Mikel Arteta is managing a deep and varied Arsenal squad. As the season resumes, he can let the competition fly, and the team will be all the better for it.
The Premier League will return in less than two weeks time. After almost three months without a ball being kicked, it is an exciting period as the season reaches its climax. And for Arsenal, despite enduring one of the most miserable seasons in recent history, there is plenty to be hopeful for. And it is all because of one man.
Mikel Arteta has brought hope back to the club. The improvements the team made, the intelligence and awareness in the way he speaks, how he carries himself around the training ground, and, crucially, the joy and happiness of the players who are working under him all point towards the Spaniard’s brilliance.
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Arteta’s impact at Arsenal likely means little for this season. The team still hopes they can squeeze into the Champions League places. That is not entirely out of the question, but it will take a sensational run of form during the final 10 matches of the campaign. Where Arteta’s true value lies, however, is in the long-term prospects of the club, and as the season draws to a close, he has a chance to let the players fly as they attempt to prove that they should be a part of his rebuild.
While Arsenal, of course, will be attempting to win as many matches as they possibly they can when the season resumes, given the make-up of the squad, Arteta will have the opportunity to pit players against one another and see what they are capable of. There is far from a well-defined, clear-cut pecking order throughout the squad.
In fact, perhaps only Bernd Leno and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are guaranteed of their starting spot. At every other position, you could argue that there are players who are ready to win the starting role.
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To help outline this, the following a second XI based on Arteta’s tendencies thus far: Emiliano Martinez; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding, Sead Kolasinac; Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira, Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli. And this still misses out the likes of Sokratis and Reiss Nelson.
Not all of these players are ready to play, of course, and some of them most certainly will not be a part of Arteta’s long-term plans. But Arteta can pit them against one another to get the best out of them. This is what inner-competition is, and it is why the best teams harness its power. It also allows Arteta to make determinations regarding the players at his disposal prior to making plans for the looming summer transfer window.
Arsenal lack elite quality in the squad, but they do have serious depth, variety, and high-potential young players. Arteta can use this to his advantage, and it will better both the team in the present and his long-term plans.