Doubts surface over Mikel Arteta’s future as Arsenal invincible raises fresh questions

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta
-Credit: (Image: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Arsenal icon Jens Lehmann has cast doubt on whether Mikel Arteta can take the club to the next level, having narrowly missed out on the Premier League title for two consecutive years. Despite establishing the Gunners as contenders, Arteta has yet to prove he can topple Manchester City and his former mentor Pep Guardiola.

Lehmann, who made 199 appearances for Arsenal during his main stint from 2003 to 2008, before coming out of retirement to become the club's oldest-ever Premier League player in a single match in 2011, knows a thing or two about winning. He played every league game in Arsenal's 2003/04 'Invincibles' season, which was the last time they clinched the title.

He also won the FA Cup the following season and helped the North London giants reach the Champions League final in 2006.

After a lengthy period of mediocrity, Arsenal have seen a resurgence under Arteta, coming tantalisingly close to a 14th title in the past two seasons. However, they haven't managed to cross the finish line first, falling to the inevitable brilliance of Guardiola's City on both occasions.

And doubts are beginning to surface in the mind of Lehmann, who has suggested that Arteta may have reached his limit at the Emirates Stadium.

"Arteta has done really well bringing Arsenal up, but if he is the right man for Arsenal now... I am not sure," Lehmann told the Telegraph. "Because you need to prove it. We could have won [the league] twice. Last year, they were leading, and in one month [April], they lost it [three draws and one defeat]."

"The culmination was when [Bukayo] Saka missed the penalty against West Ham at 2-0 up and it was a draw. It was two points."

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"What people who hire coaches sometimes don't understand is that the personality of the coach is super important as well. Look at the personality of the coach. Is he a winner, or is he a nice guy who brings you to a certain level and then it is over?"

Arsenal ended up lagging five points behind City during the 2022/23 season after a late collapse, and only claimed three victories out of their concluding nine encounters - coupled with a crushing 4-1 defeat at the Etihad.

Last term seemed like the Gunners might crank it up a notch, securing victories in 16 out of their last 18 matches, but that still wasn't enough to halt a four-peat from City.

Going into next season, Arteta's squad will be hot favourites to make another assault on the title. But Lehmann's concerns could raise the pressure if the North Londoners fall short again.