Mikel Arteta was a silky midfielder during his playing days, but it turns out his coaching style is more hard-man than suave-man.
Eddie Nketiah was sent off during Tuesday’s draw with Leicester, just moments after being introduced from the bench with the Gunners in the lead.
His high and studs-up challenge on James Justin was reviewed by VAR after Nketiah was initially shown a yellow card, and the general consensus is that a red card was the correct decision.
But the young striker’s dismissal brought to light a rather worrying issue that has plagued Arteta’s short tenure as Arsenal boss.
Since being appointed last December, Arteta has only taken charge of 16 Premier League matches – but in those 16 games Arsenal have been shown a remarkable FOUR red cards.
The first was handed to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in Arteta’s fourth match – a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace – with David Luiz picking up the second red card two matches later when the Gunners drew 2-2 with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The discipline issues then calmed down before football was suspended due to coronavirus, but since the Premier League restart Arsenal have been shown another two red cards – David Luiz (again) and the aforementioned Nketiah being dismissed.
No other Premier League team has received more than four red cards this entire season, meaning Arsenal have had as many players dismissed in Arteta’s 16 matches than all their rivals in either 33 or 34 games throughout 2019/20.
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And it doesn’t stop there for Arsenal, who were actually shown a further red card before Arteta’s managerial reign began to make it five for the season.
Furthermore, no Premier League team has more yellow cards than Arsenal’s 73 in 2019/20, with the Gunners bottom of the Football Association’s Fair Play table, taking into account league matches only.
There are clearly disciplinary issues throughout the Arsenal squad that Arteta needs to work on – especially as the stats seem to prove that karma exists and rewards those teams who play the beautiful game the right way.
Liverpool were crowned English champions for the first time in 30 years last month, winning their first title in three decades and doing so as the fairest team in the Premier League, with only 31 yellow cards and a single red card dished out to the Reds this term.
Leicester and Chelsea – teams who are both in the top four and chasing Champions League qualification – are also two of the fairest teams in England’s top flight for 2019/20, and their fair play has been rewarded with excellent results.
Clearly there is something in the water in north London and Hertfordshire as Arsenal are joined in the bottom three of the Fair Play table by their local rivals Tottenham and also Watford, whose London Colney training ground is next door to the Gunners’ training centre. Spooky.
You can see the Fair Play table, based only on Premier League matches, below…
*Caution = 4 points
*Denial of a goal scoring opportunity or dismissal for 2 cautions = 10 points
*Violent conduct, serious foul play, spitting or offensive and abusive language = 12 points