Arsenal must replace Arteta with Mourinho and sign one more Manchester City player to win the title
The race is over. Arsenal have bottled it. Mikel Arteta is a fraud. But there are lessons to be learned to build towards the title on these foundations.
It was quite the anti-climactic turn in a more straightforward sprint than first anticipated. Manchester City hammered Arsenal at the Etihad and everyone seems to have agreed that the team still actually technically second in the Premier League table have ruined everything and won the title again.
This sensational Arsenal season will subsequently end with a distinctly Ole Gunnar Solskjaer flavour of no trophies and only runners-up medals in the league to show for it. This might well have been the best opportunity the Gunners will get to win the big one, or it could simply be a learning curve as the first of many challenges to come.
Arteta might want to adopt a few tips and tricks from the previous first-time Premier League champions if he wants to eventually deliver Arsenal their first title in two decades.
Man Utd (1992/93) – sign a player from one of your main title rivals
When Leeds managing director Bill Fotherby phoned Man Utd chairman Martin Edwards to enquire as to the availability of Denis Irwin in November 1992, it inadvertently set in motion English football’s most enduring period of dominance.
Alex Ferguson was never going to sanction the sale of such a phenomenally reliable player, but he would consider taking on one Leeds could no longer depend on.
And so Eric Cantona made the trepidatious move between bitter rivals, leaving the final First Division champions for the side which finished four points behind them in second, who were languishing in mid-table in the inaugural Premier League season.
Cantona helped transform Man Utd in the short-term and for years to come. But Arsenal have reached this stage at least partially thanks to the additions of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus from Manchester City, who are considerably less likely to so willingly do business with the Gunners again for fearing of strengthening them further.
Blackburn (1994/95) – form a striking acronym
Bukayo Saka, Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli is a phenomenal frontline but where is the clever acronym? SJM? Nonsensical. JMS? That’s not a thing. MSJ? Absolutely embarrassing.
It’s admittedly not a thing the English have fully embraced – both of the most acronymable forward partnerships in Premier League history were the ‘SAS’, first of Sutton and Shearer and then Suarez and Sturridge two decades later – but Real Madrid’s BBC have proven it is a guaranteed path to success.
Blackburn certainly found that when deciding 31-goal Shearer needed a little assistance up front after they could only finish a distant runner-up to Man Utd in 1994. Chris Sutton was a stunning foil who even filled in at centre-half when required.
What are Arsenal’s options? Maybe Saka is the issue here and Jesus can be shifted out to the opposite wing to Martinelli with Tammy Abraham signed to play in the middle of a JAM sandwich. Perhaps Martinelli is the problem, in which case throw money at Aston Villa for Ollie Watkins so the SJW can be formed.
Nope. It’s Jesus. He is the one complicating things. Get rid, bring in Deniz Undav from Brighton, give him the actually vacant number 23 shirt to match Saka’s 7 and the 11 of Martinelli to make SUM41 and be done with it.
Arsenal (1997/98) – order a 35-pint round for five teammates
Easy one, this. “I’ll always remember the moment Steve Bould went up to the bar and ordered 35 pints for five of us,” Ray Parlour once recalled of Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Austria in 1997. “After we left the bar we spotted all the French lads in the coffee shop and they were sitting around smoking. I thought, ‘How are we going to win the league this year? We’re all drunk and they’re all smoking’. We ended up winning the double that year.”
Simple enough. The only thing to sort is who will be sinking those drinks. After the CHAOS in midweek, Benjamin White seems a fine candidate for at least a few of them. Folarin Balogun might pitch in when he returns from his loan in France, if only to numb the pain of constantly being asked about the youngest head coach in Europe’s top five leagues, 30-year-old Will Still, for whom Reims pay a £22,000 fine each time he manages because he doesn’t have his UEFA Pro Licence.
Manchester City (2011/12) – sign a ludicrously good striker
In Roberto Mancini’s first full season at the Manchester City helm, the club ended their 35-year wait for silverware with the FA Cup and qualified for the Champions League for the first time. But the gap to champions Man Utd was a daunting nine points which weren’t going to be made up easily.
The rather ingenious solution was to sign some fella called Sergio Aguero and honestly it’s pretty difficult to argue with that, even if Pep Guardiola’s teary declaration that “we cannot replace him, we cannot” upon the Argentine’s departure many years later is being exposed as a load of absolute tosh by his Scandinavian android successor.
Leicester (2015/16) – promise pizza in exchange for clean sheets
Arsenal have conceded more goals than relegation-battling Chelsea and just one less than both Man Utd and Liverpool this season. Aaron Ramsdale is doing pretty well for clean sheets, ranking third behind David de Gea and Nick Pope, but the assurance of pizza-based remuneration for more shutouts should shore up that defence even further.
Liverpool (2019/20) – lose the transfer window
This one can’t be half-arsed. None of that hogwash from January, when people pretended Arsenal had f**ked it by not signing Moises Caicedo and Mykhaylo Mudryk when Jorginho and Leandro Trossard have been perfectly serviceable additions who, if anything, have not been used often enough in this stumbling run-in.
No, the transfer window has to be properly lost. Completely squandered. It has to be a rank failure, a wilful neglection, a biblically proportioned dereliction of duty which undermines the entire upcoming season.
Think Arsenal themselves in summer 2003, when the eventual Invincibles made 33-year-old Jens Lehmann their most expensive signing. Liverpool nailed it 16 years later, their laughable attempt to build on Champions League glory including the additions of two back-up keepers in Adrian and Andy Lonergan, as well as teenagers Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliott. That is quintessential transfer window defeat.
Chelsea (numerous) – appoint a born winner
Frank Lampard might be struggling ever so slightly at Stamford Bridge currently but Chelsea typically have a proud history of appointing born winners as managers. Carlo Ancelotti and Antonio Conte both won the Premier League title in their first season, while the most born of all winners did it in two separate reigns.
The answer for Arsenal lies within: appoint Jose Mourinho and let him complete a journey Mikel Arteta clearly cannot. It worked with Tottenham and Mauricio Pochettino.
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