The instant success enjoyed by Mikel Arteta following his appointment as Arsenal manager suggested that the club’s hierarchy had unearthed a gem.
While comparisons to Pep Guardiola’s arrival at Barcelona would have been an exaggeration of the work the Spaniard was doing after succeeding Unai Emery, the narrative was obvious. After all, here was Guardiola’s protege winning trophies all while undertaking a root-and-stem rebuild at one of Europe’s biggest clubs. Until he wasn’t.
The miserable run of form between the 8th of November and the 26th of December saw Arteta’s side go without a Premier League win in eight games, naturally leading to questions in some sections of the media about his suitability for the role.
In some circles, there was a school of thought that Mikel Arteta had already implemented his ideas as Arsenal manager. That he’d tried to bring his philosophy to the club and it wasn’t working. At a different club, he might have been sacked, just as Frank Lampard was at Chelsea. In Arsenal circles, however, the work is only just beginning.
The first year or so of Arteta’s reign has been eventful but the events of it are unlikely to define how the rest of it is viewed. Should they go through a similarly poor run next season, his FA Cup and Community Shield wins will count for nothing. Just as his difficult spell will be quickly forgotten should he go on to more success in North London.
Indeed, it’s only now we can fairly start to judge him. Previously hamstrung by a ridiculous wage bill, the transfer window just gone has been a transformative one for the club.
With Mesut Ozil and his albatross-like £350k-p/w salary finally shifted and fellow high-earners Sead Kolasinac and Shkodran Mustafi following him out of the door, Arsenal finally a financial platform from which to build this summer.
At long last, money will be available and a breath of fresh air can flow through the Emirates. No longer are they caught between three different eras spanning the final days of Arsene Wenger’s tenure into Emery’s arrival and the embryonic edition of Arteta’s reign.
Barring another complete collapse this season, manager Mikel Arteta will be given time to navigate Arsenal through what is left of the 2021 campaign. Considering the exodus we’ve seen this month, it seems reasonable to assume this is the first time he can be backed with serious money. Obviously, that is an exciting prospect, though also a daunting one.
The quarter-of-a-billion-pound spending spree Chelsea went on during the first summer in which money could be spent under Lampard, raised expectations so much that he – a club legend – was sacked. The fact is, with more money comes a lot more responsibility.
Granted, Chelsea are a special case when it comes to their treatment of managers but the marked difference in what was acceptable one minute and what wasn’t the next should serve as a warning.
The signings of Gabriel and Thomas Partey have suggested Arteta knows what he’s doing when it comes to buying players, so it’s not as if he’s coming into the market cold. Still, an attacking midfielder is surely high up on this summer’s shopping list and it is of the utmost importance that whoever comes in performs well.
As we’ve seen with someone like Kai Havertz – attacking players are judged quickly without any kind of nuance. Should an incoming Arsenal player struggle in a similar way, Ozil’s shadow will likely loom over them. Not that Ozil was performing particularly well before being cast into the wilderness but, again, context is a precious commodity when talking about big stories at big clubs.
Next season, Arsenal will be a team moulded in Arteta’s image for the first time. The work is just beginning at Arsenal for their manager, Mikel Arteta. So is the expectation.
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