Mikel Arteta was given time to build a team over two and a half years. Everyone wants a quick fix in football, but sometimes changing a club’s strategy takes time and Arsenal could be on the verge of reaping the rewards.
We’re just two games into the new Premier League season, so no one should get too carried away with six points against Crystal Palace and Leicester, but the signs are promising. The wins set the stage for a strong start to the campaign, particularly with winnable games against Bournemouth, Fulham and Aston Villa before the end of the month. If they could get maximum points, it would help build momentum and confidence, two extremely important traits.
This summer saw another successful window for Arsenal, adding players with experience of winning the Premier League. Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko know what it’s like to fight at the top of the league and can lead the team to higher levels. Managers always want to add winners to the locker room, they are resilient. Arteta has signed two players he previously worked with at Manchester City; his methodologies are not identical to those of Pep Guardiola but they come from the same ilk so both will know what is expected of them. It was a smooth transition for Zinchenko and Jesus and both wanted to play in this type of football environment.
The Technical Director, Edu, needs to take credit for the work he has done in the market. When recruiting Jesus, he explained how he thought the striker had lost his spark and wanted it back at Arsenal – Jesus agreed with him. I like this interesting way of recruiting and the two goals against Leicester indicate that it is already working.
I was always told that a manager should have three transfer windows. I realize Arteta had more than that, but each was used to carefully map out the squad composition. Last summer, goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was brought in to be the long-term No. Some people were surprised by the signing, especially as he arrived after back-to-back relegations with Bournemouth and Sheffield United.
But during confinement, I went to see a few games where he was in goal. I thought he was a breath of fresh air; his communication was something I had never heard before. He provided information, knowledge and fine detail to his background. It wasn’t just an isolated game, I’ve been to many games during that time and since and haven’t heard so many details from a goalkeeper.
I always feel like the best defenders don’t have to defend because they’re organized by the best goalkeepers, who should be coaches who can see it all and articulate it all – it keeps them energized. I think the confidence of being selected for the Euros really helped him. Sometimes a player has to feel at home somewhere and he looks like he is at home at Arsenal.
Martin Ødegaard is another player who has been carefully selected by Arteta and he has been allowed to find his feet in England and settle into his role at Arsenal. The Norwegian was made captain over the summer at the age of 23. I still think it’s a risk to have a creative player with the armband, but he’s incredibly experienced for his age due to his time at Real Madrid and various loans and has already won 43 caps. for his country. Arteta obviously loves him and what he believes in. He chose it for a reason.
Most of the time – as pundits, fans and ex-players – we don’t know exactly what is going on inside the club; inside, they know what he offers, whether it’s calmness, attitude, leadership, or all of the above. Arteta, a former captain himself, must have seen something in the Norwegian that makes him a captain and so far it’s working out well.
I liked watching Arsenal in pre-season; I saw them against Chelsea and they impressed with their playing patterns and fluidity, which they carried over to the start of the season. I appreciated their moments of resilience in the first two games and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can do this season.
I’m sure there are elements that Arteta isn’t happy with and it’s really good to avoid complacency and keep pushing them forward. They conceded two against Leicester and they will be disappointed. Ramsdale certainly will because goalkeepers and defenders always want clean sheets. There will be elements where Arteta tells his players that they need to be better, but the momentum is very important and they are off to a good start and confidence is key to this group’s success.
To reach that higher level, after finishing fifth last season, they will need to do better against the teams that finished above them. They have six points from their eight games against Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs, indicating they are far behind the teams they aspire to beat. They will face Spurs on October 1, when it will be time to judge how much progress they have made.
Arsenal must aim to finish in the top four this campaign, without a doubt. They had a good window and started, but it’s a long season. If they can break that top four, it allows them to bring in a few more pieces of the puzzle and continue to be competitive at the next level. Arteta will want to finish in the top four first and foremost and if they can get a trophy along the way that would be a bonus. To take it to the next level, they need Champions League football.