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Zero per cent of personality

OPINION: Mikel Arteta – who’s so far been as dull as Lewis Hamilton in press conferences – must put some spark into what he is saying

24 December, 2020 — By Richard Osley

IT was wholly apt that in a year like 2020 the BBC should hand over its famous Sports Personality Of The Year award to Lewis Hamilton at the weekend.

A disastrous year, drab and dull, has found its true champion. The monotonous whir of cars going round and round a grey track is the best we could come up with.

The best “personality” we could come up with is somebody who criticised his nephew for playing with a princess doll and… “moved to Monaco”.

People will tell me (and you) that he is the greatest Formula One driver of all time. Phil Taylor’s 16 world darts championships are more impressive, but he’s still waiting for a knighthood.

What we could all do for some real personality, particularly if you are an Arsenal supporter.

It was hard to disagree with the pundits who suggested this week the Gunners squad looks uninterested in the task of playing football.

The world has shutdown in Tier 4 doom but even the privilege of being able to carry on playing football doesn’t seem to be a big enough motivation. Imagine not having to worry if coronavirus is going to take your job and all you had to do for the rest of the pandemic was play football.

But, no, it still appears to be all too much of an effort for some of the players who are dragging Arsenal down.

Ultimately, perhaps the motivation should come from the manager but Mikel Arteta – so far – is also lacking in a spirited personality. As dull as Lewis Hamilton in press conferences, a bit more fire, a bit more anger wouldn’t go amiss.

As each defeat passes, there is a calm mention of needing to do better but a stated confidence in how the team is responding in training. Jose Mourinho is a walking pantomime who Arsenal did well to swerve but at least there is some character, some variation in tone, in his answers… however poisonous they often are.

Arteta is worrying because we see no emotion. Instead, this week he came out with a series of ludicrous percentages about Arsenal’s chances of winning matches. He sounded like a wounded jackal in a low-rent casino insisting that his luck would change soon; it just has to.

The idea that Arsenal had only a 7 per cent chance of losing at Spurs last month made your toes curl. If only.

Arteta, hired by one of the biggest clubs in the country but with no experience as a No 1, has been given the benefit of the doubt several times now but such performances do not help. Instead, he should be frank and serious about the mess he is in charge of, and put some spark – and personality – into what he is saying.

The fans need him to, the players need it even more.


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