Managers live and die by their decisions and Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has come to realise that. The Spaniard has created two problems of his own this season but can go some way to rectifying that at Sevilla this evening.
Outsiders looking in may think there isn’t much wrong at Arsenal and in truth, there isn’t. The Gunners sit third in the Premier League as one of just two teams to still be unbeaten nine games into the campaign.
But after last season’s dramatic fall from grace, the desire to go one better is bigger than ever. Arteta only makes decisions he thinks are to the benefit of the team – which manager doesn’t?
However, a couple of calls in particular are worth questioning. Firstly, the signing of David Raya. It was clear that once Raya came through the door it wouldn’t be long before he displaced Aaron Ramsdale as No 1. It took just three league matches after his arrival before he came into the side away at Everton.
It was an easy start for Raya, with barely a shot to save at Goodison Park. Perhaps Arteta had earmarked that game on purpose, striking comparisons to when Ramsdale replaced Bernd Leno in a comfortable home win over Norwich two years previous.
But ever since his debut, the decision to sign and play Raya has looked a strange one. He didn’t look completely convincing against Tottenham, despite that super save to keep out Brennan Johnson.
Either side of the derby were two more comfortable victories against PSV and Bournemouth. But he has now had three poor performances in a row, making mistakes that led to goals in two of them, and somehow getting away with some dodgy footwork against Manchester City.
Arteta has put too much pressure on Raya to prove that he is better than Ramsdale and so far he has not lived up to the task. Ramsdale must come in against Sevilla this evening but the spotlight will then be on him to perform.
It is an unnecessary sideshow that Arteta has created. Ramsdale may not be the complete goalkeeper just yet but he didn’t deserve to be dropped.
The second decision Arteta must rectify is regarding Thomas Partey. The Ghana star hasn’t started since August due to injury.
But the three matches he did play at the beginning of the season were at right-back. Arsenal fans will be hoping that experiment is one Arteta has put to the back of his mind for the time being.
Partey has only played in midfield once this term, as a substitute in the late 1-0 win over City. His introduction with 15 minutes to go had a big impact.
He brings a calmness to the middle of the park but Arsenal also build attacks far smoother with him in the team. Partey fell off towards the end of last season and that was a big reason why the Gunners fell away in the title race.
But Arteta has the chance to bring Partey back in against Sevilla and play him in his natural position. If he stays fit, then Arsenal will be a different proposition.