When Mikel Arteta was hired as Arsenal manager, the club was rooted to the tenth spot in the Premier League table. A little over a year into his tenure as Gunners boss and the North London side are only one place better off, sat in ninth, with nine games to go.
Unlike this stage last year, the Gunners remain in the Europa League, where a quarter-final clash versus Slavia Prague awaits them.
With the top four out of sight and the remaining European spots up for grabs, there is no guarantee Arsenal will be playing midweek football next season, so success in Europe will be a priority for the remainder of the campaign.
The Spaniard secured the FA Cup and Community Shield double in his first year as Arsenal boss, so there were high expectations for him to bring silverware back to the red side of North London this season.
However, a torrid start to the season - Arsenal’s worst since 1974/75- dealt a massive blow to Arteta’s chances of success in his second year.
A Boxing Day win triumph over rivals Chelsea, lead by youngsters Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, marked a turnaround in the Gunner’s season, helping them to mount their charge back up the table.
Arteta’s current deal runs through to the summer of 2023, so perhaps it will be better to rank his progress then; but like every manager in football, you’re only as good as your last game.
Transfer incomings and outgoings
Arsenal have failed to reach the heights they once did under Arsene Wenger ever since their move from Highbury to The Emirates.
The club hasn’t been as financially free as other heavyweights such as Manchester City and Chelsea and as a result, the club has needed a massive overhaul for a lengthy period of time.
Wenger’s successor Unai Emery failed in his attempts to change the culture at the club and although Arteta has not done so either, he is showing more signs of doing so than his fellow countryman.
Arteta is accountable for the incomings of both Gabriel Magalhaes and Thomas Partey, both of whom have had a sizeable impact on the team this season.
However, it is the outgoing of high-earners Mesut Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi, Sead Kolasinac and Sokratis that have been more telling of Arteta’s time at the club- their departures freeing up an estimated £670k in weekly wages.
Much like this former boss, Pep Guardiola, Arteta has brought a ruthless streak to Arsenal and he is not afraid to cut players out if needs be- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being the most recent example.
The Christmas Miracle
Still yet to find his strongest starting eleven, Arteta began the season with a three-at-the-back formation.
Two wins in two, the formation looked steady and sustainable, however, a wretched run of form between October and December caused the Arsenal boss to switch to a back four.
The formation change, complemented by the emergence of attacking maestro Smith Rowe put a halt to a seven-game winless streak in the league- where the Gunners picked up three red cards in five matches.
From Christmas onwards, Arsenal have the third-best form in the league, only falling short to Manchester City and West Ham United (P12, W7, D2, L3), so credit must be given to Arteta for saving a sinking ship.
The Gunners boss has placed faith in Hale End academy graduates Smith Rowe and Saka, who have been the driving force in Arsenal’s mid-season revival. The addition of Real Madrid loanee Martin Odegaard has been a welcomed boost to the attack, too.
Changing the narrative
Since their heyday under Wenger, the Gunners have notoriously been poor against the traditional ‘big six’ but Arteta has certainly changed their fate.
Away form has also been a worry for the North London side in recent years, however, this appears to have changed thanks to Arteta.
Arsenal have currently accumulated 21 points in away matches this season, but with nine games remaining, they are on course to achieve their second-best tally in five years, where they finished runners up to Champions Leicester in 2015-16 (35).