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Harmony the key on and off the pitch for Arteta as he seeks to heal rifts with fans

Harmony the key on and off the pitch for Arteta as he seeks to heal rifts with fans

Football: Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal are finally healing their strained relationship with the club’s frustrated fans


Friday 24 January 2020, 03:00PM

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal are showing the unity required to lift their on-field performances and heal any lingering rifts with disgruntled fans off the pitch. Photo: AFP

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal are showing the unity required to lift their on-field performances and heal any lingering rifts with disgruntled fans off the pitch. Photo: AFP

When Arteta was appointed last month to succeed Unai Emery as Arsenal manager, the Spaniard arrived to find a club split by a damaging rift between the under-performing players and disillusioned supporters.

The root cause was years of poor results and the problem came to a head with the abuse of Gunners midfielder Granit Xhaka in a match against Crystal Palace, with the Swiss star responding by swearing at the crowd.

But former Arsenal midfielder Arteta has worked hard to repair the damage and the signs were promising in last Saturday’s (Jan 18) 1-1 draw against Sheffield United.

The Gunners were pegged back as Gabriel Martinelli’s opener on the stroke of half-time was cancelled out by John Fleck’s late leveller, leaving Arsenal 10th in the Premier League and with just one win from their last seven games.

But, unlike the jeering and negativity which greeted the final whistle during the majority of Emery’s last games at the helm, Arteta praised Arsenal’s supporters for sticking with the team against the Blades.

“The fans were terrific,” he told Arsenal Player. “They were right behind the team and they appreciated every action as we were pushing them.

“I'm so thankful to them because compared to how it was a month ago, I think it's completely different.

“We have to keep trying to convincing them and encouraging them to keep doing it, and hopefully they can deserve and enjoy more good results.”

Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi, another player often criticised by fans, believes it is not just in the stands where unity is flourishing again.

“I feel that we are united. I think we stay together and the dressing room has always been top during good and bad periods,” he said.

“That’s the only way to get out of it and I think if we want to be successful, we need to stick together, players, staff and everyone at the club.

“Obviously all the people that come to the games, we want them to be happy but it's always good when a game like this finishes and you go round and applaud and they are too, it shows that we are united.”

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Stepping stone’

Then came the 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Tuesday (Jan 22), a game that Arsenal played with 10 men for almost 70 minutes. It proved the team have already crafted a tougher edge and clearly have resilience, something Arteta believes can act as a “stepping stone” to a brighter future for the Gunners.

“Time will tell if this is a stepping stone, but at least I saw a reaction,” said Arteta.

“I demand from the players that they never give up. We have to keep playing with the spirit we showed in every game. I'm proud of the way they reacted.”

David Luiz endured a nightmare evening on his return to Stamford Bridge as the Brazilian was sent off after 26 minutes for hauling down Tammy Abraham. Jorginho converted the resulting penalty.

However, Chelsea’s struggles at home continued as they offered another lifeline to those challenging for a top-four finish.

“We’re in fourth position, but I know and we know there should be another 10 points on the board,” said a frustrated Lampard.

“We shouldn’t dwell too much on results that have gone, but a lot of them look the same.

“The initiative is on us to be ruthless, to take the chances when they came along.”

Lampard had already spoken of his desire for Chelsea to be more clinical after losing 1-0 at Newcastle on Saturday (Jan 18) with Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time top goalscorer Edison Cavani a target.

And a move for the Uruguayan could be even more of a priority after top scorer Abraham had to be helped from the field at full-time after injuring his ankle in colliding with the advertising boards late on.

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