Mikel Arteta may be in his first job as a manager at Arsenal – but he has repeatedly shown he’s not afraid to be tough with his players.
A number of Arsenal players have found themselves out of the side and challenged by their new manager since the former Manchester City coach replaced Unai Emery in the dugout.
We’ve taken a look at seven players Arteta has laid down the law to.
Aubameyang was brilliant for Arsenal at his best – the highlight of his time in north London being the two goals in the FA Cup semi-final and two in the final on the way to lifting the trophy in 2020.
But after signing a massive new deal that summer his form fell off a cliff and rumours of tardiness and indiscipline started to spread.
In March 2021, Aubameyang was dropped from the Gunners squad to face Tottenham for unspecified ‘disciplinary reasons’. But it all came to a head in December 2021, when Aubameyang reportedly returned late from an authorised trip to France.
Arteta was furious, dropped the Gabon international once more and this time there was no return. In January, he moved to Barcelona on a free, taking a considerable pay cut to do so.
Ozil was a wonderful player for Arsenal, but Arteta doesn’t pick players on what they’ve done in the past.
After Arteta’s arrival in December 2019, Ozil only completed 90 minutes in the league for Arsenal once, not featuring at all after the Premier League paused owing to the Covid pandemic.
The following season, he was omitted from the Premier League squad entirely and left for Fenerbahce in January 2021, a loan which became permanent last summer.
There were reports that Ozil was ostracised first because of his refusal to take a pay cut during the pandemic then because of his support for Uyghur Muslims in face of their persecution by the Chinese government. Arsenal denied that was the case.
Maitland-Niles started at right-back in Arteta’s first five matches, but lost his place to Hector Bellerin and was dropped from the squad after turning up late for training.
“It doesn’t bother me what people label me as because I think the management know themselves,” Maitland-Niles told the Daily Telegraph in July 2020.
“OK, I was late, maybe once during this manager’s time. It was a mistake, I spoke to the manager and put my hands up and took the consequences. Since then I haven’t been late.
“It was more of a learning experience and holding myself accountable as a man.”
Yet Maitland-Niles got himself into hot water once again when attempting to force a move to Everton in summer 2021.
He took to Instagram to write: “All I want to do is go where I’m wanted & where I’m going to play @Arsenal.”
Arteta was not impressed and forced Maitland-Niles to train with the reserves for a week. Heaven forbid.
Anyway, Maitland-Niles eventually returned from
hell another pitch at the London Colney training base to the first-team squad. And in January, he found an escape route, moving to Roma on loan.
Under Unai Emery, Martinez served as Arsenal’s goalkeeper in the Europa League, only for Arteta to change that policy and start Bernd Leno in both legs of the knockout tie with Olympiakos (which didn’t exactly go too well).
“I like to play the player that I think is in the best condition for that game,” Arteta said. “If it is Emi, it is Emi. And if it’s Bernd, it’s Bernd.”
The Spaniard added: “I don’t make any difference between goalkeepers, full-back, strikers, attacking midfielders. They are all the same. They are part of the squad.
“We try to make the decision based on who we believe is better to win that competition. Players have to respect that, fight and compete between them.”
An injury to Leno eventually meant that Martinez got a consistent chance, however, and he was an integral part of the run to the 2020 FA Cup.
Yet when Arteta refused to guarantee Martinez the No.1 jersey following Leno’s return, Martinez packed his bags and moved to Aston Villa.
It’s worked out pretty well for all parties to be fair. Arsenal replaced Martinez with the massively popular Aaron Ramsdale, while Martinez has gone on to become Argentina’s first-choice ‘keeper.
Guendouzi was considered one of Arsenal’s best prospects and briefly became a fan favourite for being the all-round b*stard the club had been crying out for.
But that brought the 20-year-old no favourable treatment from Arteta, who dropped him Arsenal’s matchday squad for the 4-0 victory over Newcastle United in February 2020, after being unimpressed by the midfielder’s attitude during a training camp in Dubai over the winter break.
“The reason is that players who, in my opinion, are training better, behaving better and are more applied to deliver on the pitch, what we want, are the players selected,” Arteta told beIN Sports after the game.
Guendouzi was temporarily brought back into the squad but, after refusing to apologise to Arteta and his team-mates following the controversial clash with Brighton, was sent to train by himself.
A loan spell at Hertha Berlin proved rocky, but Guendouzi’s now excelling at Marseille under the equally unhinged Jorge Sampaoli.
A number of midfielders have had to prove themselves to Arteta, and Ceballos was reportedly considering his Arsenal future in January 2020 after meeting with his new boss to discuss his first-team prospects.
When Arteta replaced Emery as manager, Ceballos was back at parent club Real Madrid receiving treatment for an injury.
The next month, Arteta urged Ceballos to “make things difficult for me and my selection”. His message was simple: “He needs to get back to fitness and fight for his place.” Ceballos’ argument that he was fully fit suggests the two parties had different standards.
The midfielder did turn things around and was eventually brought back for another season’s loan by Arteta. But some poor showings in the 2020-21 were not enough to earn him a permanent move.
Lacazette had a tough time in front of goal in the months immediately after Areta joined Arsenal, scoring just four goals in his first 19 appearances under the Spaniard. They’ve had a slightly odd relationship ever since.
Lacazette recovered form to bag 17 goals in 2020-21, finishing the campaign as Arsenal’s top scorer. But in 2021-22, his fortune turned again.
In the last year of his contract and apparently unwilling or unable to agree new terms, Lacazette was benched in favour of Arsenal’s young talent.
Lacazette is in the last six months of his deal now, so is free to negotiate with other clubs. But since Aubameyang was shafted, Lacazette has had more opportunities and has even been handed the captain’s armband.
What’ll happen next? We’ve not a clue. One thing’s for sure, though, he’s joined an odd list of honour by taking on the captaincy.