WELL, that was a hugely frustrating match last night.
In fact, frustration is my overwhelming emotion after being held to a goalless draw at home by, let’s not forget, a Champions League challenging team, in Newcastle.
Arteta needs to turn to his bench moreCredit: Reuters
Vieira joined in the summer but has featured just nine times in the Premier LeagueCredit: Getty
I am sure we are all frustrated at Newcastle’s footballing approach, which in all honesty, changed completely after the home team totally dominated the early exchanges.
After ten minutes, I honestly felt my team would win comfortably.
Sadly, Eddie Howe, saw what we all saw and dramatically changed his team’s approach, to one of pure anti-football.
The time-wasting and injury feigning were hard to take, along with the subtle, and occasionally less than subtle foul play.
So, yes, this was frustrating but Arsenal are that good that even a very strong Newcastle side needed to resort to those tactics.
The frustration, therefore, and mine certainly, is more directed at the referee, who simply lost control very early, with senseless bookings made, whilst missing obvious ones, and he honestly never regained it.
The anti-football at the Emirates is something Arsenal will have to become accustomed to, but they should expect more support from officials.
Last night Bobby Madley was far from on top of the opposition’s rather blatant time wasting and obvious continual ‘injuries’ to players for sure, but VAR failed him too when he missed Dan Burn’s undebatable shirt pull at the end.
A penalty that might have given the home team the points they deserved.
However, Arsenal cannot influence the opposition tactics or the appointment or performance of the referee, or VAR team in Stockley Park.
They can influence how the team responds to the adversity
on the pitch however, so my main frustration this morning is that Arteta was unable or unwilling to do so.
It is seldom, in this column, that I have criticised or even questioned Arteta but last night, on the underground and in my car, with time to think, I kept asking myself, who could have changed the dynamic or the match, from Arsenal’s bench?
We are all excited by the potential arrival of Mudryk and his presence may well influence future matches.
We all miss Emile Smith Rowe, who is close to a return to first team action and undoubtedly last night we needed a dribbler like him, who offers an alternative to our constant probing passing.
However, neither Mudryk or Smith Rowe were on the bench last night, but he did have Fabio Vieira and Sambi Lokonga.
Watching his A team toil and struggle to break down a stubborn and well organised Newcastle defence, Arteta only made one change, a right back for a right back.
This frustrated me enormously at the time, and more so, on reflection.
Granit Xhaka looked exhausted and for the first time in ages, a feared his ill-discipline was returning, after his awful first half
challenge earned him a booking.
The fact that Arteta will not give Lokonga any minutes to try and offer some freshness and young legs is surprising, and it seems more and more obvious that his manager does not believe in him.
For me though, the Vieira situation is baffling and more frustrating.
I looked up Arteta’s quotes early in the season on his Portuguese playmaking addition: “We were looking for players that could play in three positions in the front line and in the attacking midfield positions.
“We were looking for very specific qualities in the market and when I saw him, I really liked what I saw.
“Straight away, I was convinced that he was a player who can help us go to the next level.”
So, what has changed Mikel?
Fabio Vieira has somehow changed in your mind from a player who can help us get to the next level, to one who cannot help us unlock the Newcastle back line.
Last night in the latter stages, the team needed to try something different and without the dribbling skills of a Smith Rowe or a Nelson, with Martinelli in the experienced Trippier’s pocket, in the main and with Saka exhausted, it needed a man capable of the unpredictable.
Arteta certainly led us to believe Vieira was that player, and in all honesty, we have all seen, mostly in cameos later in matches.
Fabio Vieira is effectively at present, our main understudy, to Xhaka, Odegaard and Saka.
That may change as this transfer window progresses but last night, with all three of these players exhausted and devoid of new ideas, Vieira was an obvious alternative.
Arteta has defended his lack of substitutions but on this occasion, his lack of activity or obvious attempts to change the tactical approach was frustrating.
So, yes Arteta, for once you frustrated me, almost as much as the referee and Newcastle, but it does show us the need for new reinforcements.
The return of the Croydon de Bruyne will truly be like the
proverbial new signing, but I do have grave doubts after last night if our manager believes in Vieira, as I am certain he does not believe in Lokonga. Time will tell….