Chelsea 20-21: Plastic Fans and Shiny New Toys

tmracht

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Summer transfer window in full swing, Chelsea has been busy since well before the summer re-break. Coming off a surprising Champions League spot finish with Frank Lampard steering the transfer banned side into the top 4. Huge progression from young players was key for the team with Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic all having impactful seasons. The looming and lingering question remains what to do in net with Kepa the Keepah not really up to the task this season and Caballero getting key starts at the end of the campaign.

Currently In:
Hakim Ziyech from Ajax (~44m)
Timo Werner from RB Leipzig (~58m)

Rumored:
Ben Chilwell from Leicester City (~A lot)
Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen (~Even More)
Thiago Silva from Bosman (Freeeee)

Out:
Willian to Arsenal on a Free
Pedro to nowhere yet on a Free
Mario Pasalic to Atalanta (no not the MLS for ~16m)
Alvaro Morata to Atletico (~76m)
 

cromulence

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I initially said that Pedro moved to Roma, but it actually looks like it's not official yet. Oops.
 

cromulence

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Well according to Transfermarkt, it's 98% likely to happen. I'm sure they've arrived at that number via a highly scientific process.
 

tmracht

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The rumor mill continues in full effect most from Fabrizio Romano.
Malang Sarr (Out Of Contract French U21 CB/LB previously of Nice) to sign a 5 year deal then promptly get shipped to either Serie A or the Bundesliga. (Daily mail, The Guardian and most of twitter).
Thiago Silva (Out Of Contract Geezer CB previously of PSG) set to sign a 2 year deal, then promptly threaten the continued 4 hour warning time from this window.
Bakayoko to AC Milan? Maldini says they are in talks.
Tomori to Ligue 1?
Emerson shot to the moon?

So I kind of like the direction if they can make most of these work.
Moving Tomori to get more experience makes a ton of sense, he's got a lot of talent not much top flight experience. Replacing him with Silva (~115k/week) is good business and if the deal is a short term one for Silva, you look to bring back Tomori after the season.
Emerson leaving opens up that spot for Chilwell (I mean Chilwell is obviously better) but for squad/wage balancing it's a smart move.
Bakayoko just never really worked out for Chelsea for whatever reason, he's settled in nicely at Milan though. Hopefully they can come to terms.
Sarr seems like a classic Chelsea move, they'll sign him, pump his value with loans and then dump him in a few years, while he gets some nice wages in the interim.
 

TheRealness

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Chilwell signed with Chelsea today, per their official twitter. I understand they paid $50m to get him.

Thiago Silva also appears to have signed.

There are also rumors they have a deal for Havertz at around $90m.
 

tmracht

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Well Chilwell brings some much needed pace to the LB role, he's been measured as one of the fastest players in the league as recently as 2018 per talksport article he was 15th fastest recorded speed at a pace of 34.385 km/h. For reference Calvin-Lewin was top dog at 34.935 km/h. I would imagine neither Alonso or Azpi we're quite that fast when deployed there.

Marc Guehi back out on loan to Swansea, should be helpful he has some stability in his loan spell as he was there last year as well.

Silva supposed to be announced any moment now or now or maybe now or how about tomorrow.

Ditto Havertz now or maybe now or tomorrow?

F5 season hits the Chelsea pages.
 

tmracht

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He brings the one thing that was really lacking in the center, real strength on the ground and in the air, they didn't have someone that was immovable.

He may not have the same burst as he did as a younger man, but he still brings that physical nature. He's 10 team of the years in 10 seasons shows he's consistency and stature in the league.

Hopefully he brings an air of experience and knowledge for the younger defenseman hopefully could be a massive massive signing for the team.
 

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tmracht

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A nice Athletic article on how Chelsea is able to afford all of these transfers (spoiler alert: amortization over the life of the new player's contract), and how Abramovitch's general commitment level to the club can be seen to remain extremely high.

https://theathletic.com/2025309/2020/08/28/chelsea-transfer-accounts-abramovich-chilwell-havertz-silva/?source=dailyemail
(as always, PM me for a 30-day "guest pass" to The Athletic if you'd like one)
I know it's "dirty" money but before the whole political issues crept up and he stopped traveling to England he was always in the box. He was constantly hype, he's a good owner.

And Marina is kind of a wizard. The club is lucky to have them.
 

