The pressure was well and truly on Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta after one win in 10 Premier League games at the end of 2020.
Despite pressure from outside the Emirates for a change in the dugout, the hierarchy at Arsenal are now reaping the rewards for sticking with their man.
Arteta not afraid to adapt
Following that troubling run, the Gunners appeared to turn a corner with what was at the time a surprising 3-1 victory at home to London rivals Chelsea. Since then Arsenal, who are 14/1 with bet365 in the football betting to finish in the top four, have enjoyed an unbeaten run which has seen them steadily climb up the Premier League table. Now, the club are back in the running to secure European football.
Arteta, under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola during his time as assistant coach at Manchester City, has developed his own style of play. Philosophies are things managers hold dear, but credit has to go to the Spaniard for not being afraid to adapt it, if things are not going according to plan. Speaking ahead of the 3-0 win over Newcastle United, Arteta said he tries to avoid being “stuck” in his ways and looks to “shake things around a little bit to try to find a way.”
It has certainly worked for the Gunners in recent weeks, and now the bosses are being rewarded for keeping the former midfielder at the helm.
Smith Rowe providing a spark
Talk of playmaker Emile Smith Rowe’s potential is growing after some impressive performances at the start of the year. The 20-year-old came to the fore in the win over Frank Lampard’s Chelsea and now he finds himself to be a key creative figure in the middle of the park.
The youngster has had to bide his time at the Emirates, and loan spells with both RB Leipzig and Huddersfield Town will have taught him plenty. Smith Rowe is now getting a run of games in the first-team and is just another young Englishman thriving at one of the biggest clubs in the Premier League. England international Phil Foden is doing the same at Manchester City, and it does not look like it will be long until Smith Rowe finds himself in the Three Lions frame if he continues on his current trajectory.
Gunners still a work in progress
Few would argue against Arsenal still having some way to go before they can be challenging the likes of City and Liverpool for the Premier League crown. It was always going to be a challenge to replace the Arsene Wenger at the club, and there was bound to be a period of transition. Unai Emery came and went, and now Arteta is looking to build some stability at a club he knows very well from his playing days. The difficult spell they went through at the end of 2020 might have been a necessary evil to develop a toughness; that could well stand the Gunners in good stead as they strive for Champions League football once again.