“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” – The famous phrase that arguably suits those who called for the head of Arsene Wenger, before the most successful manager in Arsenal history called time on his tenure, at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season. Before his two final seasons, the Frenchman had maintained the Gunners in the top four during twenty consecutive seasons, and he still delivered a seventh FA Cup win before departing.
Unfortunately, the meme worthy “time to go” videos directed at Wenger were entirely unjustified, while the club itself and the teams on the pitch are still recovering from his exit. Unai Emery boasted an excellent CV of achievements at Sevilla, when he arrived at Arsenal, although the Spaniard struggled right from the start amidst impossibly high expectations.
Just like any of the numerous managers who followed Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, the task of replacing Wenger at Arsenal was never going to be easy, especially after having one man at the helm for such a long time. Emery appeared to be doomed from the start, despite a promising start during the 2018-19 season, missing out on the top four by just a single point, along with reaching the Europa League final.
Yet once again the knives were out. The “good ebening” memes started circulating and pointing fun at his English, while the pressure began to mount. Fans demanded better and by the end of November 2019, Emery was gone. Freddie Ljungberg briefly took the reins, then Arsenal announced the appointment of Mikel Arteta in time for Christmas. But things were undoubtedly hard going to begin with, amidst an atmosphere of growing impatience.
Winning the FA Cup in 2019 was the perfect response for Arteta, having beaten Manchester City in the semi-finals and then Chelsea in the final at Wembley. This didn’t reduce the disappointment of the same team finishing eighth in the Premier League, yet it was a good tonic towards building confidence for the road ahead, as the Arteta rebuild continued.
Having finished eighth again during the 2020-21 campaign, without the added bonus of any other silverware, fans remained frustrated. The extra irony for Arsenal was Europa League elimination in the semi-finals, by a Villarreal side managed by none other than Emery, who ultimately lifted the trophy with the Spanish side. Inevitably, the pressure was beginning to reach boiling point for Arteta, as fans and the media questioned his future at the club.
Following considerable yet questionable summer spending ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, everything pointed towards Arteta having the full support of the board. That support was given a stern test following a poor start to the season, as Arsenal lost their opening three games. Losing 2-0 against newly promoted Brentford was an embarrassment, while thumping defeats against Chelsea and then Manchester City were just as alarming.
Nevertheless, results were turned around with narrow victories against Norwich City and Burnley, although speculation about the future of Arteta continued, just ahead of the North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur at the end of September. The 3-1 win against Spurs certainly came as a most welcome relief, especially given the board continued to back their beleaguered manager.
Despite a sketchy run through November and December, not only have Premier League results improved significantly, so has the quality of performances. However, with no European involvement this season, elimination from both domestic cup competitions in January was highly disappointing. Always happy to dish out the criticism but decidedly weak at receiving it himself, Piers Morgan immediately called for Arteta to be sacked, critical of his football philosophy.
By comparison, most leading bookies believe Arteta can lead the Gunners to a top four finish. This includes the best football betting sites reviewed by Arabian Betting, who know exactly what to look for when recommending online bookmakers, highlighting those available to users in the Arabic language based in the MENA countries. Sites are also rated for trust and reputation, along with the competitiveness of odds and offers, plus the variety of markets covering football competitions.
Arsenal are genuinely in the mix considering their most recent form. Amidst the unfortunate postponements, three wins on the spin has placed the team in fifth position, just two points behind inconsistent Manchester United and with three games in hand on the Red Devils. “Trust the process” is a phrase we often hear, yet in the case of Arteta, it increasingly seems justified, which also bodes well for the future.
Having managed to get rid of troublesome striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, albeit without getting a replacement in the January transfer window, the squad appears to be more united and cohesive. The younger players are being afforded their chance to shine, repaying the faith of Arteta with excellent displays. Finishing within the Premier League top four is well within reach, amidst a sense of growing confidence we haven’t seen for several years.