TheRealness

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Kai Havertz officially signed with Chelsea. They are going to be very good. Seems to put Mount against Pulisic for playing time though, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pulisic be a super sub the first couple months once he’s fit to play. Feels like Lampard values Mount over Christian, but not sure where else mount plays with Ziyech likely at RW and Havertz at CM
 

TheRealness

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I would imagine it would be something like:

Werner
Pulisic. Ziyech
Havertz
Mount Jorginho
Kante
Chilwell. James/Azpi
Silva


Kepa/Sieve

Edit: My spacing got altered, but basically I would have Werner up front, Pulisic/Ziyech on the wings, and basically a 3-4-2-1 or 3-4-3 formation.
 

FanRoy

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I'd be a little surprised if Jorginho is in the starting 11. Not that it's ever been his game, but he doesn't seem to be able to keep pace on his defensive responsibilities. Too bad, his vision and passing imagination is beautiful. I'd rather see something like:

Werner
Pulisic/Mount Ziyech
Havertz
RLC/Kovacic Kante
Chilwell Silva Rudiger/Azpi James
GK (Mendy?)

I don't get to watch as much as I'd like, but from what I've seen... I think Mount should be on the front line given his incisiveness and direct attacking mentality. Would be nice if RLC could prove healthy as his size and physicality would really help cover the back. And I'll put on the uniform if it helps get rid of Kepa, I don't rate him at all.

Edit: same spacing problem as above. 4-3-3 seems best given the players I've mentioned, though.
 

tmracht

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Anyone want to do a projected depth chart on the most likely formation?
Well it's not quite tomorrow...
Code:
             Werner (Giroud)
 Pulisic (Mount) Havertz (Ross) Ziyech (CHO)
      Kovacic (RLC) Kante (Jorginho)
Chilwell (Alonso)                  Azpi (James)
        Silva (Tomori) Rudiger (Zouma)
             SoS Send Help (Caballero)
I would guess it's something like this with Chilwell running rampant down the left, Pulisic tucking in a bit and Azpi being a bit more defensive minded.
 

TheRealness

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I know Pulisic is "full" training, but I wouldn't be surprised if he sits on Monday or comes in as a sub. I would bet you see the new guys though (Havertz, Werner, Ziyech, Chilwell and Silva) with Mount on the LW in Pulisic's spot.
 

cromulence

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I know Pulisic is "full" training, but I wouldn't be surprised if he sits on Monday or comes in as a sub. I would bet you see the new guys though (Havertz, Werner, Ziyech, Chilwell and Silva) with Mount on the LW in Pulisic's spot.
Ziyech and Chilwell are out injured.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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I think there is a good chance that Lampard will eventually have to start Giroud or Tammy with this group. Werner really seems much more suited to play as a wide forward coming in from the left than a CF and him constantly switching with Havertz in the middle, like in the first half today, didn't seem all that effective either.

Chelsea has added a lot of offensive talent but it might also be fair to claim that they bought four players (Werner, Havertz, Ziyech, Pulisic) whose best role is wing/wide forward. None of them are center forwards and its not really clear that any of them are most comfortable as a #10 either.

Werner heat map last year in the Bundesliga. Not a center forward's positioning by any means.

34343

But Pulisic also likes to play on the left and occupy the same spaces.

34344


Havertz played mainly last year on the right, coming into the center on occasion, but not as a 10.

34342

Ziyech plays either wing but not often through the middle.

34345
 

tmracht

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I think Giroud would be pretty amazing with this group, but I do think Havertz has a chance to do well through the center. But the real problem is going to be who to pair with Silva.
 

OCST

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Not earth-shattering insight, but I'm leery of this side: Lampard doesn't know how to set up his Stratego pieces in attack; and they can be gotten at. If I'm playing Chelsea I know that they're not likely to beat me 1-0 so if they get that first goal I'm not panicking.
 

InstaFace

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So on Wednesday, Pulisic comes off the bench for 25 mins, draws a PK and scores a late poacher's goal.


...Today, he's not even named to the squad vs Burnley.

What's going on there? "what have you done for me lately" seems to have a pretty good answer, and if he came in vs Krasnodar, we know he's healthy.
 

SocrManiac

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Werner replaced him in the lineup. Seems like some misplaced anger. Would you like to talk about your feelings?
 

TheRealness

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He injured himself in warmups.
Yeah, he didn’t get benched, but this is more concerning. Hamstring injury where he felt a “sensation” and is getting scans today or tomorrow I think. He could be out a few weeks again.

Very frustrating, both as someone who follows Americans abroad, and for Chelsea in general. I was really excited about seeing all four of Pulisic/Werner/Ziyech/Havertz in their offensive lineup, and it still hasn’t happened yet for a full game.

