From the minute he walked in the door, it was clear Mikel Arteta had big ambitions for Arsenal.
His first step was tackling the culture of indiscipline that had effectively seen off his two predecessors, but the Spaniard’s lofty aims did not stop there. Although he turned out to be a disastrous signing, Willian gave an insight into what these were.
“When I talked with the manager he told me why he needed me for three years,” said the Brazilian when describing Arteta‘s pitch to convince him to come to north London from Chelsea.
“He first wanted to qualify for the Champions League and win it by the time I left. That’s what I wanted to hear.”
While the Spaniard may be a little behind schedule at the minute it seems that he is on course to get his side back into the Premier League’s top four this season.
But what about when it comes to actually winning the trophy?
Stick with the youth
Emile Smith Rowe has probably been the standout player, carrying on his excellent form from his debut campaign of regular senior football last season, while Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have also continued to impress.
It is perhaps this that is most exciting about the current Gunners squad. Take the back four and goalkeeper for example. Aaron Ramsdale, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel and Kieran Tierney have all been excellent this season and the fact that they are all aged 24 and under leaves fans salivating about what’s to come in the next few years.
There have been times this season, though, where it appeared maybe Arteta opted to go for the more predictable experienced option instead.
In the 3-2 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, the Spaniard opted to go for Mohamed Elneny in the middle of the park even though the talented 22-year-old Albert Sambi Lokonga had excelled against Newcastle the game before.
If lapses like this can be avoided then Arsenal will surely continue on their upward trajectory.
Arsenal’s attack has been pretty scintillating in recent weeks. In December they scored 22 times across seven games in all competitions.
But if there’s one thing that is missing it is that perfect centre forward for the football Arteta wants to play.
Ideally, the Spaniard would like a number nine who can drop deep and link the play before showing the mobility to get forward and get on the end of chances that the wide players create. Despite currently having five senior centre forwards on his books though, it appears he does not have that yet.
The closest option is probably Alexandre Lacazette, although the Frenchman looks set to leave when his contract expires in the summer. The same is true of Eddie Nketiah while Flo Balogun is not yet ready to be relied upon week-in-week-out.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was expected to be around until the end of his contract next season, but after being exiled following his removal as the club captain it appears he could be leaving sooner rather than later too.
That would leave Arsenal needing to sign a centre forward. Dusan Vlahovic, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Jonathan David have all been linked and given the age profile of all of those players, you get the feeling the Gunners intend to invest big for the long-term in the centre forward position as they did with pretty much all their signings last summer.
Getting it right will be crucial for Arteta, as challenging for the Premier League is going to be a heck of a lot harder without a reliable number nine.
Pick a long-term captain
With Aubameyang removed from the role there is now something of a vacuum when it comes to obvious candidates to take over as captain at the Emirates Stadium right now.
Lacazette has assumed the responsibility and is part of a leadership group with Rob Holding and Granit Xhaka, although none of this trio are likely to be around for the entirety of Arteta’s project, due to age and playing time.
Martin Odegaard, Aaron Ramsdale, Kieran Tierney and Gabriel have all been put forward as contenders and it will be fascinating to see who is selected.
Invest in the midfield
Perhaps the most exciting thing about Arsenal’s defeat to Manchester City was that, until Gabriel’s red card, the Gunners won the midfield battle against what is probably the best team in the world in that area of the pitch.
Granit Xhaka has been essential to getting the best out of the Ghanaian, while Lokonga has impressed as previously mentioned, but you feel that if the Gunners are going to compete for the very top honours then they will need a little more in the middle of the park to keep pushing the Premier League’s big boys.
Youngster Charlie Patino could be of assistance here, but at 18-years-of-age it would be a lot to ask of the youngster to be regularly involved in senior games right now.
External recruitment could therefore hold the keys to Arsenal’s route back up to the top of the table. Renato Sanches, Bruno Guimaraes and Mattias Svanberg have all been linked, and getting this move right will be essential for Edu if he wants to deliver on Arteta’s aims.