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Arsenal’s Rise: Understanding the Mikel Arteta Phenomenon

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Image Credit: Little Savage, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Like Arsenal’s previous left-of-field appointment Arsene Wenger. Mikel Arteta’s appointment to the helm of the Gunners raised eyebrows amongst the sporting world. Several pundits claimed it was a “big risk” to at the time.

But after an FA Cup win in 2020. Narrowly missed out on the top 4 in 2022 and a title fight in 2023. That nearly saw the club do the unthinkable and knock Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City off the top spot. He was undoubtedly the right choice for Arsenal.

But how?

Player Discipline

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After Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang won the Golden Boot in 2020. There was no doubt that he was a key player for Mikel Arteta. With Arsenal signing him up to a bumper 3-year deal.

However, after an obvious drop in motivation on and off the pitch. Arteta showed significant managerial guile and dropped the striker from the starting line-up, instead trusting a number of younger stars.

A gamble that seemed to pay off with Arsenal seeming to pick up more points without the Gabonese striker.

Commitment To Youth

Mikel Arteta’s first lineup included the likes of David Luiz, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, and Mesut Ozil. All at the time were over the age of 30.

Now, seeing a player over the age of 28 in an Arsenal squad would be like seeing a Yaya Sanogo hat trick. Despite happening once admittedly… a rarity.

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The likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Eddie Nketiah and now even the youngest ever Premier League player Ethan Nwaneri featuring in the first team, show a dynamic approach to management from the former Arsenal captain, echoing a certain Arsene Wenger on this front;

“You pay for the education of young players with points. If I play a 20-year-old centre-back, I know he’ll cost me points during the season & I have to stand up for that. A less talented 28-year-old would cost me less points. However, by 23/24 you have a player”

Now, in the 2023/24 season those players are hitting the heights with Martinelli being touted as a future Arsenal legend and Bukayo Saka, well, words can’t describe how good it felt to see that hat-trick in England’s 7-0 thrashing of North Macedonia.

Tactical Approach

Arteta’s system when he first joined the club felt like putting a square peg into a round hole with Rob Holding being tasked to play out the back.

After Xhaka nearly left the club for Roma 2021, the player saw a renaissance under Mikel with the player constantly looking like the leader all Arsenal fans knew he was.

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Never under Unai Emery would players such as Saliba and Gabriel often find themselves in the opposition half contributing to the attack.

This organized structure in the press allows the freedom of the midfielders to get forward and with Thomas Partey consistently picking out the top corner from the edge of the box, it is a dangerous recipe that Arteta has cooked up.

Arteta’s revolution is not over yet though, there is a constant progression both tactically and personally from the coach, the 2023/24 season has seen Arsenal be way more prolific from corners and free-kicks with new set piece coach Nicolas Jover joining the staff.

Arteta’s regeneration of this Arsenal side is on all fronts, from the backroom staff to player well-being, to on and off the pitch the Arsenal players love playing for him and the fans love hearing from him, long gone are the days of booing their players now after this Arteta revolution no wonder we hear “We’ve got super Mik Arteta” from all sides of a once fractured fan-base.


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