Pulisic may be the most talented American ever, but it doesn’t mean much if you are injured half the time. Maybe we need to hook him up with that TB12 method.
 

Kliq

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All of a sudden Chelsea look like they can play defense. Mendy has yet to concede a goal in the EPL, and I've been very impressed by him so far. He's incredibly long and athletic; like an NBA wing who grew up training to be a goalkeeper. He has had some awkward distribution moments, but he looks like a really strong shot-stopper; his save against Rashford last weekend was a game-saver and many goalkeepers wouldn't have gotten to that shot.

The other key improvement appears to be Silva, who has been excellent since coming to Chelsea. It kind of felt like a desperate play when he was brought in, given his age, but he has adjusted well to the EPL and was huge in the game this weekend against Burnley, easily the main reason Burnley failed to get a shot on target during the game. We know Chelsea can score, but I'd be pretty encouraged by their improvements at the back.
 

67YAZ

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The other key improvement appears to be Silva, who has been excellent since coming to Chelsea. It kind of felt like a desperate play when he was brought in, given his age, but he has adjusted well to the EPL and was huge in the game this weekend against Burnley, easily the main reason Burnley failed to get a shot on target during the game. We know Chelsea can score, but I'd be pretty encouraged by their improvements at the back.
So much of good defending is having a great field general. Whatever Silva has lost athletically, he makes up in experience, authority, and respect. And that makes Mendy’a job simpler, too, allows him to focus on shot stopping and distribution knowing that Silva marshals the line.

I’m hopeful that Alison can step into the gap VVD’s absence leaves. This Atalanta match up is going to a real test.
 

tmracht

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I wish Giroud had a bigger role in his time with Chelsea he's so fun to watch.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Lampard sacked, replaced by Tuchel.

I have no doubt that Tuchel will be better than Lampard. But he seems like an odd fit overall given that he has fallen out with the club hierarchy over transfers at every job and Roman/Marina fall out with every manager and will never give him power over transfers.

Winning will cure everything but if he doesn't win then the English press are also going to absolutely slay him as a recalcitrant German manager who replaced one of their buddies and now is pretty likely to drop or at least decrease the role in the team of a bunch of young English players.
 

fletcherpost

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Lampard sacked, replaced by Tuchel.

I have no doubt that Tuchel will be better than Lampard. But he seems like an odd fit overall given that he has fallen out with the club hierarchy over transfers at every job and Roman/Marina fall out with every manager and will never give him power over transfers.

Winning will cure everything but if he doesn't win then the English press are also going to absolutely slay him as a recalcitrant German manager who replaced one of their buddies and now is pretty likely to drop or at least decrease the role in the team of a bunch of young English players.
As soon as Tuchel goes on a run that is comparable to Lampard's bad run of form the papers and pundits will go stat mad.

Just saw this on a tweet:

Frank Lampard on André Villas-Boas' sacking in 2014: "The players had no part in his dismissal, he played his cards and they didn't work, maybe he was too young and maybe the job was too soon for him."
 

Tuff Ghost

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Winning will cure everything but if he doesn't win then the English press are also going to absolutely slay him as a recalcitrant German manager who replaced one of their buddies and now is pretty likely to drop or at least decrease the role in the team of a bunch of young English players.
The Athletic had an excellent deep-dive on Lampard's dismissal. One thing that was mentioned was the intention of bringing in a German-speaking manager to help with Werner and Havertz. Rangnick and Nagelsmann were also under consideration. Rangnick was offered a temporary role as manager and I get the impression that Nagelsmann was their ideal candidate, but unavailable.
The calls to Germany started, with former Leipzig coach Rangnick offered the role until the end of the season, the idea being that he moved into a different role at that point. He turned them down due to the short length of the deal.

The hierarchy were determined to bring in a German speaker to bring out the best in Werner and Havertz, talking to former PSG manager Tuchel too and hitting a brick wall in initial discussions with Leipzig about Nagelsmann.
Another interesting tidbit was that Lampard wanted to bring in Aubameyang and Ziyech in the January 2020 window:
He asked for Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was considering leaving Emirates Stadium at that juncture, and Ajax’s attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech. Neither arrived that month — a deal for the latter was agreed in February but too late to help the 2019-20 campaign.
The article discusses how Lampard was more interested in reshaping the defense this past summer and that of all of the new acquisitions, only Chillwell was a Lampard-target:
One insider alleges that of the six to join, only Ben Chilwell was a Lampard target.

