Mikel Arteta won’t forget his first season in charge. The Spaniard who was close to taking the job 18 months before his appointment had to wait until Arsenal were plunged into crisis before accepting the post. The job would certainly have been easier if he had taken the position in 2018, because on his arrival the scale of the task was humongous.
Emery had somehow managed to lose his players and alienate his stars to such a degree that they downed tools. Not knowingly, not on purpose, but they simply stopped believing in themselves and those around them.
In the end, Emery simply couldn’t fight the fires that kept popping up and eventually the whole project crumbled around him.
During the Emery era, one player more than any other was to become the symbol of his failure and that player was Mesut Ozil. The relationship was doomed even before Emery entered the Emirates because of the Spaniard’s dislike of star players.
The pair soon clashed and it was generally accepted that the club would support the new coach but in truth, many supporters were appalled by Emery’s treatment of the German which had become massively embarrassing.
Things were so bad that in any other profession, the employee would have taken legal action because of the unfair treatment they received and the subsequent humiliation that followed.
Fortunately, Ozil isn’t the type to be that open about what happened during the torrid spell, not whilst he is still playing but his memoirs may prove interesting when he retires.
Mikel Arteta spoke about getting to know his players at his first press conference and also said he wanted to help them. No one needed that help more than Özil who had gone into something of a meltdown, coincidentally at the time Alexis Sanchez left.
Özil had become an outcast and a figure of fun, with fans taking bets on how many games he’d play or if he’d play at all. However, Arteta’s arrival may have saved the German’s Arsenal career and rekindled his enthusiasm for the game.
In the few games under Mikel, the German has shown a renewed appetite and drive. He has been in the middle of Arsenal’s best work and his creative flair has emerged at a time when Arsenal need it most.
Will it last ? It has to, because at this stage of his career who will give him another chance like this.
Rather encouragingly, ‘Arteta ball’, a fast paced, free flowing, high pressing, counter attacking version of both the Wenger/Guardiola blueprint, is allowing players to reconnect with their natural game, something that suits the mercurial German’s talents.
At this rate, Ozil will be back to his best as Arteta nurses the midfielder’s shattered confidence, places a comforting arm around his shoulder and encourages him to revert back to type.
The playmaker’s previous coach demanded he should work harder, Ozil has started to do that instinctively, thus proving that the confrontational approach doesn’t always work and that if you meet the player half way, you will always get more from them.
Mikel Arteta has wisely wiped the slate clean, ignored the past history and set about resurrecting the German’s career, whilst simultaneously attempting to propel the Gunners up the table. Despite his flaws, Ozil could well hold the key to Arsenal avoiding further complications this term.
The new coach appears to have the ability to reset broken and non functioning players and it’s something that Pep Guardiola noted after Raheem Sterling’s form greatly improved:
“Mikel Arteta is working many, many days after training sessions for the last action, for the control in the last moment. For his improvement, [Sterling] wants to stay there and shoot and improve with the goalkeepers”
Mikel Arteta’s work on numerous Arsenal players in need of a jump start including Xhaka, Pepe, Sokratis and Luiz appears to have benefitted in some way for each player. The Arsenal coach has already insisted that his players need to buy into his philosophy. It seems they have.