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The game that saved Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal

How a win on Boxing Day in 2020 made it all possible for Mikel Arteta at Arsenal.

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How Arsenal’s 3-1 victory over Chelsea on Boxing Day 2020 potentially saved Mikel Arteta’s job and highlighted the formula for Arsenal’s recent success.

Prior to this boxing Day clash Arsenal sat in fifteenth place after fourteen games, massing only fourteen points in that time. With pressure ramping up on FA Cup winning manager Mikel Arteta from both the media and the fans his time as Arsenal manager appeared, even to the most optimistic fans, limited.  

The team lacked goals and creativity with senior players such as club record signing Nicolas Pépé and club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang misfiring. A fresh spark was needed in the struggling side.  

In contrast to previous league games in the 20-21 season, Arsenal lined up with Hale End graduate Emile Smith-Rowe and a newly returned Gabriel Martinelli. This was the first occasion when all three of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli started a game together.  

This action truly personified the Arsenal we are seeing today. A trust in hungry youthful players with a desire to win. This was the game that established a team that began to resemble Arteta’s vision. This is highlighted by the gunners amassing forty-seven points in their remaining premier league games, more than the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool. This left the gunners in eighth place at the end of the season, which on paper is disappointing but considering the position the gunners found themselves in over the first half of the season the turnaround was impressive. 

Without this win it is hard to envision the rest of the season going as well as it did. Similarly, it is even harder to imagine a scenario in which Arteta led the gunners into the 2021/22 season.

This means the table topping Arsenal we see today would cease to exist and the makeup of the squad likely be dissimilar depending on a variety of factors including the vision of the next manager. Therefore, young investments such as Martin Odegaard, Ben White, and Aaron Ramsdale may have been dismissed in favour of less risky options and established premier league players.  

This one win may have been the decisive factor on the trajectory of Arsenal Football Club. 

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