His intention from the get-go was to reshape the defence. The plan was not only to acquire Rice, who Lampard felt could be converted into a top centre-back as well as using him as a defensive midfielder, but also to buy James Tarkowski from Burnley.
The Declan Rice reuniting with Chelsea rumors have been around forever and I found it interesting to hear that this was a Lampard push (and that he saw him as a potential centre-back), but that the Chelsea hierachy did not want to be seen bringing back an academy reject for a significant fee:
Lampard wanted the club to sign West Ham midfielder Declan Rice and pushed for him again ahead of January. But some at the club had reservations about re-signing the player who was released from the academy as a teenager.

In December The Athletic were told: “He needs to stop pushing for Rice or he’ll lose his job. The hierarchy are very wary about the potential embarrassment of buying back an academy reject at huge expense.”
It was a tough position that Lampard was put into. He did well bringing through some younger, academy players (Mount, Abraham, etc.), but it also sounds like he lost the players. The squad was maybe a little too large because he constantly had to leave out players who expected to be playing.
“The problem was, the manager didn’t talk to the players — well only the ones he liked,” one such source explains. “I know of players who weren’t in the team that didn’t hear from him for many months. That’s very frustrating for a player because you don’t know what you have to do to do better, what the manager is thinking. It’s crazy.
https://theathletic.com/2298337/2021/01/25/lampards-chelsea-sacking-tension-with-marina-unhappy-players-and-secret-job-offers/
 

Philip Jeff Frye

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Winning will cure everything but if he doesn't win then the English press are also going to absolutely slay him as a recalcitrant German manager who replaced one of their buddies and now is pretty likely to drop or at least decrease the role in the team of a bunch of young English players.
It would be funny to see the press complaining about "their buddy" getting fired when, from the moment he was hired, they've been portraying him as an "in over his head" incompetent who hadn't paid his dues as a manger before giving him the keys to a big club and who only got the job because of his name. I'm not saying that portrayal is necessarily wrong, but the English press were pretty much openly rooting for him to fail.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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It would be funny to see the press complaining about "their buddy" getting fired when, from the moment he was hired, they've been portraying him as an "in over his head" incompetent who hadn't paid his dues as a manger before giving him the keys to a big club and who only got the job because of his name. I'm not saying that portrayal is necessarily wrong, but the English press were pretty much openly rooting for him to fail.
That might be true for some of the print media but I think the broadcast media on shows like Match of the Day - basically, all former England players who know him well - treated him pretty kindly and were really rooting for him to succeed.

Frank Lampard on André Villas-Boas' sacking in 2014: "The players had no part in his dismissal, he played his cards and they didn't work, maybe he was too young and maybe the job was too soon for him."
His own Cassandra. Its hard not to compare him with Gerrard, since they've always been compared, and you'd have to say that Stevie G. has taken the better path.

The Athletic had an excellent deep-dive on Lampard's dismissal. One thing that was mentioned was the intention of bringing in a German-speaking manager to help with Werner and Havertz.
The obsession with getting a German manager plus the Rice stuff from the article all feels like an upper management that is far too concerned with how their own decisions are perceived. Marina Granovskaia has pulled off some true magic in selling players but she has made some pretty questionable decisions in the past when it comes to buying players and I wonder whether she has too much personal investment in Havertz and Werner.
 

OCST

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I think both things are true: he was in over his head and hastened his own demise - that bit about not talking to his players is damning - and the club treated him shabbily.

The parallels with Arteta are there, right? It wasn't long ago that Arsenal fans were calling for the sack. Arteta's turned it around - but he had an advantage in that his handful of veterans were nothing special and he had some exceptional kids to turn things over to. Still, it appeared that the club was willing to give him some time and space. Lampard had the tougher job IMO, with all of these high-priced pieces that didn't and don't seem to mesh. I haven't seen a whole lot of Chelsea but when I have they've seen most dangerous with Abraham and Giroud up top, which didn't require millions of new spending. He did better when he had less to work with. Give him a chance to see how to knit these guys together. The next guy in might do better but the problem won't be any different.

I'd have given him til the end of the season. It wasn't long ago that they were top of the table. If they're going to throw him overboard after a tough run of games IMO it's an indictment of management, they didn't pick the right guy to begin with.
 

tmracht

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The obsession with getting a German manager plus the Rice stuff from the article all feels like an upper management that is far too concerned with how their own decisions are perceived. Marina Granovskaia has pulled off some true magic in selling players but she has made some pretty questionable decisions in the past when it comes to buying players and I wonder whether she has too much personal investment in Havertz and Werner.
I think there is so much in the idea of never being seen as the loser in a deal for her. So if Havertz and Werner don't come good, its not her fault it's someone elses.
 

