It’s the same old problems at Arsenal. But what are the same old problems?



By Tony Attwood

There is an article in the Telegraph that has the headline “New-look Arsenal have been undone by the same old problems during late-season stumble” which I have read with some interest, as I was hoping the piece would tell me what author Sam Dean thinks are the “same old problems.”

Of course Sam Dean, the author, does not possess any particular background that could give him an insight into Arsenal’s problems but the phrase is interesting because Arsenal is a club that has been through a lot of changes. 

As we know, in 2018 Arsene Wenger left after 22 years during which time he won the FA Cup as many times as Liverpool have in their entire history, won the league more times than Tottenham have in their entire history, and became the only manager to achieve an unbeaten season.

Then in November 2019 Unai Emery was sacked by Arsenal after achieving the second-highest win ratio in matches for Arsenal in the club’s entire history!  Was that the “same old problem”?  Was Arteta about to be sacked?

The article is 618 words long, and I have read it several times, but I still can’t work out what the same old problem is.  So I’ve taken some of the issues raised in the piece and added some of my own to discover the truth: What is Arsenal’s “same old problem”?

First, nervousness.  Aaron Ramsdale we are told was “jittery” and “Everywhere Mikel Arteta looked he would have noted the anxiety and concern.”

That was a problem yes, exacerbated by the importance of the last two games, plus the confidence of Newcastle in their game due to their recent results.   The article asks, “Was it fear? Was it the pressure of it all? Only Arsenal’s players will know the true reason for this late-season stumble.”  Which is odd, because if only Arsenal players know, how can the author define this as the “same old problems”?

Certainly, the “same old problem” wasn’t the age of the team because the writer also says, “The youngest team in the league has not always looked its age this season.”

Or was it that Arsenal fans as a group expect too much?  That could be what the writer is hinting at when he says, “It is, however, important to retain some perspective, no matter how difficult that might be for Arsenal’s supporters.”

So maybe it is all our fault – although why he singles out Arsenal supporters I don’t know.  Asking football supporters for a sense of perspective is rather like asking Manchester City or Newcastle supporters for a sense of morality in relation to their owners’ attitude toward human rights.

The article continues by noting that Arsenal’s “progress is real this season, and finishing fifth instead or fourth (as now seems inevitable) does not change that for Arteta or any of his developing players. Bukayo Saka, Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard should all be better next season, and Arsenal will invest again this summer to ensure the squad is strengthened.”

So are the same old problems simply that “the squad needs to be strengthened”.

Well maybe, except one could say that about the 18 clubs in the league below the top two.  And most will try and strengthen the squad this summer.  And Arsenal have been doing that, having spent more than any other club last summer – so is the writer saying it was all a waste of money?

Actually no, for he writes, “Questions will once again be asked about their decision to allow so many players to leave in January, without any new faces brought in,” and maybe finally that actually is the point – although a mistake in one transfer window can’t really be the “same old problem”.

In fact we have both the youngest squad, the smallest with just 21 first team players.  This is because we had a huge clear out in January, and some of that was because…

Well, it is the thing that doesn’t seem to be mentioned much anymore but it really has been Arsenal’s problem under Arteta.  It is the manager’s falling out with certain players, preferring not to have them at the club, even if no replacement could be found.

Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil, Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira, Hector Bellerin, Willian, Maitland-Niles, Sead Kolasinac, Pablo Mari, Calum Chambers, and possibly even William Saliba.

Let’s pause with that last name…

William Saliba is a centre back who signed in the summer of 2019 and became Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year for the 2021-22 season.  He’s played 52 games for Marseille and won two full caps for France.   Marseille most definitely want to keep him.  

Saliba, speaking with a L’Equipe reporter a couple of months back said Arsenal “are often in contact with my agent. They send me messages. They watch my matches. They tell me to continue like this.”

So what would I consider the same old problems?  Well, none actually because they are new problems.  Having rows with top players from Guendouzi to Ozil to Aubameyang, and leaving Saliba in Marseille look (in retrospect) not very helpful to Arsenal’s cause.  

Thus maybe finally we can understand; arguing with players and leaving Saliba in France are the problems.   But really it is very frustrating when newspapers run headlines and then leave the reader to work out what on earth the headline means.  I really with they wouldn’t do that.

9 Replies to “It’s the same old problems at Arsenal. But what are the same old problems?”

  1. Cheers Tony!

    ”As we know, in 2018 Arsene Wenger left after 22 years during which time he won the FA Cup as many times as Liverpool have in their entire history, won the league more times than Tottenham have in their entire history, and became the only manager to achieve an unbeaten season.”

    That’s as good a way as any to start the day!

  2. The same old problem is obvious to me and many Arsenal fans. It’s been around for years but got even worse when Riley became head of PGMOL.
    Arsenal have for many years been accused of being soft, a weak mentality, no cojones, no backbone, don’t like it up em etc etc.
    There is probably some truth in this but the reason is that whenever we try to fight fire with fire and give the opposition a taste of their own medicine we immediately come up against the referees who start penalising us for things the other teams constantly get away.
    Until the appalling way we are treated by the referees changes and we are refereed fairly we will get nowhere near the likes of Liverpool, Spurs etc etc no matter how hard we try.

