Six rivals and pundits who knew Arteta would transform Arsenal – even when they were 15th

Matt Stead
Cedric Soares, Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho

Arsenal are favourites to win the Premier League title and while it seems easy to praise their exellence in 2023, Jose Mourinho saw it when they were 15th.



What he said: “I decided to join the club because Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the world, and because of the new project with Arteta. I think this club deserves to shine again, and I want to be a part of this project.

“With Arteta, I think Arsenal have a great opportunity to fight again for titles in the Premier League and in Europe. I was at Chelsea for seven years and won everything except the Champions League. Hopefully this move will give me the trophy I haven’t got as well as another Premier League title.”

When he said it: August 2020.

Where Arsenal were: The Gunners had beaten Chelsea in the FA Cup final earlier that month – Willian was injured – to salvage European qualification after a Premier League finish of 8th.


Arsene Wenger

What he said: “I genuinely believe yes [Arteta can challenge for the title], because he looks to have a good grip on the team. They follow well, they are with him.

“We have bought well, spent a lot of money in the last two years. Suddenly we discovered huge resources – that was quite surprising. I think he has the quantity and quality of players, yes we can go for it. Why not?”

When he said: October 2020.

Where Arsenal were: 4th. The Gunners had started the Premier League campaign with three wins and one defeat – to Liverpool – in their opening four games.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Mikel Arteta line up


Tim Cahill

What he said: The key thing is, Arsenal are progressing. There’s an identity, there’s a formula to the way they play. They play out from the back and they’ll keep playing out from the back, and that’s why I think Mikel deserves a lot of praise. They’ve lost a few games but they know why they’ve lost. They finish the game but they’re learning and they’re progressing.”

When he said it: November 2020.

Where Arsenal were: 9th. The Gunners had just beaten Manchester United in the Premier League at Old Trafford for the first time since September 2006 to move within one point of the Champions League places.


Jose Mourinho

What he said: “I want to give words, congratulations to Mikel because he gave us a very difficult game.

“Tactically they are very good, they were very well organised. They gave us problems, problems that we managed to resolve. But I have to say: very good team, very good coach. A team with different ways to play. A team that is able to change during the game. A team that is able to build with four or five, with the centre-backs or with the midfield player dropping. A team with a lot of work.

“I can imagine tomorrow that the headlines will be about them not being in a good position on the table. But I believe with these players, with Mikel, Arsenal will be Arsenal again.”

When he said it: December 2020.

Where Arsenal were: 15th. The Gunners had just been beaten 2-0 by Tottenham in a game which seems like it happened on an alternate timeline.



What he said: “I can see a big, big, big and beautiful future. It’s very strange to say that in this moment, but I have to be fair – that’s the way I see the photo. And I always believed, and knew, it’d be a big challenge.

“We have to be patient. I know asking for patience for Arsenal is very strange because everyone has said that for long, long periods. But I’m here today to give to you guys the word that everything is fine internally but the results aren’t coming, but I think we’re going to change it very soon.

“I think the club needs stability right now, we have faced so many changes. It is not about Edu, Mikel, it is about stability. Now is the time to try and be a stable club in the old sense – externally and internally, we need that. Since we arrived here we have been changing, changing, changing, now is time to be stable and together at the same time.

“The way I see things is very simple. It’s normal and easy to be driven by the results. But for me, the main point is when I see something in which I can see the future, see where we go, the way we’re building things, I’m sure we’re going to be fine in the future. The way we’re driving, the way we’re going, is making me believe a lot in the future.”

When he said it: December 2020.

Where Arsenal were: 15th. A run of one win in 10, including home losses of 3-0 and 1-0 to Aston Villa and Burnley respectively, saw the Gunners have three different players sent off as they slipped to within five points of the relegation zone.


Pep Guardiola

What he said: “All I can say is the last months show me that all managers need time and he is not an exception. What I see in the last two months every game Arsenal played is better than the opponent.

“Tomorrow we will have an incredible performance. They have an exceptional build-up, they have quality and they have energy. They have Saka, Aubameyang and all the players with the quality in the middle.

“In the early future, they will be real contenders to fight for the titles. Most of the time we took decisions together and I took decisions with the influence of Mikel. I don’t know if I influenced him – he has to answer this.”

When he said it: February 2021.

Where Arsenal were: 10th. The Gunners had lost as many of their 24 Premier League games as they had won, going into their match against Manchester City off the back of a goalless draw with Manchester United, defeats at Wolves and Aston Villa and a victory over Leeds.