Those words have been written in many articles about Mikel Arteta since he arrived at the club, but what exactly do they mean?
Dating back to when Arsene Wenger was in charge, the sense of comfort around the first team squad was something that many of the players at the time would certainly not lament.
How do you build a winning team and create a squad full of players who are all singing from the same hymn sheet? Towards the end of 2020, those hymns weren’t being sung by every player who was turning up to London Colney training ground every morning.
“The first thing was to make those changes in terms of our culture, how we live together, some of the behaviours that I expect from players and staff and some of the values that we have to have at this club,” said Arteta in January.
“I think we changed the energy at this club. I think we brought the team and the fans together, which wasn’t an easy thing to do. And then, on the playing side, I think we are starting to see some signs of how I want the team to play, how I want it to behave, and the type of passion and commitment that the players have to show under me.”
The January transfer window proved fruitful for Arsenal in terms of completing part of the squad overhaul which is set to continue this summer. Mesut Ozil, Sead Kolasinac and Shkodran Mustafi were the players the Gunners desperately wanted to leave, whilst Sokratis Papastathopoulos came to an amicable mutual termination of his contract, drawing praise from both Arteta and technical director Edu for the professionalism he showed throughout.
BILD reported earlier in the week that there was a ‘player revolt’ against Schalke manager Christian Gross, with Kolasinac, Mustafi and Klass-Jan Huntelaar named as the players involved.
“I wouldn’t get the same players again in winter,” Gross told Blick after being asked what he was do differently following his dismissal.
“They [Kolasinac and Mustafi] would also not have been available for Schalke if they had played often.”
The reported player revolt at Schalke is deeper than a few first team stars unhappy at the club’s stagnating and likely relegation to Bundesliga 2. It requires deeper analysis than just that, but it is symptomatic of modern football and once again shows how much power players currently have.
It’s a facet that Arteta doesn’t want in his squad and the Spaniard will do everything to limit the possibility of players having more influence than staff. With the cliques gone, there is finally a chance to build a long-term project and establish the identity that the Arsenal manager wants to create.
“Without an identity, you cannot plan and you cannot convince a player to do what you want,” Arteta told Sky Sports last January.
“How do you recruit a player if you don’t really know what it is that you are trying to do? How do you convince a player of the way you want to play if you don’t have clarity yourself over why you want to do it?
“That is the first thing, I think. You have to say, ‘This is the direction and this is what we want to do.’ Then you have to convince the players and get them on board with what you are doing, and after that you can start to build. But the identity is the foundation for everything.”
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The foundations are in place, the process is continuing and the playing squad will eventually take the shape Arteta wants.
Whilst there is still plenty of games to go until the end of the season, the signs so far are positive and the reason for optimism is starting to be seen with improved results on the pitch.