Mikel Arteta has transformed Arsenal from Banter FC to a side with a winning habit and work ethic

It is worth remembering the mess Arteta inherited when he replaced Unai Emery, and though greater challenges lie ahead than the Community Shield, Saturday’s victory was another step in the right direction

Melissa Reddy
Senior Football Correspondent
Sunday 30 August 2020 10:16
Mikel Arteta confident Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will sign Arsenal contract

In the space of 28 days, Arsenal have lifted two trophies with another Community Shield following another FA Cup being added to their silverware cabinet.

But more instructive for Mikel Arteta’s early reign as manager is how he has his team working without the ball - especially in big games and even when conditions are not ideal.

Against Liverpool at Wembley on Saturday, the north Londoners hurt Liverpool in possession and frustrated them out of it - a hallmark already seen in games against Manchester City and Manchester United.

Jurgen Klopp bemoaned the lack of requisite quality from his players to circumvent a deep defensive block and the Gunners’ 5-4-1 shape without the ball.

Liverpool had perhaps become too accustomed to the old, brittle Arsenal, with Unai Emery’s team shipping 14 goals in four games to them.

The two matches against England’s best side under Arteta though have only seen them breached twice.

It is remarkable of how much a difference the manager has made in such a short space of time. There have been a swathe of changes behind the scenes, but focusing specifically on the pitch, the culture around the club has changed.

Perhaps a brief reminder is needed on the state of affairs when Emery was sacked: Arsenal hadn’t won in seven games and were regarded as “Banter FC.” They were so easy to get at and too quick to capitulate.

At Wembley, however, the unfancied likes of Rob Holding and Mohamed Elneny were playing through Liverpool’s celebrated press.

Sorting out Arsenal’s soft center was atop of Arteta’s ‘to do’ list and he has made gigantic strides in that regard, as seen from his first clash in charge against Bournemouth.

He has minimised errors and maximised effort. Rewinding to their first league win last season against United at the Emirates since 6 October and how every tackle, every successful pressing action and every block from Arsenal drew applause and a standing ovation is both a reminder of how deficient they used to be and how those elements of play have now become the norm.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang secured Arsenal victory in the Community Shield

Arteta underlined that victories such as the one secured against Liverpool on Saturday on penalties “creates belief” and he is correct. While it is foolish to read too much into a Community Shield victory, the signs of Arteta’s entire tenure thus far have been encouraging.

And the fact that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is close to agreeing a new contract furthers that.

Trophies are an important marker for progress, but they can sometimes distort or mask the reality of a club’s situation.

For Arsenal, however, it is a product of the fine process Arteta has put in place - and it is deserved.

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