LONDON: Luiz found himself rushing back towards his own goal as Wolves charged into space behind their defensive line.
How much can Mikel Arteta be blamed for Arsenal’s dreadful disciplinary record since he took over? David Luiz and Bernd Leno’s red cards at Wolves were the club’s eighth and ninth dismissals since the Spaniard was appointed in December 2019.
The obvious conclusion to draw from this (and it is a conclusion that will be drawn by many) is that Arsenal have a chronic discipline problem which has infected the team and spread from the top down. The buck stops with the manager, right?
Take a closer look at those red cards, though, and it is not so simple. In fact, for most of these dismissals, Arteta can probably consider himself a victim of the idiocy of his players, rather than the cause of the problem. He can lay a tactical foundation for the team, providing a system for them to operate within, but he cannot stop them doing stupid things in the heat of the moment.
David Luiz, Bernd Leno, Nicolas Pepe and Granit Xhaka have all been shown red cards for moments of inexplicable mindlessness. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Eddie Nketiah have been dismissed for making bad tackles, which is surely just an unfortunate reality of having strikers who want to defend.
At a push, one could argue that Arteta’s high line has been the cause of the problem for a handful of these reds. Gabriel Magalhães was exposed by Southampton’s pace when he was sent off in December. Even then, though, he should surely have known better than to pull down Theo Walcott when he was already on a yellow card.
Against Wolves last night, Luiz found himself rushing back towards his own goal as Wolves charged into space behind their defensive line. It is clear that Luiz is a far better defender when he is facing forward, rather than running back, but the only way of preventing this from ever happening again is to play a much lower defensive line – which goes against everything else Arteta is trying to instil at Arsenal.
In short, you can only blame Arteta for the red card tally if you believe he should be blamed for his players being idiots on a regular basis.
Are they having the right mental preparation for matches? Are they too fired up? Are they too eager to impress? These are legitimate questions to ask, but the fundamental point remains: the disciplinary problem is largely a result of the brainlessness of individuals.
It is on the players to keep their composure in matches. If they can not do so, it will be in the club to find new players who will.