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Mikel's Magic!

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

For several years before legendary manager Arsene Wenger stepped down, Arsenal fans paraded around town chanting ‘#WengerOut’. In the two years of the post-Wenger era, the Gunners have not necessarily progressed since their days under the Frenchman.

Although his final years at the helm did not bring in realms of success, Wenger remains Arsenal’s most decorated manager of all-time. His honours during his 22-year spell include three league titles and seven FA Cup triumphs.

Wenger’s successor was Unai Emery who, in the five years leading up to taking over in north London, won three successive UEFA Europa League titles with Sevilla as well as a league title with Paris Saint-Germain.

Emery’s first season in charge was average to say the least, finishing 5th in the league and losing 1-4 in the Europa League final to London rivals Chelsea.

The Spaniard’s reign as Arsenal head coach was doomed for failure and was due to end abruptly, sooner or later. Emery lost his job 5 months into his second campaign. For some time prior to his sacking in November 2019, it was evident that he did not have the backing of his squad, nor the club’s fans.

Emery’s interim replacement was Freddie Ljungberg, former Arsenal Invincible who had worked as part of Emery’s backroom staff. Ljungberg managed only one win out of six games and it was evident that the Arsenal board needed to get a permanent fix through the doors ASAP.

Gunners ex-captain Mikel Arteta, aged just 37, was appointed three weeks after Emery’s departure.

Mikel Arteta worked under Pep Guardiola as assistant manager for three-and-a-half seasons and was known for being an integral part of the Man City cavalry led by Guardiola. Upon taking the Arsenal job, Arteta knew he had a massive task on his hands to rebuild his former team and get them back to their old selves.

Arteta gradually mended the broken pieces, losing just one of his opening 11 Premier League games in the Arsenal hotseat compared to the four losses and two wins they incurred in their 11 league games prior to his appointment.

Arsenal had an impressive run in the FA Cup, which Arteta won on two occasions during his playing career at the Emirates. On their way to a record 21st Cup final, Arteta’s Arsenal claimed notable wins over Leeds United and Sheffield United. Most notably, however, Arteta got one over his mentor Guardiola – beating Man City in the semis.

The Gunners claimed their 14th FA Cup crown (their 4th in 7 years) by beating Chelsea 2-1 at Wembley; talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang netting both goals including a fantastic drop of the shoulder, weak footed lob past Blues ‘keeper Caballero.

Prior to Arteta's arrival, the Gunners’ efforts in the other cup competitions were substandard – succumbing to Liverpool in the EFL Cup fourth round on penalties; and earning three wins out of six Europa League group games where, realistically, they should have cruised through.

Under Arteta, Arsenal won the opening leg of their Europa Round of 32 tie away to Olympiacos. In the reverse leg the Greek side would return the favour, scoring in the last minute of extra-time and crushing Arsenal’s European dreams.

Following the resumption of football in June, Arsenal won 5 league games out of 10 and finished the season in 8th place – a club record-low finish for 25 years. Arteta tried and tested a 3-4-3 formation which soon began to provide results – particularly in the latter stages of their road to FA Cup glory.

Their semi-final clash with Man City showcased a strong defensive performance topped off by Aubameyang at the end of a counter attack – Arsenal winning 2-0.

Aubameyang grabbed 29 goals in all competitions this season and Arteta will be hoping that FA Cup success, and subsequently European football, will be enough to tie the Gabonese forward down to a new contract at the Emirates.

Arteta has shown tons of faith in the club’s youth. Soon into his reign he recalled striker Eddie Nketiah (20) who had started the season on loan at Leeds Utd.

Towards the end of the 19/20 season, Arteta awarded new long-term contracts to young prospects Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.

Other younger players have also found themselves receiving fair amounts of game time under Arteta, such as Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

French centre-half William Saliba was signed from Saint-Etienne and was loaned out, back to the French club for the 2019/20 season. The 19-year-old defender stands at 6’4” and will be eager to earn a place in Arteta’s backline which is desperate for some reinforcements.

Saliba has inherited the no.4 jersey, worn by Arsenal captain and legend Patrick Vieira.

Kieran Tierney (23) & Nicolas Pepe (25) were signed at the start of the 19/20 season by Emery, and both had a lacklustre first campaign at the Emirates. Tierney battled with injury in the opening months of his Arsenal chapter, while Pepe struggled to find form and adapt to the Premier League after his £72 million switch from France.

Both players began to improve and contribute towards Arteta’s forces, and look determined to impress in their second season at the club.

Granit Xhaka’s career in the red part of London has had a remarkable turn of fortunes following a row with Arsenal fans which subsequently saw Xhaka stripped of Arsenal captaincy by Emery. Xhaka’s days at the club seemed numbered but since Arteta came into the job, the Swiss international has shown a great attitude and has put in significantly impressive performances in the Gunners’ midfield.

Defenders Cedric Soares & Pablo Mari were both brought in as loan signings in the January window and have since had their moves made permanent.

Mikel Arteta may perhaps still want to dip into the market for additional defensive cover, as well as potentially more strength in depth in the Gunners’ engine room. Arsenal have been linked with a move for Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey however lack of Champions League football could hinder Arsenal’s abilities to sign top players.

Arsenal could also make a move for Willian who leaves Chelsea in the coming weeks.

Matteo Guendouzi has fallen out of favour with the manager and is likely to find himself a new club in the current transfer window.

There are also question marks surrounding the future of Mesut Ozil. The German playmaker has featured less and less in recent times and could well be on his way out after 7 years at the London club.

Having celebrated his inaugural trophy success so early on in his managerial career, Arteta seems to have a bright future in management and we can expect more silverware to come for the 38-year-old Spaniard. Arsenal's 2020/21 season kicks off on August 29, versus Liverpool in the FA Community Shield.

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