Interview

Arteta on a season of positives, and summer aims

Mikel Arteta in Dubai

With the 2022/23 season in its final few days, Mikel Arteta has been reflecting on a campaign filled with huge positives, and assessing what needs to happen over the summer.

Despite a tough few weeks that ultimately saw Manchester City overhaul us at the top of the table to win their third title in succession, Mikel has been analysing the whole season and feels that the phenomenal progress we have made on and off the pitch is something he didn’t fully expect when we kicked off against Crystal Palace back in August.

He believes achieving our pre-season goal of a top-four return with over a month of the season to spare was a huge highlight, as was watching our youthful side improve as players and as a team, but he still can’t yet shrug off the regret of not quite stopping his former club from getting their hands on the trophy once again.

Weighing up the last 10 months, he said: “We have achieved reaching the Champions League with five or six games to go and we’ve finished second. I think we have developed a lot of players and taken them to a very different stage of their careers and they have contributed to the team exceptionally well. We have created and developed a huge relationship with our fanbase and created something special around the team. 

“So if I look at it that way, there are a lot of positives to take from the season, probably more than was expected with the capacity, ability and resources the team had. But, as well we spent 248 days on top of the Premier League, and at the end, we didn’t have enough, or show enough, to win it. 

“We tried our best, and we made some mistakes that have cost us, but the reality is there’s a team that you have to congratulate, and that’s Manchester City as well as Pep and the coaching staff. Throughout 38 games they’ve been more consistent and when that happens, you have to shake hands, say congratulations, take a lot of the things that you’ve done well over the season, keep them and learn from the others that need to change or improve to get to another level.”

Mikel Arteta holds a team talk during the game against Manchester City

When asked where he felt the key turning point was, Mikel quickly suggested the four-game spell at the start of April which saw us draw against Liverpool, West Ham United and Southampton in succession, which mean we headed to the Etihad Stadium for a crunch game between the top two sides in the country out of form.

Our lead was trimmed further following the 4-1 loss against a red-hot City side brimming with confidence. The boss feels that if we were to become champions, we had to beat our nearest rivals in our two league meetings, which may have caused the momentum to swing in our favour.

Looking back on that period, Arteta said: “When you are 2-0 up at Anfield and you draw the game in the 90th minute, and then you got West Ham and you’re 2-0 up after 20 minutes, enjoying complete domination and miss a penalty - you have to win that game. Then you have Southampton and you basically give them two goals and you have to climb a mountain. We could have won it at the end but drew 3–3, so the fourth game against City becomes crucial.

“To be fair, they were much better than us. They raised the level like they did against Real Madrid the other day, and when they play at that level, it’s like ‘wow’. We could not reach it. That psychologically paid a big price on the team.

“Looking back, even if we’d won at Anfield and against West Ham and Southampton, we could still have finished second. In the end, you have to beat them when you go toe-to-toe with them because that’s 12 points - six more that we would have than them, and they’d have six less.”

Mikel Arteta during the game against Newcastle

Following Sunday’s concluding game against Wolves, attention will turn to how we can improve the squad over the summer months, as we attempt to once again be challengers at the top of the table. That challenge is something that Mikel is already relishing as he aims to build on the experiences he has gained from the 2022/23 season.

“I think we are in a moment of our journey where we have built a lot,” he added. “We have a great foundation and we have become really competitive, but now I think it is time to press the reset button, and go again. 

“We have to be faster, more determined and ruthless because the dimension that opens up now is bigger but the margins are really small so we have to be really smart.”

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