Arsene Wenger is just about to release his autobiography.
Memoirs from the great man’s life at Arsenal, written in his words, even spoken in his own voice via autobook.
His first ever press conference was met with great scepticism. The main reaction was one of how long would he last in the job, not how successful he could be. Promises were made, targets set, and for the most part, he followed through on all of them.
Some of Mikel Arteta’s very first words when he was introduced to the media echoed similar tones. An insistence of making drastic alterations to how the club perceived itself. A shift from the mindset of those involved to truly understanding the grandeur of the institution.
Already underway in his first full season as a manager, the ambitions set some ten months ago have been followed through on, despite being hamstrung from start to finish by issues both and off the field beyond his control.
More from Pain in the Arsenal
When could he have his own written account of life at Arsenal?
The latest edition of keeping his word comes in the form of trust. Trust placed in him by one of his star players, who need assurances of outside aid in order to firmly believe he was in the right setting. Thomas Partey’s arrival was not only a wish of the manager, but a key component of ensuring that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang chose correctly in shunning the advances of far reaching riches.
It follows a long line of claims made from the Spaniard that have come to fruition. Many of which were made in that first press conference.
Convincing the Players of His Methods
Some cynical folk may argue that after the misguidance of Unai Emery, the players would have been so desperate for a new voice that they’d have taken on board whatever it was the new man would utter.
Arteta said he had to “convince the players about what I want to do”. His players have learned his language. On the pitch this is visibly clear, with a group of players bereft of confidence, and lacking in quality, suddenly upping their games to new levels. It’s the result of greater clarification and better coaching.
Mohamed Elneny is a prime example of that, while players such as David Luiz have publicly spoken about the positive impression he’s left. We now watch on at a team fully invested in the manager’s blueprint. Convinced of his methods that have resulted in far great solidarity and on-field performance.
Changing the Culture
Part of this transfers over from the above. Altering the ‘culture’ at a club can be an overused, if sometimes hollow, term, but the shift in attitude from the players within the squad is clear as day.
It stems from unity. Reshaping the ideology of the group – and the staff – so that there is equal respect from each player to one another. Each member of the coaching staff to one another.
Key was building an environment that players wanted to be involved in. Waking up in the morning and dreading your day at work where the messages were mixed and/or poorly communicated, to instead rediscovering the passion for your profession with the understanding of how important what you do is to so many people around the world.
Arsenal now looks like a far more tranquil and inviting place. Somewhere players feel cherished as much as somewhere they believe they can improve individually and fight for silverware. The players brought in and those opting to remain in north London attest to that.
Those who wouldn’t abide would fall foul foul to his demands.
Engaging the Fans
Winning football matches does help this, but there is so much more to engaging the supporters than simply churning out three points.
“We need to be able to transmit with our behaviours, our intentions,” said Arteta. This can be seen from the top down, where a major boardroom overhaul took place that saw Vinai Venkatesham become the main man after the departure of head of football Raul Sanllehi. How much impact Arteta has had on the off-field occurrences is not fully known, but his footprint remains formed in every aspect of the club.
A new recruitment drive fronted by himself and Edu has provided more clarity to supporters who for years have felt a strong disconnect between themselves and the club. It’s not perfect, but we as fans all have a better understanding of what the Arsenal are looking to do, the stages with which they will take place, backed by a strategy far more transparent than in recent years.
Being in Europe & Fighting for Trophies
Arsenal finished eighth last season. Abysmal. No two ways about it, it was the hardest campaign to endure for large sections of the fanbase. Even those old enough to remember 1994/95 may still argue last term was incomprehensible.
What it did do, was finish with silverware and a place in Europe. Arteta insisted that anything other than European football and fighting for trophies “is not good enough”. Sure, such claims would be made by whomever resumed the duties, but he put those words in practice.
It wasn’t smooth, nor was it the in the manner we’d hoped for, but Champions League football was already way beyond our reach early into the season. Ensuring we competed in – at the least – the Europa League, but doing so via an FA Cup run that saw us lift a 14th title in one of the hardest routes to a final we’ve had was magical.
Once again he made a vow, and he followed through.
Keeping Hold of Current Arsenal Players & Signing New Ones
While his words in such instances were never promises per say, repeatedly we were kept informed about how the handling of Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Aubameyang’s contract extensions. If he was ‘confident’, he said so.
At this point, when Arteta says he’s confident, so am I. Saka and Martinelli enjoyed breakthrough seasons that prompted talk of moves away, but while there wasn’t much doubt over the Brazilian, the Saka situation began to get hairy. Liverpool and the like were hovering around, but the Spaniard continued to keep us in the loop with his personal feelings towards the developments.
With the Aubameyang situation, again the word ‘confident’ was mentioned, with increasing levels of endorsement every passing week.
Throughout the transfer window he maintained belief in the club’s activities, as well as how much backing he was receiving from the much-maligned Kroenke family.
If he has reason to believe in what Arsenal are doing internally, I have no reason to assume otherwise. In the end, he came through with the Partey deal.
He won’t get it right every time. Of course not. But there is no reason to doubt the words the man speaks. As of yet, he’s fulfilled his oath to the club and not led us astray. Long may that continue.