Mikel Arteta is here to stay! On Friday morning it was announced that the Spaniard has signed a new contract that will keep him at Arsenal until the end of the 2024/25 season.
Initially appointed as head coach in December 2019 – later upgraded to manager – his first official game was the 1-1 draw against Bournemouth and it’s safe to say much has changed in the two years and five months since, as he’s overseen a major culture change at the Emirates Stadium.
When reflecting on Arteta’s first press conference following his appointment he did not sugar coat what needed to be different.
“The first thing is a little bit to change the energy. Last week I was here with Manchester City and I was a little bit down after the game when I felt what was going on,” he said.
“So we have to try to engage everybody, I have to try and convince the players about what I want to do, how I want to do it, they have to start accepting a different process, a different way of thinking, and I want to get all the staff and everybody at the club with the same mindset.”
“We have to build a culture that has to sustain the rest. If you don’t have the right culture, in the difficult moments, the tree is going to shake, so my job is to convince everybody that this is how we are going to live, and if you are going to be part of this organisation, it has to be in these terms and in this way.”
In terms of building a new culture at Arsenal, it didn’t happen immediately, but the 2021 January transfer window proved fruitful for the Spaniard as the first part of his first-team squad overhaul was completed.
Mesut Ozil and Shkodran Mustafi were among those who left on a permanent basis and when taking into account that the latter was named as one of those reportedly involved in a ‘player revolt‘ – along with Sead Kolasinac – against then-Schalke manager Christian Gross, it proved Arteta was right with his course of action as he has always set out to limit the possibility of players having more influence than staff.
Following the decision to strip Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of the captaincy coupled with more outgoings – albeit with very few permanent deals – during the most recent transfer window, Arteta now has a squad that appears to be winning over the majority of supporters, which was also part of his plan upon returning to north London.
“Obviously now we need an immediate impact, we need to start winning games, we need to start to raise the level of confidence of the players, and finally we need the fans,” he added.
“We need to engage them, we need to be able to transmit with our behaviours, our intentions, what we want to bring to this football club. I think that’s the only way, where we give them a little bit, they give us a little bit, and suddenly we feel that connection, because when you plug these two things together, it is so powerful.”
“I’ve been outside this football club and when you’re outside you look at it and you say ‘wow, this is massive‘. So this is how I’m feeling. There is so much to do, I am so excited, and I think we have the right team, I have many conversations with the senior people at the club, and I feel we’re on the same path. So I have a good feeling.”
Home games against Tottenham and Aston Villa this season, in particular, as well as many away games, have highlighted the connection between the players and the fans.
That could be as a result of a season of playing without a crowd due to the Covid-19 pandemic, or supporters could simply be buying into the process.
The decision to spend £142m on six new players under the age of 23 last summer shows the direction in which the club are clearly headed in and fans will appreciate that sort of transparency.
Whilst the jury may still be out on his ability to take Arsenal further, Arteta’s plan for a cultural overhaul at the club is bearing fruit, as are improved results on the pitch and the next step is to deliver on his three-year plan to ensure the Gunners are playing Champions League football again.