Arsenal’s recent announcement that Edu has become the new Sporting director is evidence that the Brazilian’s vision is proving a successful one. Edu’s appointment as technical director in 2019 gave the former Arsenal player control to reset the Arsenal culture with the Brazilian seeing Mikel Arteta as the perfect candidate to carry out his vision. So has that plan been executed? It is time for Arsenal’s cultural reset to reap rewards.
After Wenger – Arsenal’s Cultural Reset
After Arsene Wenger ended his 20 year spell as Arsenal manager in 2018, it was clear Arsenal needed a cultural reset with the atmosphere around the Emirates Stadium becoming toxic towards the end of his reign. The technical director at the time, Ivan Gazidis, announced the appointment of former PSG and Sevilla manager Unai Emery. The Spaniard was a born winner but it was clear from the first day, he didn’t have the club’s backing with Gazidis soon leaving for AC Milan.
Emery led Arsenal to relative success in his first season, narrowly missing out on Champions League football as well as reaching the Europa League final. However the Spaniard missed out on some key signings and from then on his attempt to reset the culture at Arsenal had failed with Emery losing the dressing room especially given Granit Xhaka’s outburst against Crystal Palace.
In Edu’s first season, Emery’s reign had run its course as a Europa League defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt signalled the end with the Brazilian needing to come up with a plan.
Edu’s plan was to hire former player and Manchester City assistant Mikel Arteta, who had been highly successful as Pep Guardiola’s assistant for a number of years. Having missed out on the Spaniard last time out, Arsenal were keen to hire the Spaniard this time round and eventually in December 2019 Arteta joined the club.
Many supporters were sceptical given his lack of experience as a head coach however Edu was convinced that Arteta was the perfect manager to reset the culture of not only the team but the football club in general. The first job for Arteta was to set the standards of the club and to ensure that his disciplinary rules were followed with the Spaniard having no problems in making an example out of the likes of Matteo Guendouzi and Mesut Ozil.
Eventually Arteta would also punish Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang despite the Gabonese star signing a contract extension. Despite Aubameyang’s form, the 33 year-old’s poor discipline cost him his time at Arsenal with Aubameyang eventually going to Barcelona. This was all positive signs for Edu as there was a clear identity on how Arteta wanted to put his blueprint on the football club and reset the culture at Arsenal.
It doesn’t matter about how you approach the project – results must appear in order to convince your stakeholders and employers. For Arteta, the FA Cup victory in 2020 in front of an empty Wembley Stadium signalled a sign of progression and that his identity and cultural reset was transforming into results. This wasn’t only important for Arteta but for Edu as well that his vision was transforming into a successful output as the project could now move onto the next phase.
Important victories over Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool was a positive platform for the club to build on heading into the summer transfer window as Arteta’s tactical ability was proven to be as impressive as his off the pitch work. The Spaniard’s team played with energy and aggression as his master plan was slowly coming together.
The following season saw a disappointing eighth place finish which saw more people question whether Arteta was the right man for the job. However the Spaniard was determined to make the project work and after getting the signings he wanted and a leap of faith showed by Josh Kroenke and Edu, Arteta constructed a respectable 2021/22 season.
An impressive season was produced but the all important lure of Champions League football was snatched away from them at the last moments by Tottenham Hotspur. Once again this showed that Arteta’s project was missing consistency and that last bit of winning mentality if they wanted to compete with the best teams in England. It seems that setback only seemed to motivate the club and the team as Arteta was given a new contract extension and now the team sit at the top of the Premier League table, looking like unlikely challengers for Manchester City’s crown.
The final part of Edu and Arteta’s vision and cultural reset was refreshing the squad with the team needing a fresher energy about it. The Spaniard needed to eliminate a lot of ‘deadwood’ in order to make this team his own and stamp his own authority in terms of style of play on the team. That meant selling the likes of Shkodran Mustafi, Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin and making some key signings which involved a lot of young talent.
Arteta’s first key signing was Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid which was crucial in gaining a lot of control in a midfield that at times was questioned for its mentality. This was the basis for Arteta’s tactical and cultural reset which allowed him then to focus on other areas gradually such as Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Magalhaes, Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and William Saliba.
When looking at the Arsenal team today, it’s safe to say that this is Mikel Arteta’s team and he has added an energetic youth to it. A clear identity has been created and the cultural reset has been completed as the mentality of the team and the tactical ideology has been revamped.
In conclusion, Edu and Mikel Arteta thoroughly deserve their advanced roles at the club as their project is paying off in the long run. There is a clear identity and a revamped cultural reset about the club. Not only that but the atmosphere around the club is the friendliest and most energetic it has been for a long time. There is optimism surrounding the club’s ambitions and the community surrounding Arsenal is stronger than it has ever been before.
The only concern is whether Arsenal’s cultural reset and new energy can be sustained throughout the season to mount a title challenge or even a top four place. A crucial second half of the season awaits Edu and Mikel Arteta as the true success of their project will be tested, with failure to produce on the pitch resulting in more questions over Arteta’s job at the Emirates Stadium.
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