Pep, Cruyff, Michels… could Mikel Arteta be at the start of journey to join illustrious names as impressive turnaround of the Gunners continues?
- Arsenal came away with a 2-0 win at Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday
- Mikel Arteta has turned the club’s form around since arriving at the Emirates
- The win at Molineux Arsenal’s first win at a team above them since 2015
September 26, 2015 was the last time Arsenal won away from home against a team above them in the table.
Leicester were the losers on that occasion, beaten 5-2 at the King Power Stadium with a little help from an ageing midfielder called Mikel Arteta.
Arteta was a busy man at that time.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is gradually overseeing a turnaround since arriving at the club
He was travelling to Newport to coach Wales Under 16s while earning his UEFA A licence. He was helping out at Arsenal’s academy. He was turning up for the first team’s 11am training sessions at 9am to prepare and to pick Arsene Wenger’s brain.
Weeks after that Leicester win, Arsenal beat Bayern Munich 2-0 in the Champions League, with Arteta an unused substitute and Pep Guardiola the German club’s manager.
An hour after full time, Arteta could be seen on the touchline with Guardiola, the two of them deep in conversation about the game’s tactics.
Alexandre Lacazette celebrates scoring his side’s second goal in the 2-0 victory at Molineux
Clearly the then 33-year-old’s eye for detail impressed. Guardiola became Manchester City boss the following year and appointed Arteta as his assistant.
Now 38, Arteta has overseen four consecutive wins with three clean sheets, with this latest victory arguably Arsenal’s most significant this season.
It leaves them in a position to fight for a European place which previously seemed fanciful, while they have an FA Cup semi-final against City coming up.
When Arteta was appointed last December, Arsenal fans hoped they had hired the next Guardiola, after his time at the side of the modern football master. They already look on to a winner.
It was the Spaniard’s game management which impressed most at Molineux.
In the 55th minute, Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo brought on Diogo Jota to change from 3-5-2 to a more attacking 3-4-3. That saw Adama Traore move to the right wing, where the Spaniard tends to do his best tormenting.
In response, Arteta brought Ainsley Maitland-Niles off the bench to man-mark Traore for the rest of the game.
In the 76th minute, Joe Willock was introduced, followed by Alexandre Lacazette in the 83rd. In the 86th, the former assisted the latter to complete the scoring.
Arteta admits Arsenal need to hold talks with Lacazette over his future in north London, but insists discussions will have to wait until their fixture pile-up eases. Lacazette, 29, has two years left on his deal and has started only half of Arsenal’s games since the restart.
‘We have to have a chat about the next step with him and get his idea, his feeling,’ Arteta said.
‘I am really happy with him. He is a player who I always liked, even when I wasn’t here, because of what he brings to the team. So, let’s see. But now we are in a crucial moment, there is no time to talk about contract situations.’
Defeat at Brighton two weeks ago left Arsenal 10th, two points behind Crystal Palace.
But a mini-run later — and with Leicester and Tottenham next — they could yet make the Champions League. That is the ambitious target set by Arteta.
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND LEAGUE TABLE
Wolves (3-5-2): Patricio 7; Boly 6, Coady 6, Saiss 6; Doherty 6 (Neto 72min, 6), Dendoncker 6 (Jota 55, 7), Neves 5.5, Moutinho 6 (Gibbs-White 89), Jonny 6; Traore 6, Jimenez 5.5.
Subs not used: Ruddy, Vinagre, Campana, Kilman, Buur, Jordao.
Booked: Saiss, Coady.
Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo 6.
Arsenal (3-4-3): Martinez 7; Mustafi 6, Luiz 8, Kolasinac 7; Cedric 6.5 (Bellerin 76, 6), Ceballos 6.5 (Torreira 83), Xhaka 6.5, Tierney 7 (Maitland-Niles 56, 7); Saka 7.5 (Willock 76, 6), Nketiah 6.5 (Lacazette 83), Aubameyang 7.
Subs not used: Macey, Sokratis, Holding, Nelson. Scorers: Saka 43, Lacazette 86.
Booked: Luiz, Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Torreira.
Manager: Mikel Arteta 7.
Referee: Michael Oliver 7
‘No margin for error,’ he said after Saturday’s win over a Wolves side who had seven clean sheets in their previous eight games. ‘Let’s enjoy it a little bit before we start thinking about Leicester and try to go again.’
No player in the Premier League has attempted more shots than striker Raul Jimenez this season, but he could not test Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez on Saturday.
In front of the defence, there was no room for Matteo Guendouzi or Mesut Ozil. Taking no prisoners, Arteta has warned he only accepts players who are ‘100 per cent committed to our culture’. Those who were on the pitch knew their roles and responsibilities. The back three — or five, with Kieran Tierney and Cedric Soares — were compact.
Arteta learned from Guardiola, who learned from Johan Cruyff, who learned from Rinus Michels, the architect of the great Ajax, Barcelona and Holland sides of the Seventies and Eighties.
There is a long, long way to go before Arteta can be considered alongside those names, but at the very least he clearly knows what he is doing.