The last few years have been tough for Arsenal, which has always prided itself on playing beautiful football. The last trophy for the Gunners came in 2017 when they won the FA Cup. This was at a time the club’s fans were slowly expressing their displeasure at Arsene Wenger’s managerial reign.
Unai Emery’s Project Flops
While fans expected the FA Cup title to herald a revival, things only got worse. After Wenger’s departure in 2018, Unai Emery, the former Paris St-Germain and Sevilla manager came in. However, the Spaniard wasn’t to last two seasons and was sacked less than a year and half after taking the job.
Fans expected a big name to step in but the club’s deterioration couldn’t allow this. Freddie Ljungberg, one of the greatest players at Arsenal, came in as a caretaker manager. He didn’t have any impact and the club continued its search for a manager.
The closest the team got to a high profile coach was Carlo Ancelotti, who declined and opted to work with Everton. This was when the board finally agreed to appoint Mikel Arteta.
Mikel Arteta Warms His Way In
The 37-year-old was a double FA Cup winner in his five years at the Emirates. However, his only experience at top-level management was as Pep Guardiola’s assistant since 2016 at Manchester City. Most pundits didn’t give Arteta a chance to succeed with the Gunners as they said the rot was too deep.
His appointment came at a time when the two top strikers, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, had indicated they wanted out. However, the Spaniard was confident he could rebuild the team.
The Spaniard’s reign started with mixed results including four draws, three wins and a defeat to Chelsea until the end of January 2020. However, they have made impressive progress since then with an impressive record of three wins in seven days in February highlighting Arteta’s impact. The wins against Newcastle, Everton and Olympiakos have rekindled the hopes of Arsenal F.C fans. But this week’s second leg loss to Olympiakos in the Europa League was disappointing and is somewhat of a hindrance to the progress.
But it’s not just about the wins. Some statistics highlight the changes Mikel Arteta has started making in his new team. Some of these changes include the structure while on the field, playing with purpose and pressing harder.
Another undeniable impact is. on the defence, which has for long been Arsenal’s Achilles’ heel. The team now average fewer shots and fewer goals conceded compared to Emery and Freddie Ljungberg’s period. The team’s confidence is also back and this was something Arteta had promised to work on from the beginning.
The accusation of lacking fighting spirit is no longer there as the players are more aggressive. This is evident in the fact that the team now ranks high for yellow and red cards combined in the 2019/20 campaign. It’s not a record to be proud of but it shows a more daring attitude. This was evident when the team fought back at Everton to win.
Another area where the Gunners show a glimmer of light is the impact on individual players. While Arsenal didn’t make any phenomenal signings during the January transfer window, Mikel Arteta nevertheless showed his intent.
Pablo Mari and Cedric Soares joined the ranks as defenders to shore up one area that had always brought the team problems. There’s also young defender William Saliba coming in the summer. They have not yet played, but investing in defense shows the new manager is ready for an overhaul.
The current crop of young players including Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka, Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli have also impressed. Nketiah was on loan at Leeds but he’s already in the first team and has a goal to his name.
Mike Arteta came in as a rookie manager to an Arsenal team in the worst run of form in decades. However, his impact is now obvious in the displays of the team. There’s more confidence, defensive security, fighting spirit and these have started reflecting in the results. Arteta’s rebuild has started to take shape.