It’s a big season for Arteta, Arsenal club as a whole, and all those attached to the club. Everyone will have watched the success unfold at the end of last season, just a month and a half ago, and being hoping it marks a pivotal turning point. The success was well-earned, hard fought for, but simply the beginning.
How the team, and club as a whole, builds on that success will be completely up to them, what they can do to rebuild the playing staff by means of the transfer window, and how Arteta can use the players he is given to get results. Striking a balance between player development and immediate results is not an easy task, but there is plenty of reason to believe Arteta won’t have an issue with it. One of the major reasons for that belief is the confidence in him he has already offered his squad, staff, club, supporters, and even external pundits and ex-players.
In the course of this rebuild, one of the key aspects was always going to be Arsenal’s ability to sell off some of their players. There was a decent sized list of names someone could have given you during Freddie’s brief time, that has been slowly reduced under Arteta. Suddenly we saw reinvigorated performances, and new life out of the like so Mustafi, Xhaka, Bellerin, even Ozil to an extent. He wasn’t tallying end products, but we saw a player working on both ends of the ball, a player that didn’t fade in and out of matches chunks at a time, and one that was creating opportunities for others to create assists.
It’s fantastic to see and was an early sign of exactly what Arteta was capable of, but in the world of football, when it comes to transfers, three parties have to all agree – both clubs and the player. When one of the three doesn’t agree, the deal crumbles until things change. Unfortunately for Arsenal, more than a few players have voiced their desire to “stay and fight for their place”. Players that likely felt quite different in November last year, under Emery, who may have been looking for a reason to get out, suddenly want to be a part of the project.
Obviously, the financial side of things needs to be mentioned. The truth is, many of these players are on wage packages that they may not receive from other clubs and therefore they are unwilling to test the market. But winning solves all problems and people want to be on the the winning team. Look at what players have said about Mikel.
Joe Willock admitted there was early skepticism, “To be fair when he [Arteta] came in, we were a bit skeptical about what he could do. He’s come in and to be honest, he’s been nothing short of amazing really – his detail, the way his man-management is with every single player. And we’re just all excited to work with him” Joe continued. “I’m learning about the game in ways I’ve never learned them before. He’s an amazing man and I’m not just saying that because he’s my boss.”
Bernd Leno said, “I think with Mikel it changed completely. The first day he came he was not talking too much about tactics, he was talking about how we behave in the dressing room, when we go to the games we have to be more professional, more like a team.”
Luiz: “He knows football, he knows inside the pitch. He loves football, he loves to work, so this enthusiasm is contagious for everybody.”
“What Mikel is trying to build is something big and I really believe in his philosophy, I really believe we can do something big this year and in the future, so I’m really, really happy because we have our way to go.”
The list continues. “I have to smile a little bit because I am very, very happy to be back and to enjoy what I love the most: playing for this club and playing football” said a happy Granit Xhaka. And most recently, new Arsenal player and long-time Premier League veteran Willian added to the list when he told ESPN Brazil, “For me, in a few years, he’ll be one of the best managers in the Premier League and in the world. He’s a great guy on and outside the pitch.”
That’s all well and great, but of course players are going to say that about their coach when things are going well. Would you risk going against the grain during the good times and suggest something else? No. But others involved in the game on the punditry side don’t need to say that, and yet Arteta’s going reviews continue to stack up like the hottest item on Amazon.
“They’re a well-drilled team and I think this season it’s going to be a common denominator about what you say all the time about this Arsenal team – they’re well-coached. That’s how they look,” Rio Ferdinand said on BT Sport after their 3-0 win over Fulham. “They’re happy to be here, they’re happy defending and they look comfortable more importantly. They enjoy it, they enjoy being in defensive areas to get their friends out of trouble.”
But even rival Rio isn’t the only one. Sol Cambell, Ashely Cole, Paul Merson, Patrick Viera, Peter Crouch, Jamie Carragher, and of course Ian Wright have all watched the growth Arsenal this Arsenal side have undergone, from uncoachable to potential top-4 challengers, and come to the same conclusion – Arteta has got what it takes.
And look, it’s not like we needed the likes of Carragher or Peter Crouch letting us know we have something special; we already know it, we’ve already seen it. But I bring this up for a real purpose. Yes, having a coach putting together results like this is proving difficult in the short term to rebuild. Players no longer want to hop off a bus that’s paying well and heading to the top. It’s something that needs to be taken seriously and doesn’t look great for the club when you judge their recent history of purchases.
However, what this clearly foreshadows is that fact that players do and will want to come to Arsenal. To be a part of his side. To see what other players are talking about and soak of the benefits of his knowledge for their own career’s advancement. Whether we want to admit it, are willing to admit it, or waiting for the moment when we are force to admit it – Arsenal are likely incapable of completing their major squad overhaul within this window. In fact, I’m not even convinced they will have the funds to land both their top two targets – Aouar and Partey – but I am here to tell you that that is just fine.
Because there will be other Aouars and other Parteys. There will likely be even better ones. It may mean a few more losses in the short term, but when you have a manager that people want to play for – the future is bright.
As some of the people younger than me say – my manager has pull. And that pull will have a greater effect on the long term rebuild than the short term. “Be excited.”