Mikel Arteta says Arsenal had ‘lost its soul’ before he turned them into title contenders

Mikel Arteta has revealed his pride at having restored Arsenal’s identity after claiming the club had ‘lost its soul’ before he returned as manager.

Arteta’s side pushed Manchester City to the final few weeks of the 2022-23 Premier League season after leading an unexpected title challenge.

The Gunners fell agonisingly short after a poor run of form in the latter stages of the campaign, but their improvement has seen Arteta receive huge praise.

The Spaniard has been credited with turning around the Gunners’ fortunes, with the second place finish seeing the club secure a return to the Champions League for the first time in seven years.

Arteta was asked by Spanish newspaper Marca about Arsenal’s revival under his management in an extensive interview.

Mikel Arteta claims restoring Arsenal's identity was key to their revival under his management

Mikel Arteta claims restoring Arsenal’s identity was key to their revival under his management

Arteta observed that Arsenal had 'lost its soul' when he worked for Man City as an assistant

Arteta observed that Arsenal had ‘lost its soul’ when he worked for Man City as an assistant

The Arsenal boss highlighted the importance of restoring a connection with the team and fans

The Arsenal boss highlighted the importance of restoring a connection with the team and fans

The former Gunners midfielder admitted that he had identified key issues at the club while serving as an assistant to Pep Guardiola at Man City.

Arteta highlighted the need to reestablish the connection between the team and its supporters, with the 41-year-old suggesting that the club’s soul had been lost prior to him taking charge in 2019.

‘I was Pep’s assistant at City, we were playing Arsenal and I saw that the soul of the club had been lost,’ Arteta said. ‘There was no enjoyment, no feeling. 

‘I knew there was the option of of soon being in the other dugout and I knew we had to connect the team and the fans. 

‘It was very clear to me. I drew a tree and its roots, and I said that the problem was ours. 

‘We had to cure all that, and cure it with people who were involved. Without that, there would be no fun for the fans. 

‘Now I feel happy, we have a clear identity, there is unity and we are full of energy. 

‘That’s the greatest thing. From top to bottom, everyone is pushing in the same direction. We give the fan something to dream about and be proud of. And now, we have to win more.’

Arteta has declined to discuss Arsenal's ongoing pursuit of West Ham captain Declan Rice

Arteta has declined to discuss Arsenal’s ongoing pursuit of West Ham captain Declan Rice

The Arsenal boss admitted Kai Havertz versatility was among the reasons for their approach

The Arsenal boss admitted Kai Havertz versatility was among the reasons for their approach 

Havertz's likely signing will increase Arteta's attacking options ahead of the new campaign

Havertz’s likely signing will increase Arteta’s attacking options ahead of the new campaign

Arsenal will be seeking to build on their impressive performances last season and challenge again for the title in the upcoming campaign. 

Arteta declined to discuss the club’s ongoing interest in Declan Rice having seen two offers turned down for the West Ham captain, with their latest worth £90million.

The Arsenal manager did reveal the reasons for their interest in Kai Havertz, with the forward expected to complete a £60million move from London rivals Chelsea. 

‘Kai has already shown a lot, including winning a Champions League. He is a talented, versatile player and only 24 years old,’ Arteta said.

‘Talent has a price and, at Arsenal, we are always interested in young players with experience. 

‘Again, I’m not talking about players from other clubs, but, in the case of Kai, he has already shown a lot, including a Champions League. He is a talented, versatile player and he is only 24 years old.’

Havertz will add to an Arsenal attack that includes the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka.

Arteta praised the latter for his ability to win matches despite his young age, with Saka having enjoyed a memorable season for both club and country.

Arteta has hailed the consistency and match winning abilities of Arsenal star Bukayo Saka

Arteta has hailed the consistency and match winning abilities of Arsenal star Bukayo Saka

Saka had a superb season for Arsenal at club level and starred for the England national team

Saka had a superb season for Arsenal at club level and starred for the England national team

Arteta revealed he still calls Man City boss Pep Guardiola despite battling for major honours

Arteta revealed he still calls Man City boss Pep Guardiola despite battling for major honours

The 21-year-old scored 15 goals and provided 11 assists for the Gunners last season, while he netted a first professional hat-trick in England’s 7-0 win over North Macedonia last week. 

Saka, who recently signed a five-year deal to commit his future to Arsenal, was hailed by Arteta for his hunger to improve further. 

‘Saka is very good and very consistent,’ Arteta said. ‘His performance and numbers at the age of 21 are crazy. 

‘He is very hungry, he wants to improve and he has an ideal environment to do it. If I had to pick one thing it would be his ability to win games, and not many have that.’

The Arsenal manager was also quizzed on his relationship with Pep Guardiola, who he previously described as his ‘idol’.

Arteta worked under Guardiola for three years at Man City, before becoming rivals when he moved back to north London to take charge of Arsenal in 2019.

Despite going head-to-head for the Premier League title last season, Arteta admitted that their relationship remains strong.

He claimed that despite the rivalry between the teams and coaches in the dugout, the pair still call each other as their friendship continues.

‘[Our relationship is] very good, three days ago I spoke to Pep,’ Arteta said.

‘But we are both focused on winning and are very competitive. When we are in the ring, we are very focused. 

‘But we are confident enough for that to happen and the next day to call each other and give him a hug. That’s never going to go away.’

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