July 13, (THEWILL) – There will be little wriggle room for Mikel Arteta, manager of English Premier League side Arsenal, when hostilities begin in the 2021/2022 season after the patchy previous season and the Spaniard recognised this in their 2-1 loss to Hibernian in their first preseason fixture.
The tepid display may be excused in a variety of ways but Arteta insisted that the club cannot use a lack of experience and playing time as excuses for Tuesday’s defeat against a team they ought to beat comfortably.
Instead, there were reminiscences of the type of display that saw them have a torrid campaign last season in the league and that disappointing end against La Liga club and eventual UEFA Europa League champions Villarreal, who were managed by an ex-Arsenal coach, Unai Emery.
Those flashbacks made it seem like the north London outfit was simply continuing from where they stopped and not making a fresh break from the residue of their recent poor couple of seasons. It did not bode well on a general note that the play was not confidence-inducing.
In another nod to how the entire performance looked the way the previous season went, it required an Emile Smith Rowe goal to prop up the Gunners who had, until that goal, been two goals behind with less than 10 minutes on the clock to make the score a bit respectable.
Had Nicolas Pepe been able to convert from the spot in the 72nd minute penalty that the Gunners won, perhaps Arsenal may have struggled to finish with a draw or rallied late in the game to grab a win but Hibs keeper, Matt Macey guessed right and saved the penalty.
Arteta cut the look of a forlorn figure throughout the loss but came through his post-match remarks with a positive outlook on the poor result. He said: “I’m always disappointed when we lose a football match but it is the first game, we played with many kids and we only had four training sessions.
“We’ve trained really hard and you could see that the players were a little bit leggy. I think we conceded the first goal, an accident, and the second goal was clearly offside. We created many, many chances but we didn’t score. That’s what pre-season is for, to take the things that we haven’t done well into a training session and then improve.”
Then, he got real when he rightly said: “There’s no excuse because we want to come here and win the match” but he went straight to give excuses: “They worked really hard, the boys worked really hard and you could see that some of them were not in the best condition, but we’re still very early in pre-season. It was great to see some of the young lads making their debuts here. We’ll keep working.”
It might be pre-season but there is a section of the Gunners fan base that have exhausted the patience they initially had for Arteta. Hashtags asking for the sacking of Arteta from his coaching position at the Emirates were starting to spread on Twitter before the game was over and quickly went up the trends list after the final whistle.
Arteta’s headache will worsen if Arsenal lose another game. The second preseason tie will be against the strong Scottish Premiership outfit and Arteta’s former club Rangers on Saturday. For his peace and career, he will hope he can quickly get Arsenal winning again.