If the most annoying thing about last night was Arsenal’s abject performance against Aston Villa, the second was definitely the whirring sound of a plane engine over Villa Park for the first 15 minutes of the 1-0 defeat.
“Back Arteta Kroenke Out” read a clumsily worded banner that tailed the aircraft. Paid for by a group of disgruntled fans it immediately drew attention from the press who were quick to ask the boss about it in his post-game interviews.
If the original aim was to bring fans together to heap pressure on Stan Kroenke to give Arteta the money he needs to build a squad, that didn’t really come across. Instead, irked by what he thought was an oversimplification of a complicated situation and unnecessary criticism of those trying to help him launch his Arsenal project, Arteta defended the owners and the football executive committee.
In his post-game press conference, he said: “I have full support from the Kroenkes, from the board, from the sporting director and we are putting a very strong plan together to try to do as much as we can in the shortest period.
“At the end of the day, the league table doesn’t lie and we know the gap that we have to fill in and we are on board with trying to do everything together.”
The fact is, Arsenal like a lot of clubs are contending with a lot of financial uncertainty influenced by the ongoing threat of Covid-19. Our performances on the pitch over the last four seasons have exacerbated that. In challenging circumstances, Arteta needs to clear a path back to the top.
He knows that’s going to be difficult and he’s not shying away from it. After the victory against Liverpool, the boss spoke about the need to take risks in the transfer market to close the gap on their rivals at home and abroad. He maintains that it wasn’t a direct challenge to the ownership to get the chequebook out.
“I don’t know but if that’s the impression then it’s not what I wanted to do,” he clarified.
“I wanted to emphasise – and I’ll do it again – that we need to improve in many areas. The first of all is my responsibility, to improve the team and everything with the mentality of course as well.
“After that, we have certain areas that we need to get better. The top teams in certain areas are better than us and we have to do that.
“The uncertainty is the reality. We have uncertainty because of the coronavirus, it hit everybody hard and we don’t know if we are finishing in Europe and there is uncertainty with a few players, so I have to try to be honest and that is what I said.”
Arsenal can make life a bit easier this summer if we beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final to secure a place in the Europa League. While not playing in the competition might give the boss more time on the training ground to implement his ideas, the knock-on effect of missing out on competition could entrench the financial disparity that is opening up between us and the clubs in the Champions League.
It will also allow us the chance to be a bit more adventurous in the transfer market. Buying players is something Arteta acknowledges will be important as he tries to shape a squad in his image
“That is one thing, and the other thing is the specificity you need within that squad balance to do it consistently.
“We’ve done it, today we had a different challenge, completely different game and we have to find a way to do that.
“That will take time because at the end of the day when you have that many points of margin with the top teams it’s for a reason.
“We know that reason and we will try to put it right with a lot of work first and in the right moments with the players that we need in order to do that.”