What’s gone wrong with Arsenal and what is needed to put it right



By Tony Attwood

Towards the end of last season I put across a view that has been expressed here before, which basically said that although individual slips by individual players could be an obvious cause of goals conceded, and was something that all the media continuously focussed on, there was another reason that could explain why teams suddenly lose form, as Arsenal did last campaign, and are doing again now.

I also expressed the view that the notion of an alternative explanation to individual loss of form from players was not popular in the media or among bloggers because it led away from the most simplistic of solutions which is to get rid of failing players and buy others.

This view – the blaming of individual players – is popular because it is simple and then leads onto the notion of who Arsenal should buy in the transfer window.  The fact that the club then only buys three percent of the players that they are tipped to be chasing is then put down to the failure of the Arsenal transfer team and the parsimonious nature of the manager or owner or both.  In short everyone has an instant story to write, without bothering to think further.

The fact is that clubs that win the league do so by avoiding sudden drops in form during the season and we saw this with a vengeance last season.

On 21 January 2023 the top of the table read


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 18 15 2 1 42 14 28 47
2 Manchester City 19 13 3 3 50 20 30 42
3 Newcastle United 20 10 9 1 33 11 22 39
4 Manchester United 19 12 3 4 30 22 8 39
5 Tottenham Hotspur 20 10 3 7 39 31 8 33


There was nothing to suggest that a dip in form was about to happen, but it did, and rather than it being one unexpected defeat it turned out to be far worse.


Date Match Result Score Competition
27 Jan 2023 Manchester City v Arsenal L 1-0 FA Cup
04 Feb 2023 Everton v Arsenal L 1-0 Premier League
11 Feb 2023 Arsenal v Brentford D 1-1 Premier League
15 Feb 2023 Arsenal v Manchester City L 1-3 Premier League

Arsenal then recovered and started winning again, and although they remained top of the league this was only courtesy of the fact that Manchester City had played two games fewer.  What was certain was that Arsenal could not afford another dip, or bad run, but that’s what they got…


Date Match Res Score Competition
9 Apr 2023 Liverpool v Arsenal D 2-2 Premier League
16 Apr 2023 West Ham United v Arsenal D 2-2 Premier League
21 Apr 2023 Arsenal v Southampton D 3-3 Premier League
26 Apr 2023 Manchester City v Arsenal L 4-1 Premier League

and that gave Manchester City the title.

Dips are complex affairs and most clubs suffer them at some time or another, but the most successful teams suffer at most one dip in a season, and then recover.   In part this may be through having a very good squad so that any player who is just looking slightly off form can be replaced, or by making regular changes so that the whole team doesn’t suffer a drop in form at once.

There is also quite a role here for the club’s psychologist and his/her team – a group of people virtually never mentioned by football writers, as if the notion of having a psychological department in a club is somehow unmanly.  Indeed we still read today reports of how Alex Ferguson treated his players in individual interviews, as if that were a model for how managers should behave.  It is a model, and clearly it can work with some managers and some players – but not with everyone and it can lead to significant psychological damage to a player.  Other approaches are available.

But my main point is that simply buying new players is not the complete answer.  It is the buying of players and the building of a group feeling that makes the players as a team able to pick themselves up as a group after a poor result, and put matters to right.  Indeed one can dismiss the whole area of work covered by psychologists and sociologists but that does not mean the disciplines don’t exist.

Arsenal are now a long way off where they were one year ago after 20 games


Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 2022/3 20 16 2 2 45 17 28 50
4 Arsenal 2023/4 20 12 4 4 37 20 17 40


But last season, although between match 23 and match 29 Arsenal won seven games in a row scoring 23 and conceding seven, then came the second dip of two wins, three draws and three defeats with a total score of 13 for and 16 against.   That form of 1.125 points per game was close to the level for Fulham this season.

The issue quite simply is how Arsenal can stop getting multiple dips like this.  The most logical explanation is that the group dynamic is wrong, and Arsenal need to find a way to pull themselves together as a group.   And as such it is often something that the simple transfer in of a new player won’t actually cure.  What they need is either a new sociologist, or to take more notice of the one that they have.

9 Replies to “What’s gone wrong with Arsenal and what is needed to put it right”

  1. Declan Rice commented on the poor mentality after the game. To me in the West Ham game Arsenal may have had the better players but West Ham had a much better attitude. Its funny how you identify the problem while rejecting the idea the manager could have anything to do with it. The fact is Arteta has an excuse for everything and that is likely to affect the players. Postecoglu is the complete opposite, he will never accept excuses regardless of the opposition or how many players he is missing. We’ve also seen it with Guardiola. Apart from the “I won’t do an Arteta ” dig his comments after the Palace game were interesting. In respect of the last minute penalty he said “its not bad luck its bad play”. He’s not giving his players an out.

