How Arsenal got its groove back

The Gunners show that changing the fortunes of an EPL side needs more than – well, a fortune


Despair has turned to joy at the Emirates stadium. Photo: Isriya Paireepairit (CC BY-NC 2.0)

There’s been a revival in the red side of North London – Arsenal sit 5 points clear at the top of the Premier League table with eight games remaining.

Their toughest test is yet to come facing Liverpool away, at Anfield in a match that could see the 2022/2023 title race end with an Arsenal victory.

A year ago, a title tilt looked impossible especially with Mikel Arteta at the helm.

The pressure has been on Arteta since his arrival at the club, but board backing has seen his philosophy and mentality rub off on his squad, putting them in the box seat for Arsenal’s 14th league championship.

A season to forget

Last season, Arsenal lost their first three Premier League matches in the club’s worst start to a season since 1954.

Despite recovering mid-season and a top four spot looking almost certain, the Gunners had a series of results go against them leading to a fifth-place finish.

In Arteta’s first two seasons, Arsenal endured their worst Premier League fortunes since the 1994/95 season, finishing eighth in the 2019/2020 and 2020/21 seasons.

Arsenal fans were calling for a fresh start with many pundits not believing Arteta was the man to take the side back to the top of the Premier League and win the club’s first title in the Emirates era.

The board backed Arteta and believed in him and his vision.

A young and incomplete squad

Arteta inherited a young but incomplete squad – only two players from his first starting 11 as manager remain regular starters.

Arsenal’s fans have long been angered by the club’s transfer policy, which they believed lacked direction.

Arteta has completely turned this around.

The board has invested more than 300 million Euros into the side since Arteta’s arrival.

While this figure is the most spent over the last two seasons in Europe, Arteta’s most expensive single hire was defender Ben White from Brighton for 50 million pounds.

Arteta has used the board’s backing to buy players who fit his system and have become crucial to Arsenal’s success this season.

Players such as Oleksandr Zinchenko, purchased for 32 million pounds in 2022, have been bought because they fit Arteta’s system.

They have bought into his style of play and embraced their roles.

Zinchenko, a left back, plays a more inverted role getting high up the pitch and pressuring the opposition’s midfield and defence, similar to White’s role at right back.

Fans who were saying “50 million, you’re sh*t” to White look silly now.

Players that were at Arsenal before Arteta’s arrival such as Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka have blossomed into stars with that same belief in Arteta as his new signings.

In February 2022 speaking to The Atheltic, Martinelli claimed “one hundred per cent” that “we will be one of the best teams in the world” and put that down to Arteta and a youthful squad.

A year later, Arsenal are playing beautiful football that is some of the most exciting to watch in the world.

Player and board backing

The belief and backing of the board and players have been crucial to Arteta’s success.

Once ridiculed by opposition fans as a ‘library’, Arsenal’s home ground – the Emirates Stadium – is now one of England’s toughest places to visit for an opposition EPL side.

This season, the Emirates has never been louder with Louis Dunford’s song ‘The Angel’ (an ode to North London) being sung before every home game this season.

The song was officially adopted after Arteta asked Arsenal to do so.

This rendition of ‘The Angel’ before a crucial home fixture against Manchester United encapsulates the atmosphere around the Emirates perfectly.

Arteta has catapulted the Premier League’s second youngest squad to the top of the table.

If he breaks Arsenal’s title drought at the Emirates in May, expect many renditions of the chant ‘We’ve Got Super Mik Arteta!’- and rightfully so.