Highs and lows of Mikel Arteta's first season at Arsenal
After sacking coach Unai Emery just 15 months since his arrival in North London, Arsenal looked for a coach that understood the values of the club and could lead them into the future while retaining the club’s identity on the field.
Following much deliberation, Arsenal appointed former captain and Manchester City’s assistant coach Mikel Arteta as head coach of the club. The Spaniard had been under the tutelage of one of the finest minds in football, Pep Guardiola, for three and half years and sprung on the opportunity to be the main man at the club he skippered to an FA Cup win.
It has already been nine months since his appointment and while it has mostly been positive, there were some down moment, albeit not too many, through the season. That said, we look at the highs and lows of Arteta’s first season in-charge:
Winning the FA Cup in his maiden campaign as head coach was an incredible achievement for Arteta. But it wasn’t just the trophy win that was impressive, but the manner too was noteworthy. En route to their record-extending 14th FA Cup, Arsenal faced Sheffield United, Manchester City and Chelsea, and on paper were second-favourites in all three matches.
However, Arteta and his men played brilliantly and were rewarded with a trophy at the end of what was a tumultuous season.
Since Arteta took over, only five teams managed to pick more points than the Gunners. Southampton and Chelsea, who were 5th and 4th on the league table since Arteta took over, had just one more point than Arsenal in that time period. It is certainly a sign of progress for Arsenal who were languishing in 8th spot, eight points off fourth-placed Chelsea.
Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s brilliant form, Nicholas Pepe’s growth in the Premier League and the emergence of Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have all been positives that can be attributed to the Spanish coach. Aubameyang is also reportedly close to signing a new deal at the club and that would by far be Arteta’s biggest achievement after his FA Cup win since taking over at Arsenal.
Perhaps nothing hurt Arsenal more than their exit at the hands of Olympiakos in the Europa League in their round-of-32 tie.
The Gunners were heavy favourites to go through after winning 1-0 in Greece, however, a 1-2 defeat at home saw them booted out of the competition and ending their hopes of a spot in next season’s Champions League.
Their defeat at the hands of Brighton was perhaps the toughest pill to swallow for Arsenal. Leading 1-0 for large parts of the game, Arsenal conceded two late goals and lost the game 2-1. What hurt more was the loss of standout keeper Bernd Leno, who collided with Brighton forward Neal Maupay and injured his knee.
Defeat to Aston Villa in the penultimate game week confirmed Arsenal’s eight-placed finish, their lowest in 25 years.
Despite these few lows, it has been a starkly positive first campaign for Mikel Arteta at Arsenal. The club has made progress under the Spaniard and that’s all they can hope for at this point.