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Nearly time to be changin’ manager?

OPINION: There was no shock about what unfolded in Sunday’s north London derby – but there remains a protective wool around Mikel Arteta

10 December, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta

“THE times”, as Bob Dylan sang with a folksy innocence that earned him a modest £225million songs sell-off this week, “are a-changin’”. As he tends to do, he prophesied on: “The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast. The slow one now, will later be fast.”

It would have been generous simply to label Spurs as the “slow ones”, for their progress over the past 60 years has been positively snail-like. Let us not forget in the changing of the north London moons that you now have to go back to 1991 to find them winning a major trophy.

But there’s no doubting that the wind is at last with the blue corner; Tottenham dealt with the devil at the crossroads, bought into a man their fans once hated and used the Mourinho hack to rush ahead.

The most significant element about Sunday’s derby result, however, is that there was no shock about what unfolded.

In fact anybody who has been following the fortunes of both sides could have scripted the chain of events: the Arsenal confusion, the Spurs counter-attack and the deadening Mourinho tactics to guarantee no further score.

The Tottenham players were able to talk condescendingly about how well Arsenal had tried in the second half: effectively the bullies telling us to come back when we’re a bit bigger. Gunners used to do that: Nice try, but did you really think that you could… nah, you didn’t did you?

And the reality is that nobody I know thought Arsenal could win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium but maybe we differ on why.

Strangely, there is a sort of protective wool around manager Mikel Arteta. There hasn’t really been the swirl of gossip about whether the club is considering another managerial change.

Ugly as it is, most clubs would be looking at its options after the embarrassing return from the season so far.

Arsenal do have some talented players but whether Arteta is the man to get the best out of them is another matter altogether, particularly as he is wedded to a formation which he seems to be willing to sink with.

If a proven gem like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goes soft on you, he has to be the man who stirs him back to form. Arteta might also have to admit that he was wrong about Mesut Ozil and have to explain his faith in Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock and others.

It hasn’t been an easy fixture list: Arsenal have played away at all of the other “big six” teams bar Chelsea already, but that shouldn’t be a get-out-of-jail card.

Arteta is inoculated from a lot of the criticism as if he was a folk hero on the pitch, but this is now a dud record and the club should dare to look at the terms of his probation period.

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