Today’s game will be Mikel Arteta’s 150th managing Arsenal.
Coincidently, he also played for us 150 times!
It has been a bit of a rollercoaster first job for the Spaniard, having been bought in to clean up the mess left by Unai Emery.
He inheritated an ageing, underperforming squad that sat 11th in the league, one spot below Burnley.
A team that had won just once in its last 10 league games, and 5 times in the opening 18 league games.
A draw at Burnley was his debut game as manager, followed by defeat at home to Chelsea.
There were signs in that second game of what was to come – Chelsea needed to late goals to clinch it, the first of which came from Jorginho who should not have been on the pitch.
That defeat was followed up by his first league win in charge against Manchester United.
His Arsenal would continue struggling for wins in the league as the team eventually finished 8th.
A covid hit season, we ended winning the FA Cup despite the turmoil.
His first full year in charge did not see a huge improvement.
Turnover behind the scenes had seen football directors and heads of recruitment come and go, whilst on the pitch he was trying to put together starting XIs that did not want to be at Arsenal, did not want to play for him, and were being actively disruptive.
One by one those players that had let us down over the last 5 years were sold, released, or paid to go. Replaced with younger, hungrier talents.
Arteta was lucky to recover from a run that saw us fail to win for 7 games in the row in the league. 2 wins in 12 saw plenty calling for his head. But Arsenal felt like they had the right man, so stuck by him.
We finished 8th, and failed to qualify for Europe for the first time this century.
The first 14 games of the season were horrendous, but in the next 24 we showed Champions League form – only the two Manchester clubs got more points during that period.
2021 was filled with hope. No European football allowed Arteta (and mainly Edu), to strip the squad back to its bare bones. A proper rebuild.
It also meant we had the advantage of no mid-week distractions.
We spent most of the season bouncing between 4th and 6th as neither us, Tottenham or Manchester United were able to put together a consistent run.
3 defeats in a row were followed by 4 wins on the bounce. Top 4 was ours to lose with 3 games to go. But two of them were away to Spurs and Newly rich Newcastle. We lost both and finished 5th. Bottled it some claimed.
Despite the dissapointment, more and more fans were beginning to “Trust the Process” and this season, it has been “so far so good”.
Top of the league, topping our Europa League group, it is all moving in the right direction.
Surpsingly, Arteta now has won more of his first 150 games than any manager in Arsenal’s history.
It feels like with are on a journey with Mikel. And he and the players are closer with the fans than ever in recent memory.
Today it is Chelsea away.
It was victory against Chelsea that arguably saved his job back in 2020, ending the horrible run we were on.
Arteta’s Arsenal have won 4 of the last 5 against Chelsea – including twice at Stamford Bridge.
Now lets get down the pub…
On my way too the bridge Keenos