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Friday cannon fodder: Mikel the miracle worker?

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Arsenal FC v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Now I know what you’re saying. “David, you’re getting a little too ahead of yourself here” but I just won’t have it. Mikel Arteta is a miracle worker. I am sure of it. He’s turned water into wine in just a couple matches, and I am drunker than a skunk and I don’t care who knows it.

A week and a half ago Arsenal couldn’t fluke their way to a win if they tried, Granit Xhaka wanted to leave Arsenal for Hertha Berlin, a respectable club but a club that is nowhere near Arsenal’s pedigree, just to get away. There were circulating rumors of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s unhappiness and willingness to leave Arsenal for a more competitive club to finish out his esteemed career, while Lucas Torreira’s agent went public with the idea that it might be in his clients best career interests to force a move out of North London. It was a complete and utter mess.

A week later, Arsenal were 7 minutes away from securing 6 points from matches against Chelsea and Manchester United. Mikel Arteta’s men look like completely new players, somehow injected with life and energy in the most tumultuous period of the season. Arteta also stated in a press conference that he believes that Xhaka is staying, convincing the Swiss international that despite the fallout with fans and lost captaincy, that Arsenal was where he could be best utilized. Aubameyang has come out and squashed the rumours that he wanted out, putting the cherry on top a wild couple of days sundae at Arsenal. Lucas Torreira has become a new man under Arteta at his preferred defensive midfielder position and his ‘till-the-death attitude has reinvigorated a disoriented midfield that now looks not only competent but even dangerous.

Not only has Arteta settled the players supposedly wanting out, he has improved the players that just a couple weeks ago, it felt like Arsenal were felt “stuck with.” David Luiz has all of a sudden become a reliable rock to build upon at the back. Sokratis scored the clincher against Manchester United while also delivering an assured and confident defensive performance after coming back from a concussion. The two were interviewed after the Manchester United match and couldn’t say enough good things about Arteta, or stop taking veiled shots at Unai Emery. Arsenal’s two veteran leaders in the back seem to be empowered and confident when the club need them most.

Mesut Ozil has become the straw that stirs the attacking drink over the past couple of matches. Not only are his passes in the final third / build up crucial, but his pressing and overall effort has been something that I haven’t seen him do in a long time.

Those players have been amazing, but no other player has made more strides during the short Arteta era than Ainsley Maitland-Niles. He’s a jack-of-all trades, master of none, but he’s been arguably the best player for Arsenal over the past few matches. Arteta has allowed the want-to-be midfielder an opportunity to step into midfield while still lining up as a fullback. The past two matches Maitland-Niles has faced down Willian, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial, arguably some of the most dangerous and devastating wingers in the Premier League, and has come away the victor in every match up. Think back to a few months ago — if I had told you that, would you have believed me?

Arteta has handled the delicate Nicolas Pepe situation in a way that deserves a tip-of-the-cap. Starting him in arguably the most important game of the season after claiming he needed to show something was a bold move. But Pepe’s masterful performance rewarded the vote of confidence and makes Arteta look even more the genius.

I could go on and on, and that’s the point. In just a few weeks, this looks and feels like a new club. I honestly was preparing for the worst a couple of weeks ago. But the new manager bounce that we all were looking for has seemed to catch, and it looks like Arsenal are a side that is dangerous. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s a new year, a new manager, and it feels like a brand new Arsenal. Arteta’s Arsenal. I couldn’t be happier.

What has been your favorite thing about Arteta’s Arsenal? I’m sure I missed a few.