Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has finally got his team playing the way he wants them to, and the Gunners are closing in on a return to the Champions League as a result. Arsenal face Crystal Palace on Monday night aiming to put a gap between themselves and Manchester United.
Things could have been so different at the Emirates if the Gunners’ board buckled under pressure earlier in Arteta’s reign, however. The former midfielder struggled to stamp his authority on the north London side earlier in his tenure, and was tipped to be fired at one point.
United hero Roy Keane didn’t mince his words when discussing the side, and tore into them after a defeat against Wolves by claiming Arsenal’s players were “soft”. He explained that he didn’t see a way for Arteta to get results with the current cop of players.
Arteta was backed in the summer transfer window to the tune of £150million, with the likes of Martin Odegaard, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale all arriving. Those new arrivals have helped galvanise the Arsenal side, and as a result a return to Europe’s elite competition could be on the cards.
Not long ago, however, Arteta was warned that his side looked too “soft”. Keane said: “You can have an off night, of course, but you still find a way to get a result and at this moment in time I don’t see it with this group of players. They look a bit soft.”
Arteta continued to wield the axe in January, ruthlessly allowing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to leave for nothing despite not having a replacement lined up. The decision was criticised at the time, but Arsenal have kept on winning in his absence, and are now three points clear of arch-rivals Tottenham with a game in hand.