In the two years and eight months since Mikel Arteta took the reins at Arsenal, there can’t be many Premier League managers who have experienced their club’s backing as strongly or as often as the former Gunners captain.
Arteta has been given the freedom to revamp his squad, with 18 players joining and the same number leaving on permanent contracts since taking over from Unai Emery on the bench. According to Transfermarkt, only Chelsea have a higher net spending on players than Arsenal since the summer of 2020.
Two of those who left the club were Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, former fan favorites with big contracts who were not only cut from the team by Arteta but later allowed to leave without a transfer fee, such was their willingness to go on. ahead.
Arteta has also received support when questions have been raised about his leadership in the team and his lack of experience as a manager, particularly as Arsenal started the season with three defeats, zero goals scored and nine conceded in their first three games of the 2021 campaign. /22. .
But despite the esteem in which Arteta is clearly held in north London, there is one issue on which he apparently has no power.
“I had no choice!” Arteta affirms when he is asked in an exclusive interview with sky sports if you had any reservations about the recently released documentary charting the club’s 2021/22 season.
The cameras reveal the coach’s team’s thoughts, tactics and conversations with fans and rivals alike, but he said: “If we’re going to do it, we wanted to do it in a natural way that reflects who we are.”
Establishing, or perhaps reestablishing, Arsenal’s identity is something that has been at the center of Arteta’s thinking since he took over in December 2019. The club was still adjusting to life after Arsene Wenger, whose final seasons they saw a schism develop between those who continued to support the legendary manager and those who believed he was holding the club back.
Wenger’s successor, Emery, lasted just 16 months, while his departure came just weeks after Granit Xhaka was stripped of the captaincy for clashing with his own fans during a match against Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium.
Add in the fact that a number of supporters had run-ins with the Kroenke family, the club’s owners, and it’s fair to say that the relationship between Arsenal and its fans has fractured.
Healing that relationship with the fans has been crucial for Arteta, who explained: “All we have been doing in the last two years is fixing that and building a completely different relationship with them. They are the soul of this football club.” and they have to be at the forefront of decision-making in everything we do.
“The satisfaction and how you feel when you play in front of your fans, and you feel that energy, it makes everything click and it makes people happy, I think.”
The hard work is paying off for Arteta, with a combination of that renewed relationship, Arsenal’s impressive start to the season (they have won their first two Premier League games after being victorious in all five pre-season matches) and five new signings. helping to create an atmosphere that has not been experienced in the club for several seasons.
Asked if this is the most optimistic he has felt since taking office, Arteta admitted: “Probably about the environment, yes.”
However, the manager is determined not to get too carried away by the optimism swirling around the Emirates, warning his team must keep their focus for the trip to Bournemouth on Saturday, live on sky sports.
“We don’t have to get carried away,” Arteta said. “We’ve played two games and we’re going to have another tough game tomorrow against Bournemouth.
“You know how tough this league is, so there’s still a lot to play for, we haven’t done anything and we have to be very aware of that.”
Arsenal’s perfect pre-season
- Nuremberg 3-5 Arsenal – Germany, July 8
- Arsenal 2-0 Everton – USA, July 17
- Orlando City 1-3 Arsenal – USA, July 21
- Arsenal 4-0 Chelsea – United States, July 24
- Arsenal 6-0 Seville – England, July 30
Arteta was also wary of suggestions that Arsenal, whose only meeting with a Big Six teammate before October arrives at Manchester United on September 4, lives in sky sports – The match schedule has given them an opportunity to build momentum at the start of the season.
“When you see the games and the results in the first two games of the season and you have to bet, I’m sure you would have lost a lot of money!” he said. “That’s not how it is in the Premier League, unfortunately.
“All we have to do is play and perform the best we can to earn the right to win. It doesn’t matter who we play.”
Arteta will hope to avoid one of those unpredictable results when his side take on newly promoted Bournemouth. But while Arsenal have said goodbye to Crystal Palace and Leicester so far this season, it is surprising that the Gunners haven’t won three successive games to start a Premier League season since 2004/05.
“These are statistics and they are there for a reason,” Arteta said. “Obviously our goal is to go there and win and we know they’re not going to make it easy for us.
“It is a team that has started the season quite well, they had a very good victory against [Aston] Villa and have been performing steadily for over a year. It will be hard”.
One of Arsenal’s key weapons at the Vitality Stadium is likely to be new signing Gabriel Jesus, who produced two goals and two assists in a remarkable performance on his home debut in a 4-2 win over Leicester last weekend. week.
Jesus’ quality on the pitch is not in doubt – he also recorded the most assists in the league for Manchester City last season despite not being a regular starter – but it is also his attributes off the pitch that attracted Arteta towards the Brazilian striker.
“That’s one of the main reasons we wanted to sign him,” revealed Arteta, who worked with Jesus at the Etihad Stadium during his time as Pep Guardiola’s assistant.
“Obviously we know what he’s like as a player and what he was going to bring. He’s won everything the last few years, he knows the standards, what it takes to win.”
“Obviously we had to change his role and what he had to do in this football club and now he is one of the leaders. He is a natural leader, but he is also someone who is prepared and I think he is at a stage in his career in the that he’s capable of doing what we’re asking him to do.
Arsenal’s busy summer
- marquinhos – São Paulo, 3 million pounds sterling
- fabio vieira – Porto, 34 million pounds sterling
- Matt Turner – New England Revolution, £7.5 million
- gabriel jesus – Manchester City, £45 million
- Oleksandr Zinchenko – Manchester City, £32m
Jesus has gone from a Man City side containing experienced title winners to the youngest dressing room in the Premier League. However, Arteta says the chance to establish himself not just as a regular starter but as a leader was key to Jesus’ decision to move to North London.
“That’s what I needed,” Arteta said. “He obviously has played a lot of games in this league in the last few years, but not as many as a starter, especially in the last two years.
“He really wants to feel like the player that can make a difference for the team and that’s the next stage.”
No one embodies Arsenal’s youthful approach with Arteta better than Martin Odegaard, the 23-year-old Norwegian playmaker who was named Gunners captain this summer after just 18 months at the club.
While Arteta was reluctant to compare Odegaard to Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, his predecessors as Arsenal captain, the manager lavished praise on the former Real Madrid prodigy.
“Everything he has done in the last 18 months since he joined us,” Arteta said in explaining why Odegaard was given the bracelet.
“The way other people look at him, the way they respect him, the way they look up to him, the values he has as a human being and how he represents those values through the club.
“He is an exceptional football player who wants to play the way we want to play and is very keen to make this club successful. That is why.”
Odegaard’s hunger to put Arsenal back on track is matched by his manager’s. Arteta led the team to FA Cup glory at the end of his first season, but further trophies, as well as a long-awaited return to the Champions League, have remained out of his reach.
It’s easy to think that a top-four finish at the end of the season would be enough to satisfy Arteta. But while it would certainly represent continued progress under his leadership, the manager has set his sights even higher.
“This club is based, and history will tell you, that you have to be the best,” he insisted. “That is the goal we have every day.
“You have to win trophies and you have to play your best every day to make the people who support you proud, that’s the goal.”