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Whatever happens next, Mikel Arteta has a new mandate to lead Arsenal

Gunners four points clear at the top after flying start to the season.

Bukayo Saka of Arsenal scores© Getty Images

Kevin PalmerSunday World

THERE is a very different vibe around Emirates Stadium this season and whatever happens from here, Gunners boss Mikel Arteta has given himself a new mandate to lead.

After so many years of negativity, gloom and an anticipation that failure was imminent, Arteta’s team finally have their fans believing again.

That much was evident as more than a little good fortune with refereeing decisions and a fair injection of willpower carried Arsenal to a 3-2 victory over Liverpool that shone a spotlight on the mood change around the club.

The same story and the same rub of the refereeing decision went Arsenal’s way as they beat Leeds at Elland Road on Sunday.

Roll the clock back to last May and it was hard to imagine an afternoon that saw Liverpool leaving Emirates Stadium bemoaning their misfortune.

After blowing their chance of a top four finish in the final week of the season, Arteta’s credibility rating among Arsenal fans was on par with that of beleaguered British Prime Minister Liz Truss.

The ‘Trust The Process’ mantra Arteta has promoted since he was ushered in as manager in December 2019 no longer had any backers, but that was before he changed the mentality of his dressing room.

Arteta’s old boss Pep Guardiola can take some of the credit for Arsenal’s unexpected revival as his decision to allow Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko to join the Gunners has proved to be crucial.

Not only are they fine players, they also have a winning focus that is inspiring those around them and Arteta believes that has been crucial.

“These two player players have been inspired by top players, top professionals, ruthless winners for many years,” says Arteta.

“When they came to us, the role they took on was different. Now it’s their turn to do the same and inspire those younger players in our squad to do the same and to show them what it takes to win.

“I have seen it every day since they arrived. The younger players look at the level of detail, hunger and dedication that you need to keep winning from Gabi and Oleksandr. It has inspired them.

“I also sense something different with the fans and the atmosphere at our home games this season has been incredible.

“This cannot be the end, of course, We need to keep giving the fans more reasons to be even more present and more supportive of the team.

“But at the moment, we cannot ask anything of them. The atmosphere they’re creating every time we play for them is fantastic and we want to continue.”

Coming back from the cliff edge Arteta has found himself staring over on several occasions as Arsenal boss is an example of what is possible if a club stays loyal to a manager they believe in.

Arteta admitted in the compelling Amazon Prime documentary on the challenging 2021/22 season he was gripped by self-doubt as to whether he could get the club back to where they were in Arsene Wenger’s glory days in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

And while they are a long way from that title winning form yet, Arsenal’s fans now have hope.

Arteta has flattened that curve of decline and turned it in an upward direction, but he insists the building blocks of progress need to be the foundations for long-term success.

“I’m very conscious that we can get much better than where we are today,” he continues.

“We have to do better to be a team that wants to win and the challenge now is to do that every three days.”

Arsenal are now 5/1 second favourites to win the Premier League title, they are 1/8 to seal a top four finish this season and 10/11 to secure a top two finish.

They are mid-October odds few would have imagined when this season got underway, with defender William Saliba an example of Arteta’s ethos shining through.

The Spanish tactician’s eagerness to embrace youthful talent and mould it into stars is a risky policy always likely to lead to initial setbacks.

That was the story for Arteta with too many players in recent years, but this is the season when his young guns have finally started to fire consistently and in 21-year-old Saliba, he has polished a gem that has been waiting to sparkle in the Premier League.

The French centre-back has been at Arsenal since 2019 and was sent back to France on loan to develop his game until Arteta believed he was ready.

By handing him a starting role in his team on the opening day of the season against Crystal Palace, Arteta confirmed Saliba was one for this campaign.

And he has been rewarded with performances that have seen some analysts compare the elegant and speedy centre-back to Manchester United and England great Rio Ferdinand.

Arteta’s decision to make Martin Odegaard his youthful captain has also been a success and after a couple of seasons of seeing his key decisions backfiring, they are now reaping handsome rewards.

Drawing conclusions on a Premier League season after nine games is unwise, but those matches have replenished Arteta’s credit with the fans.

Now comes the next step of cashing in on the momentum Arsenal have created

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