  2. Spot on Jod.
    Everyone is ignoring Arteta in all this.
    These dips have happened in everyone of his seasons. Different players same manager.
    He has no plan B. Subs merely continue the playbook.
    A playbook that is so utterly predictable you could write it out before each game you watch.
    With a team that doesn’t have fb’s and send our best one out on loan.
    A team with no striker and pretend Nketiah is PL quality.
    A bunch of fans who think Martinelli’s continual run, check, pass inside is effective forward play! Similarly Saka. Do people really think they would not be more exciting and inventive away from Artrtas robotic approach, his indoctrination and erasure of all creativity
    I despair of the excuses

  3. Let’s harness the collective wisdom of all the pundits and commentators who come out in force if Arsenal don’t win. Let’s listen to that renowned football expert and Arsenal “fan”, Piers Morgan, telling Arteta what he is doing wrong (just as he did with Messrs. Emery and Wenger.

    In fact, why don’t we sack MA and appoint Piers Morgan in his place, since he knows so much more about football.

  4. Nice to see some supporters of the Middlesex marshes drop by. Yes, Postecoglu is brilliant isn’t he, “ a breath of fresh air” the media keep telling us.and a title contender so we are told, right.
    Although he is starting to get a bit critical of the refs despite his earlier claims, so there’s hope for him yet.
    “With a team that doesn’t have fb’s and send our best one out on loan.” – I assume you mean Tierney? Have you noted how much he’s actually played since goi g out on loan?

  5. I don’t understand allowing journalists to comment on things they know very little about or on matches they didn’t watch. Xhaka was comvinced by Arteta to stay eventually he made it clear that he wanted to go

  6. Can’t comment too much on Piers Morgan as I don’t read or listen to anything that he says on Arsenal or anything else.

    However the subject of this thread is regarding the situation at the club and opening an opportunity for people to discuss football and what is happening on the pitch without acrimony.

    As has already been said we have become very obvious in our set up and style of play. When we substitute we tend to change like for like. I have suggested various things in previous posts and been accused of not very nice things. In retrospect following the Fulham game many of our youngsters Saka , Martinelli , even Saliba looked to be running on fumes . Tiredness ? Is it a squad thing , are our substitutes either not up to the standard or does the manager not trust them ? Why do we seem to run players into the ground.?
    The tactics were a revelation last season , but players that play against you learn from what happened and take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The wingers cutting in is one of our favourite moves and on Sakas side we have White overlapping and combinations with Odegaard trying to play tight passes in a congested area consequently they double up on him to reduce the space. No such support for Martinelli on the other side . Zinchenko often is elsewhere and this year he doesn’t seem to have a similar relationship with either Rice or Havertz that he had with Xhaka and is getting visibly frustrated and even when he does get down his wing he has no-one to aim for in the box so he is left with cutting inside or passing back.
    We have many good players but they are tired the mid season world cup didn’t help and hopefully the break between the Liverpool cup match and the Palace match 13 days later will give them the chance to recuperate. But Hodgson is no mug and will set up to stifle us and they have some pretty rapid players that can hit on the break ,we will need to be wary of getting caught too far forward and leaving gaps in defence especially left back where it seems everyone has perceived a weakness.
    The statisticians will tell you that we make chances but don’t often take them but really when you watch other teams scoring from open play they seem to have room in and around the box but we do not . Is this because we build slowly and frequently overpass ? It would seem that so far this season a greater percentage of our goals have come from set pieces our so called centre forward spends much of his time away from the penalty box a good player but not a regular goalscoring forward.
    In July 2023 we lost Steve Round as assistant first team coach perhaps his lack of influence is what has changed .
    Something certainly has ,perhaps we need a change of tack instead of being so predictable we need to shake things up and give the other teams a different set of problems to solve.

    It will be interesting to get the views of other contributors.

  7. We just have several players who are not good enough. Nketiah is pretty average, Jesus isn’t a striker and the Zinchenko experiment is leaving us too exposed. We need a striker, but where can we get,one? There are none available. Toney is overpriced and only a very short term solution, Solanke is he really a long term quality striker, and then who else??

    Also there are several players who seem to have gone backwards with Arteta. What has he done to Smith-Rowe who has all but disappeared? Where did Partey go?

    Lastly, the subs are just not good enough. Nelson flatters to deceive, Nketiah himself is poor, and I’m struggling to,think of anyone else to bring on.

    The squad just is not good enough yet and we must get a striker.

  8. If we ever got into a substantial lead we could give some of the fringe players and the youth ten or 15 minute cameos , but we don’t
    Even an established player coming back from injury Emile Smith Rowe has only had this :- 116 minutes on the pitch in the league over 7 games of which 73 minutes were against Sheffield United in a 5 nil win.
    He also played as a substitute in 3 games in the Champions League coming on in the 88th, 71st and 69th minutes .
    Not really much of a chance to impress.
    What chance does the next group coming through have.

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