Exclusive: Arsenal legend reveals two key decisions that transformed Mikel Arteta’s Gunners reign

Kevin Palmer
Arsenal legend Ray Parlour gets a picture with a fan
Ray Parlour gets a picture with a fan

Ray Parlour believes Mikel Arteta rolled the dice at Arsenal when he demanded the removal of two big-name stars who challenged his authority – and now he is reaping the rewards.

Former Arsenal midfielder Parlour told Football365 that the defining moment of Arteta’s reign as Arsenal manager came long before this season’s sustained Premier League title challenge, with his decision to remove Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil from his squad paving the way for the progress of the last couple of years.

Aubameyang and Ozil were the club’s biggest earning and highest-profile stars at the start of Arteta’s time as Gunners boss and he put his own future on the line when he told club officials they had to go, as he had a vision to build a young and vibrant team that is singing to his tune.

Speaking at NetBet Sports Betting event, Parlour backed Arteta to build an Arsenal dynasty comparable to that of his former manager Arsene Wenger, who was the last manager to guide the Gunners to the Premier League title after his team went through the entire 2003-04 season unbeaten.

“I look back to Arteta’s decision to get rid of Aubameyang and Ozil and that was vital to what Arsenal are doing now,” said Parlour, who was part of the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ side from 21 years ago.

“It was brave to do what he did, a tough decision. Guys like Aubameyang and Ozil would have been very powerful voices in the dressing room, I should imagine, but he set his stall out.

“He knew the young players would have been looking up the experienced guys and if they were not following the rules, what chance would Arteta have with that?

“When I was a player, the manager dictated everything, but now it is the players who are in control of a lot more and that makes it difficult for the guy calling the shots from the touchline.

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“The players are all on big money, long contracts, their families are happy where they are and it’s not easy to get rid of a player these days, but it has worked for Arteta after he got Aubameyang and Ozil out of the club.

“Now you look at the team he has and they are young, hungry and he demands so much from them every week. He knows they are going to put the energy in and try their best, whereas in years gone by, some players would throw the towel in at Arsenal.

“Even if they don’t win the league this season, Arteta has a young squad who are growing and the key part will be making sure he keeps all his best players, which isn’t always easy.

“With the age of the team, they could be up there for the next four or five years if they stick together.”

Parlour suspects Manchester City will win their final Premier League matches and pip Arsenal to the title after a thrilling race, but the former midfielder is convinced that Arsenal’s decision to stand by Arteta during a challenging start to his reign will pay off.

“You have to give managers time to put their ideas in place and that’s what Arsenal have done with Arteta,” Parlour added to NetBet.

“I look at Chelsea now and they are saying they might get rid of (Mauricio) Pochettino after one season, but that isn’t how it works. Managers don’t have a magic wand. It takes time.

“There were a lot of people who wanted Arteta out at one point, but they are not saying that now. Changing a manager is not always the answer.

“It’s the same with the owners as they can see something is happening now. I know Josh Kroenke (Arsenal non-executive director) very well and he can see that this manager and this team are getting close to winning the big trophies.

“He is putting his money where his mouth is now and I don’t hear any more ‘Kroenke Out’ chants because the fans can see the owners are backing the club.

“There was this theory that the Kroenke’s were more interested in other projects, but now Josh is much more involved in the running of Arsenal Football Club.

“You can see that everyone was going in different directions and the atmosphere is much better on match days.

“Everything is positive at the moment, but the hardest bit is coming next. Getting over the winning line and winning the Premier League title.”

More: Arsenal | Mikel Arteta | Premier League