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Arsenal’s leadership group beginning to crumble as Arteta faces squad dilemma

Mikel Arteta could rely upon his ‘leadership group’ to help guide the Gunners through tough times, but the Gunners’ senior core is being stripped away one by one

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Mikel Arteta may feel like the walls are closing in after a poor start to the season, but at least the Arsenal head coach could always rely on the senior members in his squad for support.

But when the Spaniard looks at the group of players tasked with helping the squad stick together through tough times, the numbers are slowly but surely decreasing.

Arteta has been keen to take a hardline approach to overhauling his playing staff after finishing eighth in the Premier League in successive seasons.

The Arsenal boss has spent £140m this summer, the most by any manager in the top flight, in an attempt to reshape his squad.

As part of an initiative began by Unai Emery and retained by Arteta, a group of experienced team members who understood the club and held a positive relationship with the fans was formed.



Mikel Arteta is running out of senior players to count on for his ‘leadership group’




Under Emery, the club would switch between their five captains whom were nominated — and that group of players were comprised of Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Petr Cech, Mesut Ozil and Xhaka.

Of course, three years on from Emery’s appointment to replace Arsene Wenger in 2018, the quintet are no longer at the club and Arteta was forced to start from scratch.

Among those included were captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding, with Granit Xhaka involved too despite doubts over his long-term future.









Brazilian defender David Luiz had played a key role in squad relations but the 34-year-old left the club at the end of last season on a free transfer.

It was believed that Arteta, along with senior management, would review the members of Arsenal’s leadership group ahead of the new season.

But three games into the new season, his plans have been complicated by the fact that long-serving right-back Bellerin joined Real Betis on transfer deadline day.

While the Spanish full-back is expected to return after no option to make the move permanent was included, it could disrupt the process.

His exit has been a long time coming after losing his place in the side, but Bellerin was one of the few players who publicly backed Arteta when he was under pressure in December last year.

Should stick with Mikel Arteta or replace him after Arsenal’s poor start to the season? Comment below.



Hector Bellerin has joined Real Betis on loan, leaving Mikel Arteta without one of his trusted senior squad members
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Image:

Arsenal FC via Getty Images)




“So unjust. So unjust,” the full-back told beIN Sports when he was quizzed about speculation regarding Arteta’s potential sacking.

“We have to, as players, take responsibility for this because I think we all know that Mikel and his coaching team give us all the tools that we need to win all the games.

“When you lose a game it’s always very easy to blame the coach. But also when the coach gives us the tools we have to be the ones to step up.”

Aubameyang has also been linked again with a move to Barcelona in the transfer window amid concerns over the 32-year-old’s performances last season.







Another member of the exclusive clan is Lacazette, who has 10 months left on his contract and is no closer to renewing his deal as it stands.

With so much squad turnover, it could leave Arteta scrambling to find other players willing to step up and also with the authority within the squad to be treated with such seniority.

Xhaka’s recent red card highlighted that, despite receiving a new one-year contract from the club, the Swiss midfielder still struggles to keep a lid on his indiscipline after his fourth dismissal since joining the club.

According to football.london, Kieran Tierney has emerged as a potential new member to be added to the leadership group.



Kieran Tierney was reportedly set to be added to the group at the start of the season
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Image:

NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)




The Scotland left-back has proved to be a sound addition to the squad since arriving from Celtic in the summer of 2019 for £25m.

At 24, Tierney is regarded as one of the players set to take Arsenal into the new era of the club and it seems his stature has been recognised by Arteta by being brought into the group.

Bukayo Saka could also be a viable alternative should Lacazette or has emerged as one of the best players at the club and has shouldered responsibility of those more senior to him with some electric performances.









Saka may not be the most vocal of players in the pitch due to his youth and generally timid character.

But few could question that the youngster leads by example, rarely disappointing with a below-par performance and his effort levels never seem to waiver.

That is why Saka, despite being only 19, is one player who is regarded as a key component of the setup at the Emirates Stadium.



Bukayo Saka is held in high regard by his Arsenal team-mates despite his youthful age




But the England international has been powerless to halt the Gunners’ slide over the past 12 months and especially this season, having returned to action later than his colleagues.

Arteta may have relied upon his older and more seasoned internationals to guide the club when the going got tough.

But perhaps it is time to look to Saka and Tierney to lead the club through this turbulent period — that is if Arteta is still in the dugout in the coming months.




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