In the last years of Arsène Wenger’s tenure as Arsenal manager, it became a running joke that Arsenal would always finish fourth just to get the revenue from the Champions League. Since Wenger’s retirement, Arsenal fans have been wishing the team could just finish fourth after years of failure. Well, at the time of writing, Arsenal looks close to securing a fourth place finish for the first time in years.
Stan Kronke’s teams have had an incredible past year with his LA Rams winning the Super Bowl, Rapids finishing first in the West and his Denver Nuggets star, Nikola Jokić, winning NBA MVP. While Arsenal didn’t win anything of note this past year, this season is their best since Wenger left.
Since the start of the new year, Arsenal has only lost one game in the Premier League, so far, with the team forming a cohesive identity for the first time in years. Manager Mikel Arteta has created a culture at the club that has allowed them to rebuild properly by trusting their youth. From Bukayo Saka to Martin Ødegaard, Arteta has overseen some great player development.
At the same time, there is still room for improvement for the team, as they are a few years or moves from being serious contenders in the Prem. While they already field a strong team, there are a few positions that could benefit from some better quality players. In addition, as Arsenal becomes more competitive, they need to decide whether Arteta is the manager that can make this team a competitor.
For the first time in years, it feels like Arsenal is finally trending in a better direction with an actual plan on how to restore the club back to its 2000s glory. At the same time, management has to realize that the job isn’t over and that certain decisions will have to be made in the near future.
In December, when the fiasco with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang happened, it seemed like the club was back to its chaos that surrounded the club since 2016. Arsenal responded well from the controversy and stabilized the club as it fights for a fourth place finish.
When the club decided to splash some cash last summer, the moves they made weren’t on the level of Manchester United or City, but have been more successful than those clubs. Takehiro Tomiyasu and Aaron Ramsdale have become key pieces of the side and can become top Prem players soon. The decision to bring in Ødegaard on a permanent transfer has been an excellent piece of business, as he has shown glimpses of the potential that made him a sensation.
In addition, the growth from players brought in in previous seasons has helped the club find leadership from players that have become key to the side. Alexandre Lacazette never lived up to the hype surrounding him, but he has played a great knockoff Benzema role, becoming the team’s leader. His leadership, and Thomas Partey’s control of the midfield, have stabilized the club after Aubameyang left the club.
At the same time, the development from two key academy players has given Arsenal two foundational pieces that can take their club to the next level. Saka and Emile Smith Rowe are the two top scorers for the team and are responsible for a decent amount of assists. Their development into top class Prem creators has given Arsenal another dimension, as their play with Ødegaard has been key.
A decent bit of Arsenal’s success can be attributed to the job that Arteta has done, as he has cleaned up the mess left behind by Unai Emery and the final Wenger years. It was rough at the start for Arteta, but he has found his groove and knows the type of manager he is. Arteta is not a manager to bring in to win titles right away, rather he is a manager who can build a culture that is based on player development.
The success that Arsenal has begun to feel since the new year is the first truly positive trend for the club since Wenger’s retirement. A mixture of great transfers and player development have all combined with Arteta’s culture to help bring Arsenal into a new era.
With Arsenal starting to turn things around, the job isn’t over and it’s important that management doesn’t get complacent, as the team enters a new era. The decisions that Arsenal will have to make will revolve around adding more quality to the side and potentially the future of Arteta.
Arsenal’s side already has some very talented players, but there are two areas that the team could really try to improve at. Getting another midfielder and a striker that can score at a high level can only help Arsenal, as they begin to become more competitive. These moves could also help jettison players like Nicolas Pépé and Granit Xhaka who are no longer needed at the club.
Partey has been incredible and it seems insane that Atletico let him go, but getting a more deep lying midfielder like a Marcelo Brozović could balance the midfield. Arsenal lost out on a true talent in Dušan Vlahović, but finding a striker that can score like him is what will make them contenders. A striker that could be interesting is Alexander Isak who lit up La Liga last year, but is struggling this season.
Arteta deserves a lot of credit for helping turn the club’s fortunes around, but his future is still unknown, as there are doubts over how high his ceiling is. He has shown that he can help with player development and create a culture in a club that meshes with young players. This, however, doesn’t mean that it will translate to winning at a top level and there is nothing wrong with managers like that.
This doesn’t mean that Arsenal needs to get rid of Arteta after this season to find a manager who has a winning record, rather he should get a shot at managing in the Champions league next season. After that, maybe a decision should be made as to whether there are coaches that can improve upon his work. A manager like Max Allegri would be perfect to take the club to the next level.
As Arsenal continues to turn things around, there needs to be plans made for the future as the team gets back to winning. It will be interesting to see which players the club brings in this summer and how the club will deal with Arteta in the near future.
Fourth place is to Arsenal what never winning trophies is to Tottenham, a part of their recent DNA, so it has been a shock to see Arsenal so far away from fourth. In the past year, it feels like Arsenal have a plan in motion and are executing it to a good amount of success. Of course things can change at any moment, but for the moment Arsenal is back where they belong, fourth place.
Featured Image: Arsenal