Mikel Arteta’s journey as an Arsenal manager has been a rollercoaster ride, to say the least. There have been highs like celebrating an FA Cup final win at Wembley against Chelsea. On the flip side of the coin, there have been lows like hovering around relegation zone in the Christmas period.

The Spaniard will stand by the Gunners dugout for the 100th time on Sunday when Arsenal will welcome Watford at the Emirates. In hindsight, how would you evaluate his performance as the Arsenal boss thus far? Only a few months back, there was a growing consensus that Arteta’s Arsenal tenure was a failed experiment. Right now, however, Arteta has managed to turn the tide, to some degree, at least.

After winning the FA Cup in his first season, Arteta failed to capitalize on it. Arsenal had a terrible start to the 2020/21 campaign, and if it were not for a post-Christmas resurgence, a top 10 finish would have been well out the North London outfit’s sight. For the first time in 25 years, Arsenal failed to qualify for Europe.

Questions were asked about his summer signings. Thomas Partey, who came from Atletico Madrid for €45 million, missed a sizeable chunk of games because of injury. Willian was a disaster. Cedric Soares was an error-prone fullback who did not seem to add much value to the squad.

In the last summer window, Arsenal were the top spenders in the Premier League, lashing out £150 million in a pandemic-hit market. But, none of Arsenal’s signings were ‘’high-profile’’ signings. Ben White, who had a decent season with Brighton, was their most expensive signing who cost £50 million. The likes of Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares were young prospects.

Martin Odegaard warranted a £35 million fee, but the most controversial signing was of Aaron Ramsdale’s. Arsenal chose to spend £30 million for the Bournemouth goalkeeper, who did not appear to be a priority signing, especially considering Bernd Leno’s consistent performances underneath the Arsenal goalpost.

Arsenal had en even worse start to their season this time around. They had lost all three of their opening fixtures, conceded nine goals, scored none. Arteta was the frontrunner in the mid-season sack race.

But, the former Arsenal midfielder kept on insisting the results would change once he got back his full team. In the first three matches, Arsenal did have some key players missing, but it was hard to justify Arsenal’s poor performances on the pitch solely based on that.

After the first international break, Arsenal picked up two hard-fought wins against Norwich. But, it was against their arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspurs that they burst into life.

The Gunners went 3-0 up in the first half and eventually won the derby by 3-1. Arsenal followed it up with two draws against Brighton and Crystal Palace. Arteta decided to go for a 4-4-2 in the next two matches, bringing Alexandre Lacazette back to the fold, and it paid in dividends. 

Arsenal seemed to be in total control as they defeated Aston Villa 3-0 and Leicester 2-0 in those matches.

Currently, Arsenal are playing a fascinating brand of football. Thomas Partey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alexandre Lacazette have led from the front as the team’s senior players. The likes best online casino of Emile Smith-Rowe, Bukayo Saka, and Sambi Lokonga has been playing with far more maturity than their actual age.

Ben White and Gabriele Magalhaes formed a solid centreback partnership in the back and have already kept four cleansheets. But, the most significant addition to the Arsenal defence has been Aaron Ramsdale.

The 23-year-old has displaced Leno as Arsenal’s number one keeper and has been excellent since his debut. Apart from his incredible shot-stopping, he has made Arsenal’s build-up play more efficient with fluid passing.

It’s still too early to judge, but Mikel Arteta is seemingly building an exciting Arsenal team that can emerge as a title contender in a few more seasons. If Arsenal continues their recent uptick in form, the Arsenal board will deserve the credit for not being impatient and trusting Arteta’s project.

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