Arteta’s Arsenal: The new kings of Europe

Tom Williams



Not many would portend that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has done anything but a phenomenal job at the club since he arrived in 2019. Arriving with no managerial experience, a mismatched squad, and the impending doom of a pandemic, not many were willing to give him a chance in the embryonic stages of his career. The San Sebastian born coach now finds himself managing a FA Cup winning and title-challenging team back in the thick of elite European competition. Although the PL eluded the young squad last year, maybe the truth is that Arsenal aren’t necessarily built to win the title. They are built to win the Champions League.

Man City are a juggernaut. Historically, Pep’s City do not let you make mistakes if you want to beat them to a title. Arteta’s Gunners made mistakes last year and it cost them, but realistically the inexperienced and injury-struck squad could not compete with the treble-winning titans. Although the squad is no-doubt improved, the likelihood of beating the robotic City (and that’s without mentioning the similar steamrolling capabilities of Klopp’s Liverpool) in a conventional title run is nigh on impossible. They are simply built to win the league.

With that in mind, maybe Mikel is cooking a different breed of squad in North London. The Spaniard is trying to foster a culture of winners, but there’s no shying away from the traumas of last year’s PL run and the psychological barriers that brings. When Arsenal won the FA Cup under Mikel it felt like it had come a couple seasons too soon for the rookie manager. The squad were relatively inexperienced in big games and the boss’ pragmatism (and a roaring Aubameyang) brought home the trophy. Despite The Gunners’ heritage in the competition, no one expected Mikel to reign supreme – could this foreshadow what’s to come in the Champions League?

The squad are incredibly inexperienced in the CL, but this freshness is what brought such vigour to the title-challenging performances of last year. This youthful take-it-as-it-comes approach can guide a team to knock out success (a la the FA Cup run) but will likely fall short in the more long-winded format of a league table – as it did last year. Now with a more controlled style of play and an outstanding away record in England and Europe, this Arsenal team could just be quietly mounting a serious challenge.

Buoyed by the excitement of last year, The Emirates has become a daunting stadium to come to for the first time in its history, which is a vital component in winning any home CL tie. With the quality of said teams being relatively low compared to what you might expect (see Bayern and Barcelona), it seems the English teams will be the hardest competitors and Arsenal have proven this year they can take points off the big boys.

So, with a youthful squad, rocking Emirates, weaker European competition, and a stellar away record, what could be the final piece of the puzzle? The luminous kit. A controversial jersey that divided fans, but is made to be adorned by the glitzy floodlights synonymous with massive European nights. An incandescent material that could cause havoc in the footballing Cathedrals of Europe, creating a swarm-like effect as The Arsenal hive gazump teams from across the continent.

Maybe wishful thinking, or maybe it is Arteta’s fate?

Photography: Kane Hulse

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