Mikel Arteta outlined his Arsenal vision from the get-go.
Sitting down in front of a raucous, packed Emirates Stadium conference room, Christmas preparations were put on hold momentarily as Mikel Arteta addressed the baying media. The new Arsenal boss had plenty to say.
“We have to build a culture that has to sustain the rest”, stood out among an outpouring of concise, well articulated statements detailing how he would stop the rot that had infested the football club.
A fractured dressing room, a divided fanbase, misdirected management and a muddled vision all contributed to the state of this once prestigious institution. Still held in high regard across the country, Arsenal’s slide down the Premier League table coincided with a diminishing perception from those looking in.
Even within the club there was a despondency, one that filtered through into every facet of operations, from the board to the players. Evident in the months leading up to Unai Emery’s sacking was a group of individuals performing nowhere near full capacity.
It’s not that they weren’t trying per se, but the culture was such that it ceased only to lower performance levels and drop overall standards, not squeeze every ounce of ability and channel the desire of the players towards a progressive trajectory.
From knowing each staff members’ first names down to making demands of people that if not fulfilled will have adverse consequences, Arteta has sought to turn the tide of toxicity. If players didn’t perform under Emery, there was rarely a reaction. Their spot in the team would remain in tact, as would their deficiencies.
Nothing of the sort has carried on into Arteta’s tenure, where those who adhere to the ‘non-negotiables’, and those who don’t, are plain to see.
What’s more, it’s impossible to envisage a world where Thomas Partey and Gabriel make the impression they do with the previous culture radiating around the club. They’ve come into a united dressing room, one with clear instruction and direction. Bedding themselves in as quickly as they have done is credit to them, but greatly, also, to the environment they’ve joined.
What Arteta has done here is re-imagine the outlook of the club, making Arsenal a team players want to play for. Gabriel and Partey wouldn’t be at this level of performance were it not for this cultural shift. Attitude aids a player’s integration, but culture guides it.