Oh Mikel Arteta!

It has been another interesting week for Arsenal Football Club and its supporters. And for the first time in many months I can report on it optimistically. Not that I'm going to get too carried away by two decent performances and one good result; but this does feel different.


What started solidly but unspectacularly at Bournemouth was followed up by a highly promising - if ultimately disappointing - performance at home to Chelsea, and the new coach and his players built on it with an emphatic win over Manchester United.

We have learned a lot about the Emery era over the past few days, and particularly in this revealing post-match interview with Luiz and Sokratis after the United match And the signs are there that - with proper coaching and a drive towards the sort of progressive football about which Emery talked initially but never achieved - this group of players, plus one or two additions, can start to put Arsenal back where they belong. Certainly, fifth place now looks distinctly possible given current rate of progress, but the ultimate target for this season must be fourth and whilst that's a tall order it's not totally out of the question.

A quick run-through of the three matches follows here:

Bournemouth - signs of things to come, but ultimately not a brilliant start against a rather poor side. Arteta forgiven as he'd had just three training sessions with the players at this point. Goal conceded from trying to play out from the back - this must be improved upon. Aubameyang took his chance clinically.

Chelsea - Arteta's first home game in charge and the portents for what may follow were there to see. The team played with passion, flair and a great deal of determination before tiring badly as the second half went on (this will be addressed, I am sure). An electrifying start during which Chelsea were overrun unfortunately only led to a single goal, and Lampard was forced into an early formation and personnel change to prevent the onslaught continuing.

As it turns out the player he introduced, Jorginho, had a huge influence on the flow of the game, but also controversially as he should have received a second yellow for a challenge identical to one that had seen Torreira booked earlier, and then won the free-kick from which he scored with a piece of simulation and a dive of which Tom Daley would have been proud.

And for Chelsea's late winner I counted no less than five Arsenal errors in the 15 seconds between them losing the ball on the edge of the Chelsea area and Abraham's shot hitting the back of the net. Grrrr... but old habits do, unfortunately, die hard. It was the backing off (for over 50 yards!) that was the biggest issue here (take a bow, Shkodran Mustafi).

Manchester United - well, even allowing for the fact that the opposition were one-dimensional and generally poor all over the pitch, Arsenal totally dominated; and this by showing an attitude and commitment that we haven't seen for years. I cannot think of a single player who didn't have at least an 8 out of 10 game and after just three games under Arteta I feel that we can be pretty optimistic for the future.

What was great to see was the transformation - in just three games - of the likes of Ozil, Xhaka and Pepe. Here were players who have been underperforming for months completely transformed by a new message. Long may it continue.

I think that if I wanted to sum up what Arteta has achieved (in just two weeks) it is to reverse pretty much everything that had been going on before; all the stuff that was leading to poor performances and results, and leading to toxicity amongst the squad and between Club and supporters. To sum these up:

1.  Considerably better organisation all over the pitch. Pressing as a unit (very much in the style of Liverpool and Manchester City) and no gaping holes in central midfield

2.  An entirely different attitude being displayed. Players working as a cohesive unit, to a plan. Body language transformed. Discipline there for all to see

3.  Key individuals playing in their best positions (hardly rocket science, one would have thought) and what I've been saying for months; if you're going to play Ozil, make him central to what you're trying to do

4.  Rotating central midfielders and full-backs in order to create space and give more time on the ball. Has made a big difference to Xhaka for one

5.  A personal touch with the players. Examining what makes each one tick and starting to get stuff out of them that the previous encumbent could not. I like what I'm seeing, especially the transformation in Mesut Ozil

And the fans have bought in. Immediately. The atmosphere in the ground has been transformed, and players who were talking about wanting to leave to further their careers are changing their minds. This is down to the message Arteta is giving out; and as I say, this feels entirely different.

It doesn't feel like a simple new manager Bounce; it feels like something much more. But we need to see this built on, with perhaps a couple of new players introduced this month.

Next up is an FA Cup encounter with Leeds United. Perhaps Thierry Henry could pop back for this one? After that, we'll be able to judge progress in matches with Chelsea later this month, and Manchester City on March 1.

I was obviously very upset to see Harry Kane get injured over the weekend, by the way (although it's difficult to convey irony in writing...). But in the meantime, I'm starting to get quite agitated. Will somebody PLEASE beat Liverpool?!?!?

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