Evaluating Mikel Arteta’s first four months in the job
By Rob Worthington
New article, and another one in which I find myself referencing former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson. Speaking on the Sky Sports’ football show, Merson, when asked if he thought Arsenal could return to the top under Mikel Arteta, declared that “Even if Pep Guardiola was in charge - no.”
Whilst I respect the former England international’s view, I must say I disagree. I, for one, think Arteta’s first four months in the job show all the signs of a manager who’s going to deliver trophies to Arsenal in the future. I also believe Mikel Arteta is going to be a major success as Arsenal manager. Let’s commence by looking at some key statistics which show the impact Pep Guardiola’s former assistant has had on the pitch since he was appointed as Unai Emery’s permanent successor on the December 20th. Since his managerial debut against Bournemouth, Arsenal have lost just twice in all competition, drawing five and wining six. This has left him with a win percentage of 46.15% and 1.93 points per game in the Premier League. An impressive start on all accounts, given Arsenal had won a match on just 7 occasions in this campaign prior to Unai Emery being given his marching orders. The most noticeable improvement on the pitch has been the increase in defensive solidity and organisation. Since Arteta’s arrival, Arsenal have conceded just 9 league goals in as many games. This is in comparison to 15 goals conceded in the 9 games prior to his appointment. Our formerly leaky defence has looked a shadow of its old self, which no Arsenal fan can deny is an incredibly promising sign. Nonetheless, an XG against per game of 1.89 (although it’s an improvement on prior to his appointment) shows that we have ridden our luck at times and defensive reinforcements are needed whenever they can be brought in. Whilst we certainly haven’t looked particularly fluid in attack, there has been a slight improvement with 15 goals scored in the League under Arteta compared to just 12 in the last 9 matches which took place before the Spaniard took over. The home game against Newcastle stood out in particular as a demonstration of what our attacking football may look like in the future. A 4-0 victory with a league season high of 2.65 XG. Again, with better resources, there are plenty of indications to suggest that Arteta is the man to take us back to the top.
However, I’d say that I’ve been most impressed with the former club captain’s work off the field. He has reinvigorated Granit Xhaka, who was desperate to leave the club in December, he’s brought the best out of David Luiz, who says that he is “fully aware that Arteta will be one of the greatest coaches in the world” and he was also reportedly the key persuader concerning the 12.5% pay cut the first-team players and staff have taken. How can’t you be pleased and inspired by such news? According to Mirror Football, Arteta also reportedly participated in a staff conference call with 500 members of staff recently where he addressed everybody and made them feel like part of the team. He seems like a true club man. In addition, his communication with the media with regard to his own recovery from coronavirus and how the club has been dealing with the challenge which lockdown has forced upon them has been excellent. Meanwhile, José Mourinho has been seen breaking lockdown rules with Tanguy Ndombélé in a London park. Choose your fighter wisely. Of course, Merson is right to point out that the some of the players at Arteta’s disposal aren’t of the highest quality, but this does not mean Arteta won’t be able to evolve this squad into something which might be ready to compete at some point in the future. This is a man who is totally committed to his job and has reportedly impressed pretty much everyone at Arsenal. Why write him off before you’ve even given him a chance? Yes, there will undoubtedly be limitations concerning what we can do in the transfer market this summer, but once we can start spending again, the club need to give Arteta anything he wants in order to bring us back to where we belong: back in the Champions League and fighting for the title. The early signs suggest that he is the man to do it, and now it’s down to the club to give him the resources he needs in order to fulfil his vision.