Tuesday marked three years since Mikel Arteta replaced the miserably failing Unai Emery as Head Coach at Arsenal. Fast forward three years and not only has Arteta been promoted to manager, but he also has an FA Cup and Community Shield under his belt, and Arsenal are currently top of the Premier League. Towards the end of last season, he also signed a new contract which will keep him in the job until 2025. The past three years have been undeniably tumultuous, with a huge percentage of the fanbase being ‘Arteta Out’ as we underperformed, particularly at the beginning of last season, but we have definitely turned a corner this season with the atmosphere in the Emirates back to buzzing and the fans have fallen in love with the players again. It is a good time to be an Arsenal fan; they do say good things come in threes, after all.
After hanging up his boots in the 15/16 season, Arteta landed a job under Pep Guardiola as assistant coach at Manchester City, who he now leads at the top of the Premier League table with a five point cushion as the student is slowly becoming the master.
Giving Arteta the job was obvious a massive gamble. This was his first managerial role, but the board clearly believed in him and have given him time to invest in quality signings and nurture the young talent coming through the academy, which is definitely something Arteta has an eye for. Saka, Martinelli and Emile Smith-Rowe are current fan favourite who have blossomed under Arteta, but Amario Cozier-Duberry has been dubbed ‘Saka Junior’, and the seventeen year old is fighting for his place in the starting XI, alongside Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah who have also played for the youth teams and are slowly being given opportunities in the first team; Reiss Nelson scored a brace against Nottingham Forest in a 5-0 victory earlier in the season, and Eddie was heavily relied upon at the end of last season after Aubameyang’s contract was terminated and Lacazette was consistently missing sitters, and it was Eddie who singlehandedly kept us in the top four fight.
In a recent interview with Jamie Carragher, Arteta discussed a few things about his time as manager. He has learned a lot of lessons and his desire to improve is clearly rubbing off on his players. He also knew the importance of self-belief, as he stuck with his ideologies and foundations despite results not always working in his favour. Instead of chopping and changing, he brought in players with a profile that suited his style of play and evolved other players, such as Granit Xhaka, and he is already reaping the rewards of this. Arteta also spoke about how important it was to have everybody on board, including those at the top. In regards to Aubameyang, he had a difficult decision to make but was backed unanimously and he clearly knew what he was doing. He also discussed bringing back the enthusiasm to the club, which he has achieved through turning players into fan favourites and developing young talent.
Going back to the beginning, Arteta’s first game in charge was Boxing Day 2019, where we drew 1-1 away to Bournemouth AFC thanks to a late equaliser from Aubameyang. Of the eighteen players selected for the game at the Vitality Stadium, only Xhaka, Saka, Nelson and Smith Rowe have survived Arteta’s cull as ‘Arteta’s Arsenal’ is finally coming into fruition. The first win under Arteta was a big one; a 2-0 victory at home to Manchester United. However, it wasn’t all positive as Arteta recorded the worst start to a Premier League campaign for Arsenal in the 21/22 season, where we lost our first three games, conceding nine and scoring zero. He then totally flipped this in the current 22/23 season to have the best ever start to the Premier League, and we are currently sitting in first place as a result of this.
We have also seen six different players start as captain under Arteta; Aubameyang, Lacazette, Ødegaard, Bellerin, Holding, and Xhaka. The captaincy was a touchy subject as Arteta quickly stripped Xhaka of the captaincy due to a bad attitude and gave it to Aubameyang, and we all know how that ended. It was a bit of a mess after Auba’s departure, as Lacazette filled in as captain but his performance dropped and he was no longer making the starting XI, so Ødegaard took on the responsibility unofficially at the end of last season, with an announcement coming at the beginning of this season that he was the new captain, and is currently sitting on 21 starts as Arsenal captain in the Premier League.
Under Arteta, Bukayo Saka at only 21 boasts the most PL appearances (202), followed by Xhaka (90), Lacazette (80), Gabriel (72), and Tierney (71), which is quite an achievement for the youngster as he has really impressed everyone with his clinical, mature style of play despite his age.
The atmosphere around the stadium has changed; fans are now a lot more confident that Arsenal will win whilst playing beautiful football. From his first interview, Arteta made it clear that despite other, more experienced coaches being available, he was the man for the job and he engaged with a lot of the fanbase on that day. His passion is infectious and his desire to return Arsenal to its former glory has rubbed off on the players who are now hungry to win trophies. I truly believe we are seeing something very special unfolding at Arsenal.
Written by Abby Goodson @_abbygoodson