Not the most conventional victory, but Arsenal got the job done on Wednesday night against rivals Chelsea as they laboured to a 0-1 victory at Stamford Bridge, somewhere they last won 10 years ago when Mikel Arteta was a player himself at the club.
But there was a lot Arteta needed to learn from this victory at the Bridge. First of all, beating Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel has not been everybody’s cup of tea this season, but Arteta’s men showed the valour in their hearts, even though they had very little to play for on the night.
Yes, Arsenal have bleak chances of finishing in one of the Europa League slots, but that is not where the club wants to be. Mikel Arteta was brought to the club to perform a rebuilding job, yet, they have gone in the opposite direction. Players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette look shadows of the players they were when they first joined the club, while Arsenal’s club-record signing in Nicolas Pepe has been average at best.
However, the only positive news ever about the club is regarding their youngsters. Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka have paved the way for Arteta to build the club around them rather than going and buying experienced players from the market. Starting this summer, Arteta needs to invest in young superstars and talented individuals rather than the Nicolas Pepe’s of the world. Their pursuit of Houssem Aouar last summer was the right decision but these are the kind of deals Arsenal needs to push over the line for the future of the club. Gabriel Magalhaes was an excellent addition at the back, but alongside David Luiz and Rob Holding, even the best center-backs will look average.
The best addition, however, the Gunners made was Thomas Partey. The central defensive midfielder was incredible on the night against Chelsea and he has shown signs throughout the season of the kind of protection and creativity he can offer from a deep-lying position. Arsenal’s summer transfer targets in Guido Rodriguez and Yves Bissouma are also a step in the positive direction, but it is imperative that Arsenal secure those deals.
Kieran Tierney is yet another outstanding player of Arsenal’s season, and alongside Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Magalhaes, and Thomas Partey, the quintuple can form a great core at the Emirates for years to come. Strikers need to be signed but they need to be young and hungry rather than experienced and proven. Arsenal needs to build the club from its roots, not win the odd trophy every other season.
Players like Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock could certainly have a future at the club but thanks to the existing core, they will not be under immediate pressure to perform.
It is not essential to retain Martin Odegaard as he could demand a hefty fee and there are plenty of other players around Europe who Arsenal can recruit as creative playmakers. Another way of recruitment could also be taking the best players from the teams that get relegated from the Premier League. Arsenal should have targeted the likes of Todd Cantwell and Jamal Lewis last season, while this summer, they could recruit Sander Berge from Sheffield United.
Arsenal’s transfer targets indicate that they have a sound scouting method but lack the drive-in negotiations to convince the player to make the move to the Emirates. During Arsene Wenger’s reign, this was relatively easy due to Wenger’s persona and his guarantee of Champions League football. Mikel Arteta could pull a page out of Frank Lampard’s time at Chelsea as the Blues legend convinced the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell, and Hakim Ziyech about the project at Chelsea but more often than not, those players believed in the manager more.
Currently, performances matter more than results for Arteta because results will always follow good performances. However, grinding out results is a temporary solution, not a permanent one. Mikel Arteta has displayed that he can coach a good team, while his football has also been attractive when the players have clicked together.
Mikel Arteta needs financial backing, but Leicester City have shown that you can get quality players at cheaper prices. Wesley Fofana, Caglar Soyuncu, and Harvey Barnes are proof that your scouting and talent development needs to be efficient if you are to build a club properly. Arsenal can have a new start next season, and to Arteta’s advantage, they cannot be any worse than they were this season. There will always be criticism, but Arteta will always be supported if he gets the performances right.
Procuring and building the club around young players was always the motto of Arsene Wenger’s time at Arsenal, and Mikel Arteta needs to follow suit. Finding the right players for the right prices is more important than finding players for particular roles at ludicrous prices. Time is of extreme importance at Arteta and while he is short on it, with the right signings and a good start to the next season, the Spaniard can prove his critics wrong and finally re-build the club-a job he is very capable of performing.