Mikel Arteta is getting a particularly rough time of things with a section of fans.
Not satisfied with the FA Cup last season, these reactionary supporters are miffed at the poor run of results that leave us mired in midtable obscurity. Not only this, but our dearth of opportunities during the game are not down to poor form or players missing. Nor are they down to a lack of prep time for Arteta and the inability to use a pre-season to hone a system still in its infancy.
No, it is simply – according to this group of fans – because Arteta isn’t the right man.
While the majority of us can see the progress we have made and trust the process, we are still able to critique our squad and our manager fairly – and while Arteta may be the right man for the job, he isn’t above making errors.
And it seems one of them is the ignorance toward younger players who have earned their chance, snubbing them for more established members of the squad.
Take Reiss Nelson for example. Whenever the winger has played, sporadic though it may be, he has impressed. And yet we have seen Arteta continually opt for the tried and tested Willian – who is a valuable squad member but is woefully out of form.
Then there is the curious case of Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
His FA Cup heroics in our semi-final and final wins last season were mammoth. These were also in midfield too. It saw a call up to England squads – albeit in a wing-back capacity – but AMN was on the rise. Yet we have seen precious little of him recently, even in the face of Thomas Partey’s injury. AMN could give us drive in the centre, but Xhaka and Ceballos – who were great defensively against Leeds – continue to get the starts.
The same goes, but to a lesser extent – for Emile Smith-Rowe. The talented playmaker has had his injury issues but he has been ripping it up for the under-23’s recently but cannot seem to make headway into an Arteta eleven – despite us looking painfully out of ideas.
Mikel Arteta is instilling his process and that takes time – but he should turn to our talented crop of kids to do a job right now, while our established players take a breather and get a kick up the backside in the form of a reminder.