Recent Arsenal form vindication for Mikel Arteta

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 18: Mikel Arteta the head coach / manager of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor on September 18, 2021 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
BURNLEY, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 18: Mikel Arteta the head coach / manager of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor on September 18, 2021 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images) /

Coming into the season, much was expected of Mikel Arteta and his Arsenal side. It was demanded, in fact. While the top four was a little bit of a stretch, an improvement on consecutive eighth-placed finishes was critical.

For a team that had been in Europe’s elite competition for two decades under Arsene Wenger to now be on the periphery, if not further afield, leaves a hollow and embarrassing feeling at how far the club has fallen.

Few things went right in the opening three weeks of the Premier League season. Players missing through COVID, injury, and dealing with both Chelsea and Manchester City in those opening three games, Arteta and Arsenal were always going to be up against it.

To say that those three games shook the club to its core would be an understatement and Arteta was on his way out as Gunners boss. However, we were told to ‘trust the process’ and judge him when he had his full complement of players ready and available.

Recent Arsenal form vindication for Mikel Arteta after woeful start to Premier League season picks up with nine-game unbeaten run

Without his first-choice XI, Arsenal conceded nine goals and lost all three games to start the campaign. But it wasn’t the results that alarmed, it was the performances. The #ArtetaOut brigade was in full voice and rightly so, but as we have seen in previous years, sticking with the manager through a lean spell and not being reactive to faltering form can bear poisonous fruit.

Since Arteta has had his first-choice team available they are unbeaten in nine games, winning seven, scoring 17 goals, and conceding just four, two of which came in the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. It is a coincidence that Arsenal’s upturn in form has coincided with the likes of Aaron Ramsdale, Gabriel, Benjamin White, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Thomas Partey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all starting? One would hardly think so.

The mentality shift has been remarkable, particularly over the last three games. Against Norwich and Burnley, Arsenal was tentative and scraped by with 1-0 wins. Then came the Tottenham game which was breathtaking and since then the Gunners have hit form, sweeping aside Aston Villa, Leeds, and Leicester City.

One thing that has stood out from the start of the campaign is that Arsenal feels like they have gone from the hunted to the hunter. Against Villa, the team started like they were shot out of a cannon and blew the visitors away. Crystal Palace felt the wrath of what Arteta’s side could do before the team just shut down.

Leeds in the Carabao Cup was a relatively routine win but the Leicester result rubber-stamped Arteta’s Arsenal being a side that can’t be easily swept aside anymore. They harassed, pressed, and played teams off the pitch in the early exchanges. Granted, onlookers and fans alike can look at the strength of the schedule, but you can only beat who is in front of you and Arsenal have not just secured three points, they have beaten up teams along the way.

The high press, superb ball-playing ability of the defenders in Gabriel, White, Tavares, and Tomiyasu, coupled with who can be – at the time of writing  – easily considered a top-five keeper in the league in Aaron Ramsdale. Arsenal are not easy beats anymore.

The upcoming match against Liverpool at Anfield will be a true test to see exactly how far they have come under Arteta but it represents a free hit of sorts. No one will give Arsenal a chance so why not go out and play the football that has served you so well of late? Watford beforehand is a must-win and if results go their way with Manchester United facing Manchester City and West Ham battling Liverpool, Arsenal could very well find themselves only outside the top four on goal difference.

This has some fans dreaming of European football again, which is likely a little premature, given we are only ten games into the season, not to mention the youthful nature of this Arsenal side. And consistency will be hard to grasp.

Given how quickly the team has turned its fortunes around is a credit to Arteta. The Spaniard has copped his fair share of deserved criticism but what he has been able to do over the last month is vindication, of sorts.

Even the most staunch Arsenal fan couldn’t see the forest for the trees when it came to Arteta. Now, it is hard not to have faith in an Arsenal side finally on an upward trajectory with few signs of slowing down.

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Currently occupying the European spots, it is finally feeling like Arsenal has turned a corner. Just how long the young side can keep this up remains to be seen but one thing is for sure, the last month has given all fans hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Something that a month ago, seemed unfathomable.