Arteta’s early impact is starting to make a difference and what fun it is to take part in this journey. Where will it lead this season, and then beyond August? Nobody knows but we are on the move, and there is a lot of earthly happiness in the sensation of moving forward again.
Here are my six early Arteta-reign observations:
- There is balance in our game again: no longer a shooting range for opposition but we are mostly in control now. Cleans sheets. Like in those eighties washing powder adverts in which a massive white sheet was lifted in the air by a helicopter, we now know what they look like again. Our game v Everton saw us slip back a bit but this is probably due to fatigue and having to overcome the setback of that first minute, freakish Toffees’ opener that should have been ruled out for dangerous play. We are no longer sitting back and absorb pressure (badly) to then pounce on the break… we want to make play in the opposition’s half… hallelujah!
- Playing the ball out from the back is so much better now. We are calm, have players using the available space very effectively and pass much better to each other. This can be further improved, and when facing a strong midfield, as we did v Everton, we still can be a bit wobbly, but it is so much better than during the Emery mini-era. We do miss a target in attack for Leno and the CBs to aim their long balls at. I liked the way Arteta used Big Sok in Athens last week, but we need more from our attackers of whom none have the Giroudesque qualities of owning the air and laying off the ball so well once it has been won.
- Players who were low on confidence are now much more calm, focussed and confident. Mustafi, Luiz, Xhaka and Ozil have become major players again, and that is soooo important a ‘quality’ to have as a manager. Gone are the days when players are being substituted at half time or in front of the vying-for-blood home fans. This led to low confidence and decreasing form of those players. Luckily, Arteta has the modern man-management skills suitable for the Millennials: listen, encourage, set targets and boundaries and offer help to deal with technical and emotional issues. Be there for them and they will be there for you, is the simple but veracious mantra.
- Arteta manages expectations and does not put too much weight on (young) players’ shoulders. For example, Martinelli had a very good spell but Arteta did not exploit him and pile further on the very high expectations of him. He sees Marti as a work in progress and wants to gradually get him ready for first team football and that is very mature. Another example is Guendouzi… Overused by Emery, he is now being people-managed into a quality player over time.
- There is once again camaraderie and togetherness and there is fight in this team. The team have purpose and belief again and want to do well for each other: that is at least 50% of the job. Arteta is recreating the Wenger era atmosphere amongst the group of players and it is great to witness. Who did not love captain Auba’s, lively Leno’s and monster Mustafi’s never say die attitude for the entire game yesterday? Arteta connects with the fans and has made it a priority for the team to connect with the fans, and the starting point is that our players work for each other and the shirt…. yes victory through harmony.
- He brought in a few loan players rather than demanding loads of change/money: work with what you have got and see where it will get you. The squad is a good one, and I reckon that Arteta will only let a couple of the main players go, if any, and will only buy a couple this summer. A confident manager is capable of this and does not need the waving of check books to establish themselves. We have a fab squad with great talent coming through and Arteta knows he is lucky with this (and he will ignore those fans that want a clear out this summer). A lot of money was spent on this squad and we finally have a manager who will get the best out of it.