Mikel Arteta - A False Dawn
Image Via: Flickr/Ronnie MacDonald. CC BY 2.0.
Following yet another home defeat albeit against the champions-elect a couple of weeks ago and a draw on the road recently against Burnley, it’s natural that Arsenal fans may be feeling slightly forlorn, wondering whether the great days of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, managed by Arsene Wenger, will ever be repeated...
After a few years of steady decline under Wenger, followed up by stuttering performances and bemusing press conferences under Unai Emery, Mikel Arteta seemed to be the light shining through the darkness.
With a recent connection to the club as the most successful captain in the Emirates era, coupled with his discipleship under the lauded Pep Guardiola, the hope in the romantic section of the fan base returned. In Arteta's early press conferences, it was his charisma which unified a fan base that had been fractious, bordering on toxic for so long. The question of glory days remained, but seemingly, the fans and club thought they had found their man in the form of the Spaniard.
What followed has been eventful, to say the least. Football coming to a complete halt, restructures at the board level, and the exile of the club’s highest-paid and longest-serving player. On the pitch though, Arsenal under Arteta has shown glimpses of progressive and attacking football. But that's not enough. In the main, The Gunners have been conservative and defensive, which is in complete contrast to what Arsenal has been known for. This approach has split opinion and has taken away from the shine that Arteta brought when he first arrived, though the overall progress made over the last fifteen months is there for all to see.
You could describe the year-and-a-bit that Arteta has been in charge as a series of false dawns. An unexpected semi-final victory over the-then holders of the FA Cup Manchester City, followed by a defeat to then-relegation-bound Aston Villa. Just three days after that, they'd defeat Manchester United at Old Trafford in the league for the first time since 2006, before then having to wait seven games for their next league win. Most recently it’s been a seven-match unbeaten run followed by a run of just one win in four matches, to then stringing a couple of wins together again. A complete mixed bag.
Certainly, there was hope aplenty at the start of Arteta’s reign and an FA Cup Triumph, breaking barren streaks at old rivals and short and sweet unbeaten runs have added to that hope. Not to mention the quite spectacular emergence of youngster Emile Smith-Rowe and the mercurial rise of Bukayo Saka. Alas, the disappointments that have followed those big moments. The fact that Arteta found the club in the 11th place when he took over, to now only sitting in tenth place now, signals that not much progress has been made at all...
Describing Arteta’s time in the dugout as hit-and-miss may appear to suggest that the glory days are far away and somewhat unlikely to return under his headship. That said, maybe a more literal definition of the phrase 'false dawns' is in order.
Although it’s true that the saying is often used to describe a ‘promising situation that comes to nothing’ the more literal definition is ‘ a transient light that precedes the rising of the sun’ maybe this more aptly describes the position that Arteta and Arsenal find themselves in right now.
There certainly are glimmers of light emerging from the club, with one trophy already under the belt, the development of youngsters and the seemingly unwavering passion and conviction of Arteta, and the new found defensive resilience that hasn’t been associated with Arsenal since the George Graham days. Showing this even against a City team who are by far and away the best team in the country right now. Maybe Arsenal isn't as far away as we think after all...