The manager who doesn’t change things is no longer a dope




By Tony Attwood

It used to be that when a manager changed his team around he would be criticised by those on radio, TV and by those writing for the media on the grounds that “he doesn’t know what his best team is”.  That accusation goes back to when he joined Arsenal as manager with F365 coming out with its variation I still really, really don’t like Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, and now I know why.”   

The “why” was because he didn’t know what his best team was. at the time there was often seen to be a virtue in playing the same players week after week.

Indeed myths grew up around such numbers.   The unbeaten team of 2003/4 was virtually always the same some have said.  In fact 22 players were used that season, and only one was ever present (Jens Lehman).   This season the number used so far is 23.

For there is a point in rotating, beyond enforced rotation involving covering for players who are injured.  Because where a team does rotates either by bringing new players in or changing the positions players play in (as Arteta has been doing) this gives the opposition a lot of difficulty in working out their plans in advance as to how to counter the style and approach of the other side.

As we know, the teams exchange team sheets one hour before kick off, which in theory allows the manager to arrange his strategies in response to the opposition.

But where the opposition has players who can play in various position, and indeed employs different tactical formations game after game, then the opposition are left wondering who is going to be where, right up to kick off.

Which is why on occasion you can see managers frantically shouting and pointing at where he wants players to be, now that he has seen that the other team are not doing what he expected.

Chelsea would have noted that Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey and Declan Rice were all in the team, and that probably didn’t change any of their planning.   But when it then turned out that they were lining up as the midfield that might have been a surprise.  Not because these players don’t look like a very effective midfield but because Arteta had not used them as the midfield trio since the very start of the season.

Now this takes us back to my piece (or “rant” as the media men would call it if they read it, which I am sure they haven’t) about whether Arteta rotates or not.

If you are a regular reader you might recall our piece in which we proclaimed that it was wrong to say that Arteta does not rotate.  But the point there was that even a quick glance at the statistics showed that Arsenal were not far out of line with all the other clubs in terms of the number of players used.   In fact the benefit to Arsenal for a lot of this season has been that players have not been injured and therefore Arsenal has a very limited amount of rotation forced upon them by events.

So we have a double criticism going on.  As I quoted recently, it was Just Arsenal who just a few months ago said, “this is a problem Mikel Arteta has created for himself. It was his choice to waste £65 million on Havertz rather than using that money to get a quality striker.”  I am not sure we need to comment on that. Football.London came up with much the same.

Arsenal have seven players who have played between one and six league games this season, five who have played between 10 and 19, four who have played between 20 and 29, and six who have played between 30 and 34.  

But the point is that apart from rotating the players used, Arteta has been rotating the players’ positions.     This is why once again Arsenal already have three players who have scored ten or more in the league this season (Saka, Havertz and Trossard), and will quite possibly have at least one more such player by the season end (Odegaard for example is currently on eight).

It also shows why Arsenal remain the top scorers in the league this season (82 goals compared with 80 for Manchester City, although they have a game in hand so could overtake us), as well as being the best defenders (26 goals conceded six fewer than Manchester City.

Indeed the top seven in the goal difference table is something to behold from an Arsenal point of view…


Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 34 24 5 5 82 26 56 77
2 Manchester City 33 23 7 3 80 32 48 76
3 Liverpool 34 22 8 4 75 34 41 74
4 Aston Villa 34 20 6 8 71 50 21 66
5 Tottenham Hotspur 32 18 6 8 65 49 16 60
7 Newcastle United 33 15 5 13 69 54 15 50


Below these seven we have Manchester United and Chelsea just about clinging on to a positive goal difference – but only just.

Of course, I know that Manchester City are just one point behind and if they win their game in hand they will go to the top.  But I suppose we might remember that they are facing 110 or so charges for improper doings, while last time I looked Arsenal were facing none.

That could make a difference too, when it is finally settled.


3 Replies to “The manager who doesn’t change things is no longer a dope”

  1. I think we have shown beyond doubt that this is all just hindsight managers who simply want to find something to criticize a player or manager, in this case Arteta, no matter what.

    He rotates and we win, not a dickie bird. We lose and he’s ‘tinkered’ unnecessarily.

    He plays the same players and we win, not a dickie bird. We lose and he’s running players into the ground.

    Actually it’s pathetic, but I expect no more from the media hacks, who as we know simply cannot wait to stick the knife in no matter what. The sad part is some of our own fans buy in to this crap.

    Personally I think our manager is a genius. Our team is fantastic. Neither are perfect. But nor is any other manager or team.

    All we can hope is that we are good enough to win the league, but if not, as gutted as I will be, I’ll take it on the chin, as I did last year. I certainly wont start slagging the players, manager or club off.

    I have every faith that whatever happens Arteta, Edu and the club in general, will assess our resources and act appropriately whether we win, come 2nd or 3rd. It is imperative to keep looking to improve and move forward. And that is exactly what we have been doing under Arteta and what I am sure we will continue to do so.

    One thing is for sure, I will not insult a single player we have on our books by calling him ‘deadwood’. As said elsewhere, that is an insult and should be bellow anything a fan would say. Alas it seems not from what you read.

    If you say most starters for top 4 teams are 8 9 or 10/10, it is very difficult to keep 11 backups that are similar 8 9 or 10/10 players. It is inevitable the 2nd 11, for want of a better word, will see a slight drop off in quality. All you hope for is that it is as small a drop as possible.

    It’s called a squad, and none are ‘deadwood’.

    Not only that but selecting which of these ‘squad’ players to allow to leave or chose to release, is notoriously difficult.

    There are numerous historical examples of players that were at some stage or other labelled by the know-all’s as deadwood that made brilliant comebacks, and or went on to perform admirably for other teams.

    2 examples that come to mind:


    Constantly written off following his terrible injury before coming back to lead us to FA Cup glory. Would of been sold well before he had a chance to do that, if the ‘deadwood’ muppets had their way.


    Insulted and ridiculed endlessly before coming back under Arteta to make a massive contribution to our title challenge last year, and has of course gone on to win the Bundesliga. Another that would of been sold long ago if the ‘deadwood’ mob had their way.


    Another player often labelled not good enough for Arsenal and should be sold and look what he has ended up achieving. You potential is always tricky.

    Whatever happens I have every trust in our staff. But more than that I know for certain they know better than me.

  2. Also agree 100%.

    Giroud and Flamini come to mind as well. Also, Eboue received unfair treatment by some, as did many of our keepers, notably Almunia and Fabianski.
    In a previous era, Jon Sammels was driven out by such treatment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *