Under pressure Mikel Arteta needs strong start to 2024

Heading into the Premier League’s mid-season mini-break, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta seems to be the manager at the top end of the table with the biggest problems in his in-tray. Recent Premier League defeats have seriously dented Arsenal’s title ambitions, and there’s now concern that finishing in the top four might be in doubt for Arteta and his misfiring squad.

What do the bookmakers’ think?

The top bookmakers still have Arsenal in the mix to win the Premier League title. They did start the season as the second favourites, but the combination of a strong-looking Liverpool and underperforming Arsenal has seen Liverpool surge ahead in the betting. Manchester City is the current favourite with a price of 4/6, according to the latest Premier League winner odds, but Liverpool is now second in the betting at 11/5, with Arsenal out at 7/1.

Making up the top five is Aston Villa at 19/1 and Spurs at 30/1. At the bottom end of the table, in the latest Premier League relegation odds, Sheffield United leads the way at 1/40, with Burnley at 1/5 and Luton at 1/4.

Should Arteta focus on the top four?

But it’s the top end of the table that is concerning Mikel Arteta and Arsenal. Five are in the running for the title, and that means five teams are also competing for the four Champions League places. Five into four doesn’t go. And unless the Premier League is awarded one of the extra Champions League places next season, one of the five will miss out.

At the start of the season, most Gunners’ fans wouldn’t have demanded a Premier League win. But they would have demanded a top-four finish. And that spells trouble for the Spaniard.

In the betting to finish in the top four, Manchester City are 1/80, and Liverpool is 1/40. Behind the two leaders, Arsenal are 1/5, with Aston Villa at 4/7 and Spurs at 11/10. There seems to be a feeling that Aston Villa will fall away. But that is far from certain, and Arteta certainly wouldn’t be relying on that to happen to secure a place in the top four.

Arteta has brought some of the pressure on himself

At the start of the season, Arteta raised a lot of eyebrows with his loan signing of David Raya from Brentford. He had an established No.1 keeper in Aaron Ramsdale so the signing seemed unnecessary, however, as seasoned Arsenal observers know, Arteta has a reputation for doing this.

Rather than just saying the two keepers had to fight it out to be the No.1, Arteta started talking about substituting goalkeepers during Premier League matches. This further ramped up the intensity and shone an even brighter spotlight on the situation. In hindsight, it must look like a situation that could easily have been avoided.

Arteta has been backed in the transfer market as well. Yet one of the biggest criticisms made of him is the lack of strikers at the club. The Arsenal squad is now well and truly of Arteta’s making. The buck stops with him. He’ll take the credit when things go well, so there’s now no hiding place for him if things go wrong.

How long before Arteta leads the next manager to leave his position market?

As things stand, the bookmakers still have Arsenal in the hunt for trophies. But if Arteta’s team continues to struggle in the new year, it could be that the next market the Arsenal boss leads is the next manager to leave his position.

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