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by Tony Attwood
Mikel Arteta took over at Arsenal as manager on 20 December 2019. That season he won the FA Cup with Arsenal, although the club was knocked out of the Europa League in the first knock out round. In the league the club came eighth.
He was considered “a good thing” but that faded. In 2020/21 Arsenal came eighth again and got to the Europa semi-final. The first calls for him to be sacked appeared.
In 2021/22 there was a league cup semi-final, in which Arsenal were resoundingly beaten by Liverpool, and the club climbed to fifth, but there was a worrying sign in the move away from a top goal scorer. In 2019/20 Aubameyang got 29. One year on the top scorer was Lacazette with 17.
By the first anniversary of his appointment, Arteta’s Arsenal were 15th in the league and just four points off relegation. There were calls for his resignation. These have indeed continued as on the last day of last year Football Insider ran the headline “Sack him now”. They were not the only ones.
However some things picked up. By 2021/2 it was Saka on 12 goals although there were more calls for Arteta to be sacked.
But in 2022/23 the real improvement showed as Arsenal were 2nd and Martinelli, Odegaard and Saka each got 15. However even then, after four games without a win in April 2023 there were more calls. On 16 April, the website Woolwich 1886 ran the headline “Arsenal fans DEMAND Arteta be SACKED after derby draw!”
At the end of December last year Football Insider ran “‘Sack him now’ – Arsenal fans call for Mikel Arteta to be dismissed after 2-1 defeat to Fulham”.
So it goes on – and it is noticeable that in none of these demands for Arteta to leave contemplate who might want the job at Arsenal with fans like these, and be available, and would make an improvement.
For none of the commentaries contemplate how any manager would feel about these fans who clearly demand success now. But of course it is very much part of a trend.
In 1992/3 just one manager out of 22 lost his job in the Premier League. In April last year Football Insider ran the headline, “Premier League clubs are changing managers like never before.”
Last season, 2022/23, it was 13 out of 20 who were sacked. So how are these clubs that sacked their managers doing now? In the table that follows all the clubs were in the Premier League last season, and still are this season, and all have changed their manager once, except Chelsea who did it twice.
|Number of managerial changes
|Brighton and Hove Albion
Everton were deducted ten points which they are appealing. If the ten points were not deducted Everton would be 11th – still not the sort of position their fans seem to think should be theirs having replaced their manager.
In addition to these clubs, Leicester City, Leeds United and Southampton were relegated and sacked their managers. They are now in the top three places of the Championship. So we might say bringing in a manager is likely to help get promotion – but probably not much good at taking the club further up the Premier League once promotion is achieved.
Certainly the calls for Arteta to be sacked have been regular. For example at the end of last year Football Insider ran the piece “‘Sack him now’ – Arsenal fans demand Arteta is dismissed …”
But what these calls never seem to acknowledge are factors such as
a) who would want the job in a club that is calling for a manager who came second last season to be sacked?
b) what would that manager do differently?
c) under the more aggressive FFP regulations are Arsenal going to have any chance of buying the players that the “sack him now” fans demand and expect?
d) given that most managers fail to raise their club up the league, how long will the supporters give the new man before demanding that he too should be moved along?
e) How many times can this, sack the manager, buy new players, approach be repeated before the club runs out of money or the supporters have had enough of this tactic too.
There are real questions, and they are questions that would be asked by the potential incumbent as well as the club.
The fact is that changing managers has for years been unsuccessful far more often than it is successful – with the exception of bringing a relegated club back up. But now there is a new problem, because most new managers who come in tend toward the view that the key thing that is wrong is the previous boss had recruited the wrong players.
That may or may not be true but the fact is the squad is the squad, and for many clubs there is now very little space for them to go and buy a new flock of players.
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