7 players Mikel Arteta has got the best out of at Arsenal: Rice, Odegaard…

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London, UK. 3rd Sep, 2023. Declan Rice of Arsenal celebrates at the final whistle with Mikel Arteta manager of Arsenal during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London.

You needn’t look further for proof of Mikel Arteta’s quality as a coach than the number of players that he’s got the best out of at Arsenal. 

From rough diamonds to high-profile players, the 41-year-old tactician has demonstrated a knack for improving footballers.

Here are seven players who have produced their best football while turning out for Arteta’s Arsenal.

Declan Rice

A controversial shout, perhaps, given that Rice was already pretty exceptional for West Ham. He captained them to European silverware and Arsenal wouldn’t have spent £100million on his signature had he not already proven he was special.

It’s early days for the England international at Arsenal but it seems pretty clear that he’s already taken his game up another level working under Arteta. Don’t believe us? Ask the man himself.

“In the last four weeks, I’ve grown so much already and learned so much about football that I hadn’t seen before,” Rice told TNT Sports.

“I’m honestly seeing the game in a completely different way already. Tactically, on the ball, off the ball. I’m happy to know I’m learning so much because I’m trying to push myself to learn. Since the Community Shield, I feel I’ve taken a big step; everything is starting to click.

“I was blown away [by Arteta]; and working with him day-to-day, it’s just another level.

“Seeing how he works, how his mind operates, picking up stuff, seeing how he goes into detail on the opposition, and how he wants to improve us as players, individually and collectively, is really impressive.

“It’s just the finer details of what he goes into, so there are no excuses on matchday. You can’t say, ‘we’ve not worked on this or that’. You’re given everything and it’s literally down to you to go and perform. The finer details you go into are on another level, and I’ve never seen that before.”

Granit Xhaka

The Switzerland international was signed by Arsene Wenger and given the captain’s armband by Unai Emery, but it wasn’t until Arteta arrived that he found consistency. Xhaka had his moments in his early years at Arsenal but he was also a frustrating figure and there was definitely a point at which the fans would have been glad to see the back of him.

The 2022-23 campaign was by some distance the best of Xhaka’s career. He was a capable and reliable leader in the centre of the park for the best Arsenal team in god knows how long.

Admittedly Xabi Alonso is now also seeing the best of Xhaka as the lynchpin of Bayer Leverkusen’s midfield. The 31-year-old has been one of the standout players in the Bundesliga this season, although you feel that he might not have reached these heights had he not honed his craft under Arteta.

Martin Odegaard

“As a manager, working with Martin the person and the player is an absolute joy, and it’s great that after experiencing a number of clubs already in his career, he is now settled and really feels at home at Arsenal,” Arteta said after his club contract signed a new contract.

“We all look forward to continuing our journey with Martin in the years to come.”

The poster boy for the project that Arteta is building at the Emirates, Odegaard has finally found a home. He spent six years on Real Madrid’s books but never really got an opportunity to break through into the first team, and instead could only show his quality in loans at Vitesse and Real Sociedad.

Gabriel Jesus

The Brazilian won four Premier League titles and scored 95 goals during his five-and-a-half seasons with Manchester City, so you might quibble with him being picked here. He was good, and occasionally great, for City – but you were always left with the feeling he was just a cog in Pep Guardiola’s well-oiled machine.

Jesus cites Arteta as the key reason he joined Arsenal, having worked closely with the Spanish coach while he was an assistant to Guardiola at City. 

He’s struggled with periods on the sidelines and hasn’t been especially prolific, but when he’s fit and firing he looks like a superstar for Arsenal as opposed to ‘just another player’ at City. Arsenal are at their best with Jesus leading the line – and his show-stealing display against Sevilla in the Champions League hinted at a player that might yet find new levels.

READ: Is that you, Thierry? Gabriel Jesus sent Sergio Ramos back to 2006 with his Sevilla masterclass

William Saliba

It’s funny to think now that there were once question marks over Saliba’s future at Arsenal and his relationship with Arteta. The prodigiously talented defender had to bide his time for opportunities, but now he’s flying.

The France international’s performances out on loan in France at Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille suggested that Arsenal had a diamond on their hands, and sure enough he’s now realising that potential at a side that can now be considered among Europe’s elite. He has a genuine claim as the Premier League’s best centre-back.

In the summer he signed a new four-year deal to commit his future to 2027 and looks a key pillar of everything Arteta and Edu are building. Trust the process.

Aaron Ramsdale

“I don’t think I’m the one to ask the quality of Aaron Ramsdale, because I was the one that I brought him when everyone was questioning that decision,” Arteta hit back at reporters when they asked why he was dropped for David Raya.

To be fair, Arteta had a point. Ramsdale had looked a promising young ‘keeper amid the back-to-back relegations he suffered with Bournemouth and Sheffield United, but Arsenal’s decision to sign him in the summer of 2021 was widely derided at the time.

Few saw Ramsdale as a ‘keeper worthy of a side challenging for the title, but that’s exactly what he’s developed into. He might be struggling for game time at this moment in time, but he did a lot to silence his critics when turning out for Arteta’s Gunners.

Leandro Trossard

The Belgian winger is yet to establish himself as a surefire starter at Arsenal, but he’s been the perfect squad addition. Despite often featuring off the bench, Trossard notched 10 Premier League assists in the latter half of the 2022-23 title chase.

Trossard averages a goal or assist every 89 minutes for Arteta’s Arsenal. Under Roberto De Zerbi he averaged a goal contribution every 142 minutes, while under Graham Potter that rate of return was a goal contribution every 236 minutes.


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