The clock is ticking on Mikel Arteta – but time has not run out.
Arsenal will stick with Arteta into next season despite failing to get into Europe and being on course for their worst Premier League finish since 1995.
Whether that proves to be the right decision only time will tell but the club is determined to rebuild this summer, give Arteta time and patience and better players.
The bigger worry for Arsenal fans is whether Arteta will prove to be the right man and that is the challenge facing a rookie manager in his first job.
Serious questions are being asked of Arteta for the first time and it would be wrong to say there are also not doubts in the dressing room about the 39-year-old Spaniard.
Arteta can be regarded as arrogant, will not admit to being wrong and completely lacking in humility. Maybe you need that unshakeable belief as a manager. You also probably need experience and years to develop life skills to become a good man manager.
But as someone with great knowledge of both Arteta and Arsene Wenger pointed out, the ability to be self effacing, self critical and to be able to laugh at yourself is a “critical quality.” Wenger had it, Arteta doesn’t.
Arteta has a reputation as a brilliant coach, he learned under Pep Guardiola and his time at Manchester City meant he arrived in December 2019 as a hot property and a popular choice to succeed Unai Emery.
He was also a former Arsenal captain, had an instant connection with the fans and, in winning the FA Cup in his first season, there was huge optimism even though everyone accepted it might take time and a few transfer windows to get the club back to where they belong.
Now, just 18 months into his reign, the fans are getting restless and that is understandable because, while no-one expected them to become champions overnight, the very least you expect is some tangible signs of progress.
Yet this season they have gone backwards. Back in 1995, they finished 12th, it seems they have flatlined in mid-table and the defeat to Villarreal was a lame surrender when they needed to summon one big performance to save their season.
The real worry was that the players did not look as if they were busting a gut for the manager. Even bigger was that Arteta was outfoxed by Emery and that is arguably the most damning aspect of all.
Are they right to stick with him? The simple answer is yes. Questions need to be asked. But they cannot carry on changing the manager because where would they go next?
Arsenal need to rebuild the squad. And stop doing bad deals. Selling Emiliano Martinez to Aston Villa was a shocker and record £72m record signing Nicolas Pepe has not delivered. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s mega three year contract does not look so clever anymore.
You cannot criticise the owners for a lack of investment. They have broken the transfer record year after year. Dug deep to buy Thomas Partey for £45m on last summer’s deadline day. So the bigger question must be is the right structure in place.
Technical director Edu should be under the spotlight as there is a feeling this summer will be vital. They will need to offload to free space in the squad and also from the wage bill. Hector Bellerin could be the first in a big name exodus.