Despite the defeat, could it be the result that steers the Gunners back in the right direction?
Arsenal Suffer FA Cup Exit to Southampton
Shaky Season Under Mikel Arteta
The club have had a shaky season of sorts and this result hasn’t helped matters. Many have questioned whether Mikel Arteta is the right man to take the Gunners forward and fans have criticised the performances of some of their better players and remain baffled as to why they are not performing.
Sure, Arsenal have not lost in their last five Premier League games but they’re still in 11th place in the table. Yes, things are looking up for the side but should they even have to be in this position?
For years, the club were known as the perennial fourth-placed team. No matter what happened in life and football, you could guarantee that Arsenal would be in that last Champions League spot. The famous trope goes: there is nothing more certain in life than death, taxes and Arsenal finishing fourth.
And yet, the Gunners would long for those days now. They’ve gone from a fourth-placed outfit to a side that looks a very mid-table side at times. Only five years ago, the club finished second in the league. If the league ended tomorrow, it would be the club’s worst finish since 1994/95.
Finished Eighth in Premier League Last Season
Last season, they finished a lowly eighth in the league. This is a team that once had the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira in their ranks. This is the only club to be invincible in the Premier League era. Yet here they are, struggling to get higher up in the league competing with their rivals and struggling to progress in the cup competitions.
Maybe this is an overreaction to an FA Cup exit, but Arsenal are a side that you would expect want to be trying to win every competition they enter. They were once one of the most successful sides in England. They’re one of the most successful in FA Cup history and they’ve won four of the last eight.
For them to exit so soon asks the question of – what is next for Arsenal? Where is the identity and where is the ambition for the club to move forward and get back to where they once were?
Southampton are, of course, a very good team. They’ve been transformed by Ralph Hassenhuttl and are an extremely tough side to beat, as expected considering their manager. They are more than likely to be up at the top end of the table when the league draws to a close.
Arsenal Dominated Possession in FA Cup Game
Yet Arsenal should have done more in the game. The club had 62 per cent possession and dominated the ball and still did nothing with it. Eleven times they had a shot and just two of those were on target, which goes to show that they have a forward line that is clearly out of confidence and unable to finish chances that are provided to them.
How can Arsenal get back to winning ways? It might require a change of manager or it might require a change of personnel.
There have been flashes of brilliance from this Arsenal side and Mikel Arteta deserves time to mould the team into his image and to his playing style. He’s learned from the best, being taught by Pep Guardiola and deserves a chance at the club. Firing managers too quickly has often led to making things worse. So perhaps it is best to let Arteta try and build something at his former side.
Odegaard Will be a Positive Signing
Maybe it is, in fact, the players who should take the blame. They’ve certainly had a lot of the ball and have created the chances, as shown by the possession and shot stats in the cup game, so the playing style is allowing them to create. They just cannot put them away.
Maybe then, it’s a case of doing more in the windows that they have. Sell the players who do not care or want to be at the club. Do whatever it takes. Mesut Ozil was frozen out of the side and he has now moved on, so that is a positive step.
Invest in the right kinds of players too. The club are likely to sign Martin Odegaard (albeit it only on loan) but it is certainly a move in the right direction too. The midfielder has flourished at Real Sociedad and will now be eager to prove himself in England too. He is young, talented and is able to add an extra bit of creativity (and a finishing touch) to a side that desperately needs one.
The answer then could be patience. Mikel Arteta seems to be doing (or at least starting to be doing) the right kinds of things. He deserves time in the job to mould and shape a team in his image.
Hopefully, for the sake of Arsenal fans then, we won’t be writing about them dropping out of the FA Cup in the fourth round in future seasons to come under Mikel Arteta.