Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta has admitted he faced an 'immense' task to turn things around at the club, but says the progress made in the last 18 months has been 'incredible'.
The Spaniard took charge at the Emirates Stadium in December 2019, succeeding the sacked Unai Emery, and led the Gunners to FA Cup glory just five months later.
But his first full season in charge of Arsenal was far from plain sailing. The club missed out on European qualification entirely, finishing a lowly eighth in the Premier League as well as bowing out of both domestic cup competitions at the quarter-final stage or earlier.
Arsenal fared a little better on the continental stage, but were unable to overcome Villarreal - ironically managed by Emery - in the semi-finals of the Europa League. The Spaniards ultimately went on to lift the trophy after beating Manchester United in the final.
2021/22 got off to a rocky start, too. Arsenal lost their first three Premier League games by an aggregate score of 9-0 and many were calling for Arteta to be sacked. Yet two months on, the club are now unbeaten in nine games in all competitions, and are closing in on the Premier League's top four after taking 17 points from the last 21 available ahead of facing Watford.
It's led to a complete change in perception of Arteta's Arsenal, with many now praising the club for staying patient with him amid widespread calls for his dismissal.
Now, in an extensive and very revealing interview with Arsenal's official website, Arteta has spoken about the scale of the task he took on after his appointment as head coach, detailing his reshaping of the club and the process that he and his staff have gone through to get the Gunners to where they are now.
“I think the task we had was immense,” Arteta admitted. “There were a lot of question marks how we could do it in a way that, first of all, we could afford, and we could have some immediate results with a big prospect for the future.
“The turnaround in the squad in 18 months has been incredible. It’s almost 19 players - that’s a whole new squad. It took a lot of decisions, but those decisions have been using the same uniform basics. That is: Do they represent what we want to do? Yes or no. If it’s a no, he cannot be here.
“Sometimes you have to say something, but it has to be in the right moment because if not it can be taken in the wrong direction, but I think it was necessary.
“I don’t have the feeling to tell somebody or expect something that I don’t feel, and I knew with the number of changes that we’ve been through at the club, from top to bottom, in the squad, that it was going to happen. If not, I would be lying.
"So I knew we were going to get a lot of stick saying that because in football you don’t have time. But if you want to build something with our resources and with the model that we have put in place, it takes time.”
Source : 90min