Mikel Arteta has made a huge impact on the Arsenal dressing room since taking over from Unai Emery two years ago, with the Spaniard not shy to ruffle stars’ feathers
Mikel Arteta is approaching his two-year anniversary as Arsenal manager and he has certainly made an impact during that time.
The 39-year-old is in his first managerial role, and while he may therefore lack experience, he can’t be accused of lacking decisiveness in his man-management.
Players know what is expected of them, with Arteta frequently enforcing his “non-negotiables” across the board.
Plenty of his players have fallen foul of his strict rules, meaning he has had to dish out a fair amount of punishment over the past two years.
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Here are seven examples of Arteta’s ruthless streak.
The most recent and most high-profile case of Arteta laying down the law.
The 32-year-old has been skipper during Arteta’s entire spell in charge, having been handed the role by previous boss Unai Emery.
But that has all changed, with Arteta making an example out of Aubameyang and switching the captaincy to a “leadership group” led by Alexandre Lacazette.
“We expect all our players, particularly our captain, to work to the rules and standards we have all set and agreed,” the club said in a blunt statement .
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Many pundits were confused by Arsenal’s £24million move for Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale in the summer.
Bernd Leno had been the undisputed No 1 goalkeeper for three seasons and was not considered to be a particular weakness of the side.
Yet Arteta pushed for Ramsdale’s signing anyway and has not been phased by Leno’s unhappiness with playing second fiddle.
“I had a very clear conversation with him 48 hours before I was going to make the decision,” Arteta said in early October after dropping Leno. “Obviously any conversation I have with him is completely private and I’m not going to speak with any media about it.”
There have been rumblings of Leno pushing for an exit, but Arteta’s decision to back Ramsdale certainly seems to have been vindicated.
The original Arsenal saga. Ozil’s form fell off a cliff after he signed the infamous £350,000 per year contract in January 2018.
Despite his impressive legacy at Arsenal as the club’s most creative player, and despite the huge amount of money the club were paying him, Arteta opted to freeze him out.
The German midfielder was frozen out of the first-team set-up and left out of the Europa League and Premier League playing squads for the 2020/21 season.
Arteta stuck to his guns and the situation was eventually resolved when Arsenal offloaded Ozil to Fenerbahce in January 2021.
Guendouzi is a very talented young midfielder, but Arteta grew tired with his emotional immaturity and recklessness.
The Frenchman is currently out of loan at Marseille and, despite impressive performances , appears unlikely to reignite his Arsenal career any time soon.
That is because of Arteta’s obsession with exemplary behaviour on and off the pitch.
Guendouzi was involved in a heated incident with Brighton striker Neal Maupay in June 2020, in which he was seen grabbing his throat in a scrap after the final whistle.
There were also two incidents during a mid-season warm weather training camp in Dubai in February of the same year, with Guendouzi reprimanded for a training ground altercation with a team-mate and for his behaviour at an external event.
Arsenal’s need for a central midfielder was clear in the summer, but rather than keeping Guendouzi, Arteta opted to loan him out and sign Albert Sambi Lokonga.
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“All I wanna do is go where I’m wanted and where I’m gonna play,” Maitland-Niles wrote on Instagram late in the summer transfer window. He did not get his wish.
Arteta reacted not by selling him, but by excluding him from first-team training .
Maitland-Niles had spent the previous season on loan with West Brom and was desperate for more game time.
The 24-year-old has not got his wish, playing just 474 minutes across 11 appearances this season, just four of which have been starts.
Arteta’s treatment of Maitland-Niles is yet to bear fruit – and they still might let him leave – but it is another example of the manager’s ruthlessness.
Pepe is Arsenal’s record signing, having cost £72m from Lille in August 2019, but that status does not prevent him from Arteta’s sharp tongue.
The Ivory Coast international was sent off during a goalless draw against Leeds in November 2019 and Arteta did not hold back.
A furious Gunners boss described Pepe’s red card as “unacceptable” before piling on more criticism.
“With 10 men it is a big disadvantage,” he said. “I really liked the personality of the team when Pepe let the team down, how we stuck to do what we had to do and had a moment or two to win the game, but obviously it makes it really difficult.”
Pepe’s status with the side appears to have suffered ever since, with just five starts in the Premier League this season.
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Former Chelsea defender Luiz made a decent impression over 18 months at Arsenal, but when his contract was coming to an end there was no room for sentiment.
Arteta refused to sanction an extension for the Brazilian centre-back and instead sent him packing over the summer.
“He’s given his best, I tried to help him as much as I possibly could, and the club did as well,” he said in May. “After some conversations, we decided it’s the best way to do it now.”
The 34-year-old was cast off and after struggling to find a new club, he is now playing for Flamengo in his native country.