OLIVER HOLT: Mikel Arteta is building something at Arsenal
He got somewhere when Thomas Partey lands in London after the Africa Cup of Nations at noon, comes off the bench in an Arsenal semi-final eight hours later, is sent off for two bookable offenses in four minutes and none of the warnings are the club’s most newsworthy yellow card of the day.
The FA are investigating suspicious betting patterns around another booking given to an Arsenal player earlier this season so we can add this to the banishment of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the controversy over the postponement of the Northern Derby from London to their problems.
It’s no wonder the phrase ‘So Arsenal’ was trending on Twitter on Friday.
Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke (right) must now back the progress made by Mikel Arteta
Arsenal’s young stars, including Emile Smith Rowe (centre) and Bukayo Saka (left), have thrived
Somehow, Partey didn’t miss a single Arsenal league game while playing for Ghana in Cameroon.
But now that he is back, his antics against Liverpool in that Carabao Cup semi-final mean he will miss Sunday’s Premier League clash with Burnley. As is the custom these days, he posted an official apology on Instagram for his actions.
Some Arsenal fans watched last week’s comedic capers in despair and concluded that Arteta should no longer be given the task of trying to restore the club to its former glories.
This current of opinion does not see any progress in the Emirates. He points to the same old flaws, notably in lack of discipline, but also in defeat after defeat at the hands of the best clubs.
Arsenal come into Sunday’s game against Burnley at the Emirates outside the top four and still – as the draw with Liverpool proved – a level below Jurgen Klopp’s and Manchester City’s side, and maybe also from Chelsea.
Thomas Partey (left) was sent off as Arsenal left the Carabao Cup at the hands of Liverpool
Arsenal have been outclassed by the visiting Reds and will go another term without lifting a trophy
Arteta is now in his third year in charge of the club after taking over from Unai Emery and many were hoping for more progress. English football is a more impatient place than it has ever been and Thomas Tuchel is already feeling the heat at Chelsea even though he led them to Champions League final victory at Porto less than a year ago. eight months.
Arteta has already survived at least one brush with the bag and now the questions have returned. Liverpool’s defeat was a blow. There’s no sugar coating in there. Yes, it was just the Carabao Cup but it was also Arsenal’s last chance this season and there was a feeling that with Liverpool weakened by the absences of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, the draw presented an opportunity to qualify for the final.
Arsenal never seemed to take this opportunity. They were upgraded. Liverpool are still a step ahead of them in the evolutionary process, but that’s no reason for anyone at Arsenal to press the panic button. They are starting from a low base but it is a team that is rising. They still have bad days but they are more and more compensated by the good ones. They have to stick to it.
That means sticking with Arteta, who is growing in the role all the time. It means making no change and throwing it all away. Look where that got Manchester United. They are a mess of players brought in for the different styles favored by different managers.
Their team is less of a whole and more of a collection of deserted islands with a few players stuck on each. Arsenal feels different. They seem to be more consistent. And, for all their lapses in discipline, there is an optimism about Arsenal players that does not exist at Old Trafford or, say, Tottenham.
Gunners boss Mikel Arteta building for the future but extent of progress unclear
Gunners stars look more like a group of individuals than a collective despite Arteta’s best efforts
Arsenal have youth and flair. Who could not be excited by a team that can line up with Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Partey, Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe and Kieran Tierney?
The club seem to see it that way too. They are reportedly preparing to offer Arteta a new contract to avoid him entering the final 12 months of his contract or being targeted as a replacement for Pep Guardiola when his former boss leaves City.
That should reassure Arsenal fans. It’s the right decision.
It’s like Arteta is building something at Arsenal. They finished eighth in his previous two seasons, but they will be higher at the end of this year.
They look healthier as a club than they have for some time. After managerial mishaps, Spurs pinned their hopes on Antonio Conte’s quick fix and United are mired in directionless toxicity. Arsenal look best placed to break out of the pack and join the race with City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
Whether that happens depends on recruitment, of course. Arteta emerged stronger from his clash with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but Arsenal need to prove they can replace him with a top striker, someone like Fiorentina’s much-loved young striker Dusan Vlahovic.
Arsenal owners must now prove they have the ambition to back up the progress Arteta has made.
The summit is still far away but they can at least see the way. One day bettors might even stop betting on when they will receive their next yellow card. Maybe then we will know that Arsenal are really on the right track.
Something came of it when Thomas Partey returned to London from the Africa Cup of Nations at midday and came off the bench in an Arsenal semi-final eight hours later. Then he was sent off for two bookable offenses in four minutes and neither caution was the club’s most newsworthy yellow card in his day.
The late Peter Robinson is a Liverpool legend
A few years after retiring as managing director of Liverpool, I spent an afternoon with Peter Robinson, who died last week, at his home in Southport.
I had asked the man who did so much to create the giant that Liverpool have become if he could spare some time to talk to me about Bill Shankly and he generously gave me that time.
He was full of fascinating insight into the club he worked so hard to turn into a giant – along with Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish – but the story that will always stay with me was that of the times he spent with Shankly at Blackpool following the manager’s retirement.
The footballing world is in mourning over the death of former Liverpool chief Peter Robinson
He and Shankly, who missed football terribly, sat on deckchairs on the promenade opposite the Norbreck Castle Hotel, staring out to sea and talking about the good old days.
In the event of a storm, Robinson packed up and went inside but Shankly stayed where he was in his deckchair, refusing to give in to the rain and the wind, like King Lear on the moor under an angry sky.
Nike did Emma Raducanu no favors
The obstacles placed in Emma Raducanu’s path became even more apparent when Nike opted to put pressure on her by releasing an advertisement ahead of the Australian Open, which showed her “responding to her detractors”.
US Open champion Emma Raducanu withdrew from Australian Open in second round
After her astonishing victory at the US Open last year, I wasn’t particularly aware that she had any critics. British journalists voted her AJS Sportswoman of the Year and she is the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year.
She’s been one of Britain’s most exciting sporting talents for decades and the way she demolished Sloane Stephens in the opening set of their first round match in Melbourne is further proof of that.
So it’s a shame that Nike tried, once again, to leverage a brand with a negative message and did Raducanu no favors in the process. If you post an ad mocking the critics, you better hope your player doesn’t lose in the second round of the event.