On 20th December, 2020, Mikel Arteta was announced as Arsenal’s new manager following the sacking of Unai Emery. Despite working for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, the Spaniard appeared to be a risk worth taking giving the Gunners’ recent struggles under Emery, Arsène Wenger’s successor. Since his appointment, Mister, as he is nicknamed, has reinstalled a sense of optimism at the Emirates that has long been lacking.
Arsenal supporters, as well as Arteta, aren’t oblivious to the fact that much work is required for the Gunners to recapture their perch at the top of English football. However, if the closing months of the 2019-20 season are indicative of what’s to come, then unquestionably there’s reason for optimism. So, let’s take a look at the Gunners’ ambitions and progression under the 38-year-old Spaniard.
First and foremost, the main target for Arteta’s new-look Arsenal must be to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. Recently, the London-based club have failed to get into the top competition of European football, last securing their spot in the event through the Premier League in the 2015-16 season. Unfortunately, that campaign isn’t one that will live long in the memory, having lost 5-1 on aggregate to Luis Enrique’s Barcelona in the last 16.
Despite an inconsistent end to the 2019-20 campaign, during which time they fell to a 1-0 defeat against Aston Villa, Arteta’s side showed that they are more than capable of taking the fight to the league’s high-finishing teams. Although the Gunners’ suffered a 3-0 defeat to City, they did beat the newly-crowned Premier League champions, Liverpool, 2-1 at the Emirates, as per The Guardian.
Crucially, the team spirit and never-say-die attitude that was on show against Jurgen Klopp’s side bodes well for Arsenal’s Champions League charge in 2020-21. According to the Daily Mail, prior to that victory, Arsenal had gone 25 matches without a win against a big-six rival. Should this revolution continue, then top-tier European qualification is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Aside from the financial rewards of securing a spot in the competition, the tournament’s ever-growing pop culture status provides the Gunner’s with an opportunity to expand their global appeal. As well as being a focal point of console-specific franchises, such as FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer, the event is now a staple at numerous online casinos. At many of the reviewed bonus-offering platforms at Casino Hacks, football-themed titles are available to prospective players. For example, Football: Champions Cup, which is available at Casumo, is a five-reel slot that takes inspiration from knockout-style football tournaments, showcasing the appeal of big-stage football events, such as the Champions League.
Implementing His Guardiola-Inspired System
To date, Arteta has had to balance his desire to implement his possession style of play, while also getting the best out of the players that he has available to him. In 2020-21, this may become a lot easier for the Spaniard, who will be able to rely on new recruits, including Gabriel, William Saliba, and Willian José, who recently arrived on a free from Chelsea.
However, in many ways, having to adapt to his options has demonstrated Arteta’s pragmatism. Even though he will, of course, be hopeful of implementing a Guardiola-inspired style over the coming years, that is unlikely to ensure that the Gunners’ maximise their short-term points tally. The 38-year-old has admitted that his vision is clear, but that isn’t always going to be the best way of winning games, particularly in this period of transition.
This is evident from Arsenal’s recent use of the 3-5-2 shape since Arteta’s appointment. From a control standpoint, having two central midfielders isn’t the ideal way of dictating games and asserting dominance regarding possession. That said, the Gunners’ new-found defensive resoluteness is proving fruitful in their three-back system. In the FA Community Shield against Liverpool back in August 2020, this formation enabled the London club to frustrate the Reds, while also remaining dangerous on the break. In turn, this resulted in a penalty shootout victory for the Gunners following a 1-1 draw.
A Much-Needed Blend of Experience and Youth
Aside from giving hope to Arsenal supporters that a long-term vision is in place, the 38-year-old deserves credit for the use of his squad since taking over from Emery. While, of course, Arteta can only select what’s available to him, he’s been able to take Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s game to new heights, as well as giving Bukayo Saka opportunities to develop.
It’s a testament to Aubameyang’s belief in Arteta that has transitioned into one of the league’s most dangerous wingers. In all competitions, the 31-year-old scored 17 goals from the left flank in 20 appearances, according to Transfermarkt. As a result, he finished second in the Golden Boot race, one goal behind Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy.
The Gunners Are on the Right Path
Despite his managerial inexperience, Arteta is on course to successfully guide Arsenal through a troublesome period of transition. Ultimately, this short-term adaptability will provide the foundations for the Spaniard to implement his desired style over the coming seasons. In turn, seeing the Gunners return to the top of the Premier League isn’t beyond the realms of possibility with their forward-thinking manager at the helm.