Mikel Arteta is fast approaching his Arsenal anniversary.
Initially appointed as head coach in December 2019 – later upgraded to manager – it’s almost two years to the date (since 20/12/2019) the Spaniard returned to north London to take up his first role in management.
And it’s safe to say much has changed in the one year and 11 months since.
Not least the Arsenal first-team squad, as it’s very different to the one Arteta inherited from fellow Spaniard Unai Emery when he took over as the likes of Mesut Ozil, David Luiz, Shkodran Mustafi and Joe Willock have all left permanently.
In shaping the Gunners squad into his vision, Arteta has overseen 12 permanent signings as well as a few loan deals in terms of incomings.
It’s no secret that he was heavily backed in the most recent summer transfer window, bringing in as many as six new faces and spending more money than any Premier League club.
So after spending £142m in the summer, that fee added to the £80.6m spent to bring in Thomas Partey (£45m), Gabriel Magalhaes (£27m), Alex Runarsson (£1.8m) and Pablo Mari (£6.8m) in the previous summer, meaning Arteta has spent £222.6m as Arsenal manager/head coach.
But despite this spending spree, it’s those he inherited that he still trusts the mosts.
As per transfermarkt, the top five most-used players during Arteta’s reign so far has been revealed and it won’t surprise many who makes the list.
Leading the way at the top with 85 appearances across all competitions is Bukayo Saka.
The England international was somewhat of a utility man when Arteta was first appointed, filling it at left-back whilst Kieran Tierney was injured, but is now nailing down a place on the right-wing.
Interestingly, Alexandre Lacazette (80) and Nicolas Pepe (79) are ranked second and third respectively, but how many more appearances the pair make under Arteta remains to be seen.
With his contract expiring at the end of the season, the expectation is that the Frenchman will seek pastures new, whilst Pepe has fallen down the pecking order as Gabriel Martinelli is now ahead of him as an option on the right-wing.
Completing the top five is Granit Xhaka (76) and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (75).
One could argue that the former’s number would be a lot more if not for the knee injury that has kept him out of action since the end of September as it’s clear he is in favour with Arteta.
With regards to players the Spaniard has signed, Thomas Partey is his most used player (44), but Gabriel is close by with 43 appearances.
What this tells us is that whilst Arteta has assembled a core group of players that he trusts, things could look a lot different at the start of next season as key decisions are likely to be made in both transfer windows in 2022.
Lacazette’s contract situation and recent snubs for Pepe indicate they’re the most at risk to no longer be part of Spaniard’s core group for much longer.