Arsenal’s season is balanced but the progress is evident

There are some Arsenal supporters who are reserving judgment on this season, and by extension Mikel Arteta, until the Premier League campaign is complete. Within the club, however, the manager’s opinion will not depend on whether Arsenal end up in their current fourth place or fifth or sixth.

Of course, a place in the Champions League is the goal and Arsenal executives know they cannot consistently fight for big trophies until they have re-established themselves in Europe’s premier competition.

But the overall picture at Emirates Stadium is promising and progressive regardless of what happens in the last couple of games this season and the club’s faith in Arteta hasn’t wavered. The phrase “trust the process” has become a cliché, but the fact remains: Arteta’s plan is 100% trusted by its executives and its owners.

The news of Arteta’s contract extension, which ties him to the club until 2025, should be taken as confirmation of this belief in the Spaniard’s methods. It’s also a natural and obvious development following the considerable support the club has given Arteta since its acquisition in December 2019.

Some of Arsenal’s progress this season can be measured by results: last year they finished eighth, this season they are on course to fourth. But it can also be gauged by the mood and sentiment in the Emirates, where the atmosphere has improved dramatically from the pre-Covid period and there is now a real sense of ‘unity’ – one of Arteta’s favorite words – between fans and players.

The youth of the team is also an important factor. Arsenal are the youngest side in the Premier League and there is every reason to believe these players can grow and develop together. Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhães, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli and Aaron Ramsdale are all under the age of 25 and should improve in the coming seasons.

If phase one of Arteta’s magnificent rebuild focused on refreshing the squad and bringing the team back to Europe, then phase two is about taking the club to the ‘next level’ as he puts it. Arsenal want to invest again this summer. Strikers are needed and they can’t afford to make expensive mistakes in the market.

The timing of the announcement speaks volumes for Arsenal’s plans for the transfer window. Your budget will depend on which European competition you reach, but planning is complete.

“The timing is perfect,” said Arsenal technical director Edu. “I really think the message will be a great encouragement to everyone. To the fans, to the club, to the players, to Mikel. It’s important to show everyone where we want to go as a club. We have another big summer ahead of us and it is important to have our manager here.”

In other words, it helps to be able to give certainties and guarantees about the manager’s future on the transfer market.

For all the criticism leveled at Arsenal’s owners and executives in recent years, there is no denying that they have been supportive of Arteta. Not just in the transfer market, where Arsenal spent around £150million last summer, but also in the Spaniard’s various standoffs with high-earning players. You just don’t sanction so many terminations of such important assets without having confidence in the manager’s methods.

The challenge for Arteta is now to repay this trust in the medium term. Finishing in the top four would be a significant achievement for Arsenal in the short term. But this project is bigger than that and the progress they are making is real, whether it takes them to next season’s Champions League or not. (© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Arsenal’s season is balanced but the progress is evident

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