Mikel Arteta is high, very high, on his Arsenal team and the Spanish coach believes they are on the cusp of a breakout period.
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Arsenal currently sits 10th in the Premier League table, 12 points off the top four, and are in the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League.
Speaking ahead of their clash against Olympiakos, Arteta was bullish on where his team is heading.
“I think this project is going to go ‘bang’,” Arteta said. “This is where we are, but sometimes it is difficult to see the moment now but I’m sure where we are going. We have created a really strong group, a really strong bond with our players, with our fans, with our staff and that is going to pay big in the future.
“You need to win to convince anybody that you are doing a good job in the club and taking them in the right direction. If you are not inside the club every day and know exactly what is going on within the club, the only way to convince anybody is to win.”
What is a realistic target for Arsenal?
Arteta’s rallying cry is needed and comes at the perfect time.
He has always been really good at reading the room and praising his players when he has to, while also criticizing when it is necessary. This praise and positivity has come before their crucial Europa League tie and a north London derby against Tottenham this weekend.
Winning the FA Cup and Community Shield last summer bought Arteta plenty of time with the Arsenal fans and the hierarchy, but the young coach knows he has to kick on at the end of this season and the 2021-22 season needs to be one where they make a sustained push for the top four.
That is an achievable, realistic target for Arsenal. They should be where Leicester, West Ham and Tottenham are, pushing for the top four, but silly mistakes have cost them dear throughout this season and Arteta is still fine-tuning his squad and his playing philosophy appears quite clear after 15 months in charge.
Success in the Europa League, which is very possible, would salvage this season and Arsenal are very much a ‘cup team’ right now under Arteta. On certain days they turn up and look like world beaters, on others they look the complete opposite.
That, in short, is what Arteta is trying to say. This young team, headlined by Bukayo Saka, Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe, is still finding its feet as experienced players like Thomas Partey, Bernd Leno and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang help them along the way.
Arsenal are nowhere near the finished article and Arteta has shown enough, even in this disappointing league season, to be the man who gets to smile when this young team explodes into a consistent force.