Why is Mikel Arteta getting such an easy ride?

Across the betting markets Scott Parker is currently the short-priced favourite to be the next Premier League manager to leave his post. This is unsurprising given Fulham’s woeful start to the campaign.

Behind Parker in the race nobody wants to win is West Brom’s Slaven Bilic and then we get to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard who are both in the region of 7/1 to either resign or be given the boot before such fates befall their contemporaries.

Again, there is little to be surprised about here. Both managers are club legends still to prove themselves at the highest level in a managerial capacity and the jury remains very much out on whether they can secure a top four spot by the season’s end.

Before we go further down the list let us briefly linger on that last point. In normal circumstances it is a prerequisite for Manchester United and Chelsea to challenge strongly for a Champions League place. Mid-table certainly doesn’t cut it. Sometimes a final placing of fifth sees the proverbial axe wielded.

But these are anything but normal circumstances and in a Covid world, even the behemoths of the top-flight are haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate. It follows therefore that now, more than ever, the bountiful riches of European football are essential and with that in mind it is perfectly possible that panic buttons will be pressed should a ‘top six’ side appear to be out of the top four reckoning by the end of the year.

In short, if United or Chelsea are languishing beyond their traditional berth around Christmas time the pressure on their manager will be immense.
Anyway, back to the odds. Next up is Sean Dyche and then there’s David Moyes and then we skip a few names down and look further still until finally, finally, we reach Mikel Arteta.

The Arsenal manager is presently priced at an exorbitant 50/1 to leave the Emirates anytime soon. Nuno Espirito Santo and Brendan Rodgers are 40/1, both coaches who are entrenched in their role, treasured by their club’s hierarchy and fan-bases alike. Only two managers have longer odds than Arteta to depart their position and they are Carlo Ancelotti and Jurgen Klopp.

Perhaps the most astounding angle to approach this from is to acknowledge that a whole litany of betting experts consider it seven times more likely that Solskjaer or Lampard will be sacked before the novice Spaniard.

So what gives? Well, that is a very difficult question to answer because it all makes precisely no sense.

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Like Solskjaer and Lampard, the former midfielder is a club legend still to prove his credentials at the highest level only he lacks the managerial experience accrued by the other two who have previous Premier League know-how, two Norwegian titles, and a Play-Off final to their name. For Arteta every game right now is a baptism of fire.

As for whether Arteta can be a success in North London and elevate his side into the echelons of the top four only time will tell but it can reasonably be argued that the uncertainty regarding this is even more cloudy than with Solskjaer or Lampard. That’s because whereas they are constructing sides via conventional means it is Arteta’s mandate to install a radical new philosophy at his club and frankly that is a high-risk over-haul as likely to fail as it is to take flight.

A root and branch revision of a club’s identity and playing style is an enormous undertaking laden with jeopardy, to such an extent that even ten months into the project we still have no idea which way it’s going to end up and this brings us to Arteta’s win percentage to date.

Since taking the reins last December the Gunners boss has won out 46.1% of the time. This compares favourably to Solskjaer but only marginally so. Lampard meanwhile boasts a nice and neat 50% win rate.

There are a couple of other considerations to factor in too. The Stamford Bridge faithful are fully behind their revered record goal-scorer while United fans are almost exclusively reserving their wrath for the Glazers and Ed Woodward. Arteta however is splitting the Arsenal fan-base. Some have already had enough, lost all faith; want him gone.

And we keep coming back to that desperate hunt for a top four spot. It is estimated that Arsenal have already lost £36m since last March due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Merely guaranteeing entry into the group stages of the Champions League can easily bring in £25m in prize money alone. Arsenal are presently 11th in the league having lost half of their games to this point.

In the next five weeks, Arsenal must play Manchester United, high-flying Aston Villa, Leeds, Wolves and Spurs and maybe after this potentially defining schedule we’ll be closer to finding out whether Arteta is the real deal, capable of transforming his team into a unit that perfectly marries style and substance. Or whether he has been hyped beyond all reason.

Maybe then too the odds will tumble; odds that reflect a media narrative that depicts only two former playing greats under pressure in the Premier League.

No matter what happens, quite why Arteta alone has been spared the media glare to such a degree remains an absolute mystery.

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