Arsenal managerial muddle requires a rapid resolution with Mikel Arteta emerging as front-runner

Arsenal managerial muddle requires a rapid resolution with Mikel Arteta emerging as front-runner
Arsenal managerial muddle requires a rapid resolution with Mikel Arteta emerging as front-runner

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Three goals down and the fans headed for the exit.

Only 45 minutes had elapsed, but Arsenal's supporters had already seen enough. Manchester City were commanding and cruising, cutting through the hosts and coasting to victory.

So the Emirates began to empty. A soon-to-be sixth consecutive home match without a win provoked some to demonstrate their distain with their feet.

While the majority remained through the meat of the second half, as City wound down, the stadium whipped up again. Mesut Ozil was jeered as he trudged from the pitch, not long before the hour.

Sitting on the City bench, as Pep Guardiola’s assistant, Mikel Arteta’s name was both championed and chastised. Later, it emerged that the former Arsenal captain could be edging closer to becoming the current Arsenal head coach.

In the early hours of Monday morning, soon after the evisceration at the Emirates, Arsenal’s chief executives were pictured leaving Arteta’s home. Freddie Ljungberg’s temporary tenure - a spell of five matches and a solitary win - has been short and not-so sweet, the club pushed into appointing a permanent successor to Unai Emery. The Spaniard was dismissed almost three weeks ago.

The dawdling and the change of direction – Ljungberg was initially understood to be given time to hold the fort – represents a club on the drift. After the stability of Arsene Wenger, even if results started to slide long before his departure, Arsenal have clearly stalled.

A glance across North London only magnifies the malaise. So used to looking down at Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal have spent the past few years peering up. They have even contemplated, reportedly, the man who masterminded Spurs’ recent resurgence.

Yet while Spurs parted company with Mauricio Pochettino late on a Tuesday last month, they welcomed Jose Mourinho the following morning. Famed for dallying over the finest of details, Daniel Levy acted swiftly and decisively. A succession plan was in place.

The sense is Arsenal, meanwhile, didn’t have one. Reports suggested anyone from eight to 10 candidates were being considered. From Pochettino to Patrick Vieira, a club legend now in charge at Nice. From Marcelino to Max Allegri.

Carlo Ancelotti had suddenly become available, too, a serial winner but not really suited to Arsenal's apparent needs. All different characters, all with differing approaches. It smacked of a confused club; little wonder that has been mirrored on the pitch.

At the conclusion of Sunday’s game, Ljungberg urged his employers to act. Somewhat belatedly, they seem to have taken heed. Peep further back, and Arsenal’s run of rotten form stands at a single victory from 12 matches.

Ninth in the Premier League, they are as close in points to the relegation zone as they are to the top four. A third straight season without Champions League football appears assured.

Once mainstays of Europe's premier club competition, they must now make do with the Europa League. For fortunes to reverse, the managerial muddle requires a rapid resolution. But can the men entrusted with the decision be trusted to get that right?

Updated: December 16, 2019 05:59 PM

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