  3. “It will be, however, a source of considerable concern that this group of players lacked the necessary edge at the pivotal moment. This is a new generation, a fresh collection of characters, but on Monday it felt like Arsenal were suffering from the same old problems. Until that changes, they will never return to where they need to be.”

    Tony that’s the last paragraph of the article on the telegraph and I think it clearly tells you what the writer considers the old problem to be. So, you can go ahead and thank me. Lol

    What do I think of the writer’s statement of the problem? I don’t like it but I don’t think we can really deny it. It epitomizes the common held belief about the arsenal for a while now, a team that chokes when it matters the most. It was worse during the trophyless seasons when we made it to several semi finals, finals and even in some crunch league matches and came out losers. Some people have explained it by saying we’re inconsistent, others that we lack the balls, cojones(Deeney and now Xhaka for example), others called it inexperience. We could definitely do much better in those situations

  4. Glenn, but it’s mind boggling when some supporters don’t like it when someone mention the team is inconsistent and they will even argued about the meaning of inconsistent rather than admit it. sometimes they even presented their assumption as fact and they like it to have it both ways. 1st they make an article about Arsenal don’t have a small squad but now they admit it that Arsenal does indeed have a small squad

  5. ”As we know, in 2018 Arsene Wenger left after 22 years during which time he won the FA Cup as many times as Liverpool have in their entire history, won the league more times than Tottenham have in their entire history, and became the only manager to achieve an unbeaten season.”

    “It will be, however, a source of considerable concern that this group of players lacked the necessary edge at the pivotal moment. This is a new generation, a fresh collection of characters, but on Monday it felt like Arsenal were suffering from the same old problems. Until that changes, they will never return to where they need to be.”

    Which one is it Glen? It can’t be both.

  6. @Zedsaunt I think my comment is clear. I also don’t think the 2 statements are mutually exclusive. But most importantly I think you need to look at Bushido’s above comments. Thanks

  7. @Glen,

    I don’t think Arsenal have ever fielded a team that young in it’s history. An for the past 2 decades most probably it was the smallest squad.
    What I was seeing was less players not wanting to play but players ‘cooked’.

    So, sorry, ‘same old problem’ in a situation that has never happened…. what is the guy talking about ?
    Same old problem : Arsenal have not won the not a trophy 4th place ? Well it was never a trophy in more then a decade of Arsene Wenger making sure the financial situation was kept sane, so why is it now a trophy ? Goal posts change when Arsenal is involved.
    Same old problem : we lose a game ? Well we’ve lost quite a few have we not ?

    So, frankly, no, I don’t see what ‘same old problem’ is supposed to mean.

    That Mr Arteta wants to ‘sculpt’ his team the way he wants, is his choice. I’ve not often heard much criticism when Guardiola, Kopp or other managers let players go or not play them. I mean, just look at the Pogba situation and compare it to Saliba. And Saliba, well he is playing, with success, not sitting on a bench useless.

    And considering all that happened this season, I do think that this was a good season indeed, players growing into the squad, learning the trade, the pressure, experiencing success and failures like it has to be.

    The small squad means that players have had more games under their belt, the learning curve may be steep, but the experience is invaluable. The fact that together they experienced bad moments is another thing that will enable them to revolt against such situations in the future.

    And, frankly, I think CL was one bridge too far. Sure new players will join the team, but they will need weeks to get used to play in this team, used to PL refereeing, etc. We all know this takes time. And the level of the EL is more in tune with who Arsenal is now : imperfect, on an upward curve, young, talented and evolving, let’s say ‘promising’.

    Now if ‘same old problem’ refers to anybody giving their opinion disguised as expert advice on what any good manager would do but Mr Arteta is incapable of doing, then yes, ‘same old problem’. I still don’t get it, except as in ‘we keep pounding on Arsenal, it always works and there are enough fans of Arsenal waiting to join the badnwagon instead of defending team and manager’.

  8. @Chris, for me all those are excuses. Small squad, young squad, unfit squad bla bla bla, they’re all excuses. The way you lay your bed is how you lie on it. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. We’ve always talked about the potential of our Young squad, unfortunately we perpetually have a young squad. The young players we celebrate today seem to either feel better better than the team and move to bigger clubs -fabregas, Nasri, Song, AOC etc. Or they regress and become deadwood and get sold e.g Campbell, Vela, Iwobi etc. Or fight with the coach and get sent out -Guendouzi, Torreira. They are replaced by another set of promising youth, At the end of the day we constantly have a young squad with potential, but never a settled team ready to deliver. We have to own our decisions and not make excuses. That’s actually One reason I like Arteta, he makes his decisions and stands up for them good or bad.
    For arsenal to move ahead we need to be ready to take advantage of opportunities, this season the opportunity to make the champions league presented itself, we had the extra advantage of no European distraction, but we refused to grab it. We need to ask More of ourselves, demand more from our team. We should not make the mistake we made in 2016 which was the last the time we participated in the champions league. While our competitors were reacting to being beaten to the title by Leicester, some of us were celebrating 2nd place. The reaction of our competition gas since then pushed us out of CL positions. I repeat we shouldn’t celebrate 5th place when we had to opportunity to have even made 3rd place, we should go into next season seeking a reaction, because we have to anticipate that a team like Man utd, Leicester will be seeking to react to their dismal season. If they get it right, they will definitely push us off where we are currently

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