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A welcome kick up the backside for Arsenal

OPINION: Good on Mikel Arteta for raising his voice to Arsenal’s current crowd of misfiring chancers

09 January, 2020 — By Richard Osley

IT was not immediately obvious what had surprised Alexandre Lacazette more on Monday evening – that BBC pundit in the stands Danny Murphy had seen fit to elect him the man of the match against Leeds United, or, when asked the question about what Arsenal’s new manager had done to pep up the FA Cup performance at half-time, his admission that the players had been shouted at.

In truth, Arsenal’s current crowd of misfiring chancers, who have contrived to transfer hopes of a return to the Champions League into stodgy mid-table fare this season, bear the look of a gang who have rarely faced much screamy criticism when things go wrong.

It’s almost as if a well-meaning trade union rep has come in somewhere along the line and told the previous management that there could be employment tribunals in the offing if anybody raises their voice in team meetings.

Please use the agreed three-stage complaints procedure if you have concerns about our members’ performance at work, the shop steward may have warned – it is not appropriate to turn purple, froth with rage and threaten to terminate their contracts and sell them to Stoke City. Our members would rather collect their reasonable salaries here. In the warm.

But football dressing rooms aren’t offices, and without advocating full-scale, 24-hour shouting in Shkodran Mustafi’s ears until he leaves – that would be bullying – surely a bit of volume is needed at a club at risk of dozing towards painful irrelevance.

File it politely under “passion”, and just forget that you wouldn’t accept it in your own line of work.

My editor gave up shouting at me years ago when he realised I was going to spend 20 years writing the same football column, more or less, with the words only in a slightly different order each week regardless of how frustrating it was for him, colleagues and the readers.

Looking back, Arsene Wenger gave the impression that he never shouted at his players, perhaps in those dire final days choosing instead to persist with professorial explanations about how the game is constructed as education for his charges.

His avuncular loyalty, as it goes, was more often than not slapped back in his face when players eventually deserted him for other clubs.

His successor Unai Emery, in contrast, used to perform excitable gymnastics on the touchline which the players had a valid excuse to find more comical than instructive.

He may have had a whole ream of good ideas on how to take Arsenal forward but we never learned what they were.

So good on Mikel Arteta, the new man in charge, for raising his voice at half-time after a shameful start against Leeds.

In basic terms, it’s about time somebody kicked them up the backside.


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