There are several questions which the Arsenal top brass need to be asking themselves.
If Mikel Arteta is given the right resources, can he lead the club back to the top? How much of the underperformance is down to the quality of the squad? And how much is down to Arteta?
Arsenal are at a crossroads. Their squad has enough quality to finish higher than ninth in the Premier League table. But I don’t think it is good enough to take Arsenal back to where they once were.
Arsenal are facing a decision on whether to back or sack under-fire boss Mikel Arteta (above)
The Gunners went out of the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday in a blow to their season
In Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the club have two top-class strikers. And yet, Arsenal have scored only 19 goals in 17 league games at the Emirates this season, losing nine times at home in all competitions.
They should be doing better — that’s on Arteta’s shoulders. This is a young boss who is learning on the job. The board knew who they were hiring.
They now have to decide whether to let him continue this project. Had Arsenal beaten Villarreal and qualified for the Champions League by beating Manchester United in the final, it would only have papered over the cracks.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (right) and Alex Lacazette (left) have struggled for goals this term
They would have got there via the back door, rather than earning it through consistent performances in the league.
Arsenal need to go back to the drawing board and build a squad that can make it into the Champions League by finishing in the top four. This cup route just puts the players under so much pressure.
They reached the Europa League final under Unai Emery in 2019 but lost, and so missed out on the Champions League. Then they relied on winning the FA Cup under Arteta in 2020 to make it into the Europa League.
Arteta was knocked out by the man he replaced at Arsenal – Unai Emery – on Thursday night
But after losing to Emery’s Villarreal, there will be no backdoor entrance into Europe this time. It was embarrassing for the club to see their current manager outsmarted by his predecessor.
Arsenal managed four shots on target against Villarreal in 180 minutes and Arteta tested new systems in the two biggest games of their season. That backfired, badly.
There have been signs that he could be the man for the job. But this season the club has regressed. If Arteta is still there next season, he’ll have plenty of days on the training ground with no European distractions.
The board may wait to see if they are in the top four after 10 games. If they want to go in a different direction, there is no time to waste because Arsenal need fixing fast.