Although Mikel Arteta has only won one point in his first two games in charge, it seems that the fans are pleased with what they’re seeing.
One of the most pleasing aspects is the handling of Granit Xhaka, who wants to join Hertha Berlin, according to reports. The 12th-placed team are apparently keen and Arteta seems to be talking the price up, when he says Man City were interested in the Switzerland international before he signed for Arsenal. Despite Arteta’s comments, we all know if Man City want a player they get him. Think of Mahrez, for example, who was perennially linked with Arsenal. If City really wanted Xhaka, they would have outbid the Gunners.
Nevertheless, Arteta may want Xhaka on the books for his versatility, as he can deputise in various areas of the pitch, despite his tendency to gift the opponents goal-scoring opportunities.
In that sense, he’s in good company at Arsenal, where two heinous errors by Leno gifted Chelsea all three points in the most recent clash. However, the German keeper has been in such good form, it would be crass to criticise him this time. He’s certainly been more a saviour than a sinner.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of Mustafi. I don’t know what’s happened to the German, but a change of scene seems to be the only answer. He looked like a decent player, when he first arrived, but those days are long gone.
It’s hard to imagine that another club will take a punt on Mustafi, so perhaps Arsenal will be stuck with him for the duration of his contract.
Meanwhile, Xhaka seems to be heading towards the exit. By all accounts, Arteta has privately voiced his opinion that the Swiss can go, while in public stating that he wants him to stay. Some Arsenal fans call that ‘classic management’. I’d agree that it’s best to praise in public and criticise in private, so there are reasons to believe Arteta will turn this Titanic around before it hits the icy reaches of the relegation zone.
Part of the reason for that belief is Arteta’s warmth. It was pleasing to see the new boss with his arm around Reiss Nelson after the draw at Bournemouth. Although I would have selected Pepe ahead of Nelson, the youngster’s work rate was impressive. Unfortunately, his crossing was only as good as Saka’s, on the other flank, so Arsenal missed a lot of opportunities to score or to create goal-scoring possibilities.
After both games, Arteta said all the right things to the media, which gives everyone hope that he can change Arsenal for the better. Offloading Xhaka and Mustafi would surely be a huge step in the right direction, although knowing Arsenal they’ll leave it until transfer deadline day.
On that note, the big question is why did it take so long to appoint Arteta? He appears to be the right man for the job, so why did the ditherers at the top take their sweet time to arrest the decline?
Perhaps we’ll never find out, but it appears that Ancelotti was not approached, after all. Although some pundits claimed that Arsenal were not big enough for the former Chelsea boss, he’s now at Everton, so you’d have to imagine he would have been interested in working for the Gunners.
Instead though, Arsenal have taken a chance on a rookie, but it’s so far so good, despite the poor return.