Kliq

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Do Werner and Havertz not speak English, or good English? I just kind of assumed that most German players have a pretty good grasp of the language. Seems weird that having an English speaking manager would be a significant problem for an EPL team, given how international the league has become.
 

bosox4283

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Do Werner and Havertz not speak English, or good English? I just kind of assumed that most German players have a pretty good grasp of the language. Seems weird that having an English speaking manager would be a significant problem for an EPL team, given how international the league has become.
From what I understand, Pulisic speaks pretty good German so even if Werner and Havertz had limited English, there's some translation help on the squad.
 

Tuff Ghost

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The parallels with Arteta are there, right? It wasn't long ago that Arsenal fans were calling for the sack. Arteta's turned it around - but he had an advantage in that his handful of veterans were nothing special and he had some exceptional kids to turn things over to. Still, it appeared that the club was willing to give him some time and space. Lampard had the tougher job IMO, with all of these high-priced pieces that didn't and don't seem to mesh. I haven't seen a whole lot of Chelsea but when I have they've seen most dangerous with Abraham and Giroud up top, which didn't require millions of new spending. He did better when he had less to work with. Give him a chance to see how to knit these guys together. The next guy in might do better but the problem won't be any different.
Yeah, I think there is probably something to the idea that Lampard was viewed as a temporary caretaker for 2019-20 after the transfer ban. The cynical take would be that bringing back an all-time favorite player as a temporary (and lightly qualified) manager was an easy way to drive interest in the club while in transition and with lower expectations than they typically do. But then he did really well incorporating the younger players, got them into a top-4 place and an FA Cup final, so they decided to give him another year (tough to fire someone after that).

I have a feeling that Arsenal are more serious about giving Arteta time to work through a few ups-and-downs. Arsenal are certainly more of a project than Chelsea, who are expected to be competing for the title after the 200 million pound summer. Lampard could rightly argue that he did not have much of a chance to incorporate so many new big-name players into a cohesive unit, but if he was never viewed as a long-term manager by the higher-ups, then he was never going to get that chance. At this point, it is hard to believe Chelsea view any manager as a long-term manager, though. They value the expediency of changing things up and giving the players a fresh start on the regular.
 

67YAZ

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From what I understand, Pulisic speaks pretty good German so even if Werner and Havertz had limited English, there's some translation help on the squad.
This is nonsense thrown out to the media. Most German youth learn passable English in school, plus clubs provide tutors and language courses for key transfers who need it.

Hope Frank lands someplace where he can keep working on his craft with time and support.

As for Chelsea, enjoy the Tuechel experience. It should lead to some attractive football on the pitch and some ugly stuff off it.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Yeah, I think there is probably something to the idea that Lampard was viewed as a temporary caretaker for 2019-20 after the transfer ban. The cynical take would be that bringing back an all-time favorite player as a temporary (and lightly qualified) manager was an easy way to drive interest in the club while in transition and with lower expectations than they typically do. But then he did really well incorporating the younger players, got them into a top-4 place and an FA Cup final, so they decided to give him another year (tough to fire someone after that).

I have a feeling that Arsenal are more serious about giving Arteta time to work through a few ups-and-downs. Arsenal are certainly more of a project than Chelsea, who are expected to be competing for the title after the 200 million pound summer. Lampard could rightly argue that he did not have much of a chance to incorporate so many new big-name players into a cohesive unit, but if he was never viewed as a long-term manager by the higher-ups, then he was never going to get that chance. At this point, it is hard to believe Chelsea view any manager as a long-term manager, though. They value the expediency of changing things up and giving the players a fresh start on the regular.
I largely agree with this but I think there is also an equally valid (and less positive) take on Arsenal that would hold that Arteta wasn't fired this fall because there essentially wasn't anybody above him with the power and guts to swing the axe. The ownership isn't very hands-on, Edu has a pretty thin resume himself and only ended up nominally in charge of football operations once Raul Sanllehi was forced out last August, and Vinai Venkatesham is really a suit who has worked his way up on the business end but has limited influence on the footballing operations. The club is giving Arteta time to work through the ups-and-downs but its sort of by default because there is no other plan and nobody really seems to have the power and vision to forge an alternative plan if that seemed necessary.