if he was the right man for the job.

Mikel Arteta made two mistakes in Arsenal's last two matches


Mikel Arteta made two mistakes in Arsenal’s last two matchesCredit: Reuters
Jakub Kiwior made errors in the 2-2 Champions League draw with Bayern Munich


Jakub Kiwior made errors in the 2-2 Champions League draw with Bayern MunichCredit: Alamy
Not starting Kai Havertz up front against Aston Villa also backfired


Not starting Kai Havertz up front against Aston Villa also backfiredCredit: Getty

And then, at the end of 2021/22 campaign having narrowly missed out on the top four, there were those who asked if he could transform the Gunners into title challengers.

Those questions have since been answered, but now there is a fresh query: is Arteta able to get Arsenal over the line in the biggest moments in the hunt for major titles?

The last week has thrown doubt into the equation once again, with the North London club’s season hanging by a thread.

In fact, by Sunday, Arsenal’s hopes and dreams of lifting silverware could be all but over.

Salvaging a 2-2 draw in their Champions League quarter final first leg against Bayern Munich last Tuesday was followed by yesterday’s potentially fatal 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa.

Defeat to Bayern in Munich on Wednesday and then failing to beat Wolves at Molineux on Saturday night will leave Arteta’s Prem and European title surge in tatters.

Former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson, acting as a Sky Sports pundit at the Emirates for Villa’s impressive victory, said the pressure was starting to get to Arteta after suggesting the Spaniard got it wrong with his tactical tweaks, including dropping Jorginho to the bench.

Merson said: “This is what happens. Pressure gets to everybody, not just to the players but the managers. That’s where you need a Pep Guardiola, who just keeps cool.


“The pressure tells in the end.”

Arteta has got most of his big decisions at Arsenal spot on.

Getting rid of bad eggs like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi. Putting his faith in young talents. Refusing to panic buy. Sticking to his playing principles.

Gary Neville’s eerily accurate prediction about the title race re-emerges after shock defeats for Arsenal and Liverpool

Delaying William Saliba’s introduction into the first team. Brutally axing Aaron Ramsdale for David Raya as his No.1. Spending big on Kai Havertz when others failed to see the potential.

But Arsenal’s last two games have shown that Arteta is capable of a misstep.

Against Bayern, sticking with Jakub Kiwior at left-back was a mistake. The Polish centre back played his part of both goals Arsenal conceded and was torn apart by Leroy Sane. Dragging Kiwior off at half-time for Oleksandr Zinchenko was telling.

A similar switch against Villa did not pay off. Havertz – who had four goals and four assists in his last six Prem games as a central striker – was dropped back into midfield for Gabriel Jesus – who has scored just once since January – meaning Jorginho was left on the bench.

Forget Odegaard and Rice… this Arsenal star could be Player of the Year, says Andy Dillon

By Andy Dillon

MARTIN ODEGAARD and Declan Rice will rightly be in the shake down for the Footballer of the Year award.

But their Arsenal team-mate Gabriel also deserves recognition should the Gunners go on to win the Premier League title.

The Brazilian has been a monster at the back alongside William Saliba.

They are the heart of the meanest defence — conceding just 24 goals in the league this season.

He has also scored four, the joint-highest for a defender in the top flight along with Spurs’ Cristian Romero.

If boss Mikel Arteta ends Arsenal’s 20-year wait for the title then Gabriel will have been as important a cog in the machine as anyone at the Emirates.

Considering he was struggling for game time and appeared a lost soul last summer, it’s some turnaround.

Click here to ready Andy’s column in full.

Or to read more from Andy Dillon, click here

You could argue that in both these games, Arteta was let down by usually reliable big names having an off night, something that is out of his control.

Declan Rice had a rare shaky night against Bayern. Kiwior had been impressive at left-back before his public humbling.

Havertz squandered several first half chances to see off Villa, as did Jesus. Mistakes are beginning to creep back into centre back Gabriel’s game.

Rice said post-Villa: “This is Arsenal. You feel the pressure that you have to win these sorts of games. We put the pressure on ourselves. Now it is time for a reaction.”

Performances on the pitch aside, Arteta will know the buck stops with him. Managers live or die by their decision and Arteta has shown glimpses of getting some big calls wrong.

Yet there is now no margin for error. Not at this level, not at this stage of a season when you have threatened to pull off a stunning Double. Expectation has never been higher.

Kiwior struggled against Leroy Sane last week before being subbed off at half-time


Kiwior struggled against Leroy Sane last week before being subbed off at half-timeCredit: Rex
Arteta and Arsenal have surrendered top spot in the Premier League


Arteta and Arsenal have surrendered top spot in the Premier LeagueCredit: Reuters

These are the months when Arteta’s old mentor Pep Guardiola usually gets things spot on.

In recent weeks, he has given the likes of Phil Foden and Erling Haaland a rest while picking up maximum points. Pep’s squad is far deeper than Arteta’s, but it is still a risk nonetheless.

Should Arsenal ultimately falter in the coming days, questions will rightly be asked.

Arteta is in no danger of losing his job, but the pressure will be cranked up big time.

The only way to quieten the doubters is to do what he has done in the past at this club and continue to defy the odds, come up with the goods and get the big calls right.

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are now leading the way in the title race


Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are now leading the way in the title raceCredit: AP


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.