I’ve seen some of the rumours for the last few weeks about Arteta and the fact his contract is up at the end of next season, with people speculating on whether he should get a new one. Then today I have seen a couple of articles suggesting he’ll be getting one of those “BUMPER PAY DEAL!” thingies that you see in the press every once in a while when a Red Top newspaper wants to get a few more eyeballs looking at their tittle-tattle. And I’m finding myself wondering whether I think it is a good thing or not.
It’s funny because I think the broad consensus on Arteta is that he’s doing a good job and most of us are happy with where we are at. The has been a raft of changes since he arrived in terms of the playing staff, by-and-large we mostly agree as a fanbase that the players that have exited were the right players to go, whilst bringing in likeable players that we all feel we can get behind and become invested in. He’s brought in an approach which makes us defensively resolute and whilst it has felt at times that we have real problems in scoring goals, we’ve still scored the seventh best number of goals in the league and have the fifth best defence. That’s not bad, given that there were three big defeats and nine goals conceded in our first three games before that first international break.
I feel myself like he’s doing a good job. We’re in a good position and it feels like the direction of travel is the right way. Arteta is strong willed, he has the backing of his players – we can all see that – and we are as it stands in a great position to kick on in the league. But when it comes to the renewal of his contract I think I am in favour, but a lot will depend on what happens in the next few months. If we capitulate this season and end up finishing seventh or lower, then that’ll be two full years with him in charge and half a season from when he took over. The purging of the team has happened and it is now well and truly in his own image. If that image cannot achieve sixth as a minimum, then we’ll need to have a think about whether it is the right image. I think given our position and the relative weaknesses of the other teams around us too, even finishing sixth might be cause for a concern as to whether he can hit those heady heights of challenging for the title that we aspire to.
It feels a little too binary to suggest that anything else other than top four means failure for the manager, but at the same time given the position we are in, it also feels like not getting it will be a massive challenge. Man United are surely unlikely to make a rubbish appointment on the cheap and I think we’re all expecting it to be somebody like Pochettino in the summer. If they get somebody who can whip the team into an organised outfit then they have the money to kick on and leave us trailing behind. Tottenham have Conte and I can’t not believe he won’t be backed in the summer and they will therefore be better. If West Ham fall away then is that who we are saying is our comparator and competition for that sixth spot? That feels a little low in terms of the bar of expectation.
So then we go back to the original question I am posing myself this morning, which is whether I back a new contract for Arteta and I think ultimately I do. I know there are many who already view him as ‘The New Bad Man‘ and I understand that; people feel like he’s had enough time and aside from the FA Cup there hasn’t been enough of the needle moved in terms of our competitiveness further up the league. I too have those frustrations sometimes, but I just feel like we’re on the verge of something. It feels like we could be on the verge of going supernova with this crop of players. They are all bought in to Arteta’s ideals, he’s built himself a collective of disciples and they are all learning on the job together. With that in mind it makes sense to keep the ‘captain’ steering the ship, so to speak.
And if Saka is one of those disciples who is fully invested and gets his agent to sort out the details of a new deal for Bukayo in the coming months too, that will also be testimony to the manager and how much his players are invested in him. On that front, I did think the other day “what if Bukayo stalls on another deal until he knows what is happening with Arteta?” as I was running, which will irritate some if the two have their contractual situations linked, but ultimately if Bukayo also feels like Arteta is at the forefront of the team really being able to challenge, he is more likely to want to get a new contract inked sooner rather than later. It would be interesting to ask those that are dissenters when it comes to Arteta, whether they would begrudgingly accept that he should get a new deal, if it meant Saka also getting a new deal signed, as a result. I don’t think that is too far-fetched to consider. We all see how close he is to catching real fire and becoming a true Starboy in the league, not just amongst Arsenal fans, so the idea that he might go elsewhere to show that off in the near future is quite a painful one to contemplate right now, but if he has any sense he will focus on wanting to be with a manager who helps him improve. If that is Arteta and he believes that, then he’ll stick around, but he’ll want some guarantees that Arteta will do the same. We all know the story of RvP and Sir Alex and I’ll better Saka and his agent are aware of that too.
Still, all of this is speculation at the moment, so we’ll probably have to wait a few months before we get a better idea of the situation. Until then there are a lot more football matches to be played and a lot more fingers to be crossed.
Catch you all tomorrow.