Arsene Wenger has spoken in glowing terms about Mikel Arteta.
When you are sewn into the very fabric of an institution, in this case Arsenal, following up your reign with derogatory comments or ill-advised honesty is perhaps not the best policy.
For that reason, Arsene Wenger was hardly going to be scathing in his assessment of Arsenal’s defence or insist they’re destined for years of mediocrity and inevitable financial ruin. A man who in his own words “left his heart” at the club, would always offer rousing words of encouragement, albeit tinged with an apt degree of realism.
During the high points of Unai Emery’s early reign, Wenger claimed the club were “in good hands”. At the time it appeared a fresh face marshalling the touchline – or anyone standing up at all, for that matter – was the spark the side needed to breathe new life into a stagnated setup.
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The rollercoaster reached its vantage point very early.
Since then, Emery hit out at the state of Arsenal which had Wenger left him; calls the Frenchman stringently opposed. Mikel Arteta resumed the post as the ash settled on the fiery pit he inherited, with Wenger’s words of his former player being nothing but glowing since.
His latest batch of praise stretches beyond what was said of his successor, legitimising the nature of Arteta’s work and validating that he isn’t just saying what he’s saying because he has to.
Emery never got tipped to lead Arsenal back to the top, but Arteta has.
“Now we have Mikel Arteta in charge, why should we not do it? A club is about identity. Identity is about values and values are about the people who carry these values. And so it’s important there is a continuity on that front for me.
“I genuinely believe yes, because he looks to have a good grip on the team. They follow well, they are with him.”
Why shouldn’t we? This is no declaration of immediate success, but what it does do is confirm the essential elements needed to be successful have been rediscovered under Arteta’s ten-month reign.
A return to the values Wenger spent years establishing; that were then lost to the history books for 18 months; only to have the dust blown off them and returned to their rightful place are now at the forefront. Add to that the refinements on the pitch and the club are better placed than they’ve been for years to challenge for honours.
Baby steps are all that have been taken on the road to recovery, but as my colleague Mac said, Arteta embodies all the traits that made Wenger so successful. Approval from a legend of the sport as a whole on the restructuring Arteta is overseeing is not mere goodwill.
It’s testament to the process Arteta is undergoing to right the wrongs of past failings. Wenger can see it. We can, too.