Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has praised his side’s ‘achievement’ this season, as he claims that people ‘inside’ the club attempted to ‘hurt’ their progress.
After the high of lifting the FA Cup last season, the current campaign has been a huge disappointment for the north London club, a poor first-half of the season leaving them scrapping just for a place in the maiden Europa Conference League, UEFA’s new third-tier competition.
With both rivals Tottenham and Everton ahead of them in the table, even a seventh-placed finish appears unlikely, although the Gunners can take solace from the fact that since Boxing Day, only Manchester City (57) and Manchester United (45) have picked up more Premier League points than their tally of 44.
Such a turnaround in form – after having gone seven league games without a win in November and early December – has largely been due to a freshening up of the first-team, the likes of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe leading the way after being handed more regular starting berths.
That youthful focus looks to have done the trick, with this improved spell of results perhaps inspiring a greater degree of optimism heading into next season, albeit the club’s exit to Villarreal in the Europa League semi-final’s has unsurprisingly overshadowed a lot of the good work they’ve done of late.
Ahead of a final day clash at home to Brighton on Sunday, the Arsenal boss has praised his side’s ability to keep pushing on, despite people ‘inside’ the club ‘trying to hurt’ them.
“The best thing has been to keep a team, a staff, employees and everybody together,” Arteta said at his pre-match press conference.
“In those circumstances when you are not winning and when there are so many people, some inside and some outside trying to hurt.
“To keep them together and block that and be so strong, I think that is some achievement, as normally when that happens, that cracks and everything falls and it didn’t.”
Asked if those people who were trying to do damage from the inside were still at the club, Arteta added: “No.”
The club’s upturn in results has no doubt coincided with the departures of a number of senior members of the squad in January, the likes of Mesut Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis and Sead Kolasinac (loan) all being shown the door as part of the Spaniard’s ruthless rebuild.
Although it is unclear if these experienced figures were the damaging presence inside the club, there’s no denying that putting an end to the long-running saga involving Ozil, in particular, has helped remove potential unwanted distractions at the club.