Since joining Arsenal during the festive period in December, Mikel Arteta has guided us through a steady improvement in performance levels which is slowly starting to translate into results. We went into the COVID break on the back of 3 consecutive Premier League wins, something we hadn't managed in over a year. Additionally, we won 4-0 against Newcastle - we hadn't won a game by a 3+ goal margin and keep a clean sheet since Arsene Wenger's tenure.
The signs of progress on the pitch have been good overall, but let's have a look at Arteta's work off it - more specifically his powers of persuasion.
To start off, Arsenal were reeling from the 'Granit Xhaka saga' - in the games he hadn't played for Arsenal, the club were win-less in the league. Now, whatever you may think about the player, he's an important part of the squad - this is not just me saying it, it has been further corroborated by The Athletic who reported that the player is held in high regard inside the club.
Whilst Xhaka was brought back under Freddie Ljungberg, it was widely reported that he was set to leave the club in January. In Arteta's very first press conference, he stated that he will speak to Xhaka and that he considers him to be a 'very important' player for the club.
10 days later, Arteta stated in his presser that he was confident Xhaka will stay. While the Swiss international has shown great mental resilience to fight on, we shouldn't forget Arteta's powers of persuasion and clarity in vision, echoed by Xhaka himself speaking to German outlet Sport1.
Next comes Dani Ceballos. Arteta revealed there were initial doubts over his attitude which was overcome by hard work.
While this is closely linked to the man-management side of things, there is an element of persuasion involved. Arteta speaks a lot about 'behaviour.'
Every player reacts differently to something. It is important to be empathetic and understand how a player thinks.
In Ceballos' case, it involved Arteta either completely leaving him out of the squad or having him on the bench without even bringing him on. This sends a message, which Arteta has elaborated in multiple pressers - he says that the players training the hardest and behaving well will get chances.
Speaking on Ceballos coming back strongly, Arteta said: “He was injured and when he started to train I didn't think he was fit enough. He completely changed his behaviour and trained like an animal."
Ceballos worked really hard and Arteta got exactly what he wanted. He displaced Lucas Torreira in midfield and has been part of Arsenal's 3 back to back wins, becoming a key cog in the way we progress the ball from midfield. He's shown great defensive capability and is showing real signs of improving his positional sense. Kudos to Mikel once again.
Getting Aubameyang to play left forward. Yes, while statistically Aubameyang averages more goals per game this season for Arsenal from the left, the player on numerous occasions has stated that playing centre forward is his preferred position.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Arteta said:
Arteta has managed to convince Aubameyang to play on the left flank with huge responsibility defensively considering Saka's inexperience after initial doubts.
Arsenal's head of medical Gary O'Driscoll was all set to leave for Liverpool, but as reported by the amazing David Ornstein, 'Impassioned pleas by technical director Edu and head coach Mikel Arteta, in particular, helped convince the former Ireland rugby union medic not to leave.'
Yet another instance of Arteta's persuasion power.
The league was cancelled immediately after Arteta contracted the virus. In this time, teams were suffering from the financial repercussions of COVID.
As soon as Arteta made his recovery, he got back to working and after an unsuccessful attempt by the club to get players to take wage cuts, Arteta stepped in and got the job done. We still remain the only Premier League club to get almost the entire squad agreeing to take a cut. I think this is testament to how good Arteta is at convincing people.
Today Arteta has come out and stated that he feels positive about Aubameyang’s contractual situation. While words from the head coach may be anecdotal, past evidence in the little while Arteta's been here suggests that he might have truly done it again.
The wage amount is only one part of it. The other aspect is the ambition of the club and how the coach sells a project. A lot of players have left in the past not because we weren't winning but because they felt we did not have ambition.
Arteta seems to have a really clear idea and comes across as a fantastic communicator. He's done it before and personally I think he will do it again - not only in terms of getting players to sign contracts, but also getting players to join us.