SINGAPORE — Mikel Arteta's first English Premier League (EPL) match as manager of Arsenal was in a 1-1 draw against Bournemouth on Boxing Day 2019.
Last Saturday (21 August), he led the Gunners out to face the same opponents again, and this time they came out 3-0 winners for their third consecutive league victory to start the EPL season.
And here's a fun fact, of the line-up trotted out by Arteta on Saturday, only two players were on his first squad against Bournemouth three years ago - Granit Xhaka and Bukayo Saka. (A third Gunner, goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, is now playing for Bournemouth.)
This fact illustrates the dramatic extent of how the Spanish manager has transformed Arsenal from perennial underachievers into a youthful and vibrant squad that could be dark horses for the league title this season.
Singapore Gunner fan Eric Ong said during Yahoo News Singapore's "Footballing Weekly" show this week that the whole club - the players, the management and the supporters - went through a tough period as the squad were beset with poor results and deep uncertainties amid the rebuilding.
What kept the Arsenal faithful was this simple line, "Trust the process."
"If you've got players in their 20s on good contracts, living comfortable lives in London, but not performing well, it's going to be hard to shift them because of their big contracts," Ong said.
"And when you know that they're unwanted goods. So we literally had to pay our players to leave the club. People say, 'Why are you doing this? Why are you wasting money?' But there was an investment because these players were not the kind of players that Arteta wants in terms of club culture.
"So what we have right now is a group of hungry players who buy into this culture. There's passion, there's the energy and these are complemented by a couple of senior players."
How far Arsenal can go with this youthful squad is still anyone's guess. But things are finally looking bright for the long-suffering Gunners fans this season.
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