Dubai: The writing had been on the wall for some time now, with Arsenal plumbing new depths in the English Premier League, but the Londoners’ exit from the Europa League to Spanish side Villarreal on Thursday night confirmed the end of a terrible season for the once ‘invincible’ team.
It will also confirm the end of Mikel Arteta’s time in charge of the side.
While times have been tough at Arsenal since Arsene Wenger’s departure and the glory days on the undefeated guys way back in 2003-04, it is clear that the decision to turn to former club captain Arteta as coach was not the right option.
Arsenal dismissed Unai Emery — Wenger’s replacement — in December 2019 and installed Arteta. It was hardly the return to the glory days as he took them to eighth in the league, their lowest in the Premier League era. But — in a rarity among top clubs these days — he was given a vote of confidence by the board and given time to get things straightened out.
That hasn’t quite been the case. Despite a wealth of talent on paper and an FA Cup victory last season, Arsenal now languish ninth in the league standings and are now also out of Europe once again.
I’ll give you one guess who is in charge of the Villarreal side that ejected them from the Europa League on Thursday night. Yep, Unai Emery. The man they ruthlessly sacked to allow Arteta to make the move down from Manchester City — where he was assistant to Pep Guardiola at the dominant Sky Blues.
However, with such unwanted dramas as the Mesut Ozil debacle and the ill-fated European Super League, things are clearly too much to handle for a manager like Arteta, who needs much more experience before taking on a task such as the one at hand right now at Arsenal.
While another aspiring coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has risen to the task at Manchester United — who now take on Villarreal in the Europa League final thanks to a roller-coaster win over Roma — he is pretty much the exception, with Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney also recently failing to turn great playing careers into triumphant coaching legacies.
Sadly it looks like Arteta will be joining the scrapheap before to long. The job is simply too big for him right now. The bigger headache for those in charge at the London club is where do they turn next, with fans on their back given the Super League backlash. That is no easy question to solve, but Arteta is not the answer.