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Mikel Arteta still on the right track

Arsenal may have lost two matches in a week, their first Premier League defeats of 2020, but new head coach Mikel Arteta is still on the right track, and his post-match comments prove it.

Prior to the Premier League restarting earlier this month, Arsenal had only lost one league match under the guidance of new head coach Mikel Arteta. That was a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, a game in which the Gunners dominated in the first half only to throw away with two late goals. They had not lost in 2020. Then the campaign resumed.

It started with a difficult trip to Manchester City. It was never going to be easy. And so it proved as 25 minutes of madness from David Luiz left the Gunners two goals and a man down with little less than a half to play. Game over.

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However, while losing to City was largely expected, no one thought that Arteta’s fall to a Brighton team that had only been in the lead for 37 minutes in 2020 and were the only team not to win a match since the turn of calendar year in all of English football. And yet, this is Arsenal and contemptible, humiliating failure is their speciality, even after the recent improvements that Arteta has inspired.

Arteta, though, is still on the right track. And his post-match comments prove as much. When asked about his team’s failure to hold onto their one-goal lead in the second half and concede two soft goals, the latter of which came in the final minute of added time, Arteta both pulled no punches with his criticism of his players and took responsibility for his own shortcomings. He said:

“It’s about how you compete in a Premier League match and it’s for 100 minutes in this case. It’s for every ball, it’s for every action and the moment you lose attention, the opponent is going to punish you. It’s not the first time it has happened and if you want to win football games consistently at this level, it’s a must and it’s a non-negotiable. I think they competed for large parts of the game, but in crucial moments when you don’t, you pay the price and that’s it. It’s all my fault obviously because I’m the one that has to make sure they do.”

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Of course, Arteta made mistakes. His system was complicated. The central midfield combination was a little off and his in-game management was disastrous, typified by messing up the substitutions such that he delayed bringing Kieran Tierney on by five minutes just so that he could bring two extra players onto the pitch alongside the left-back.

However, he is not afraid to both own up to them — ‘it’s all my fault’ — and also call out his players for their lack of competitiveness, commitment, and focus, especially in the latter stages of the game. These issues largely stem from the ill culture at the club, as Arteta has spoken about at length previously. But changing this culture takes challenge and time. His post-match comments are the former.

Next: Arsenal Vs Brighton: 5 things we learned

Arteta, then, will be disappointed to lose his first two league matches in 2020. But despite the defeats and his own individual mistakes, he is still on the right track.

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