On Boxing Day in 2019, Mikel Arteta took charge of Arsenal for the first time in a 1-1 draw away at Bournemouth.
‘I am not happy we have not won the game but happy overall. In terms of attitude, desire and commitment it was better than I expected,’ is what he said after that game.
One hundred and seven games, 60 wins, 18 draws and 29 losses later, there are still doubts lingering within the Arsenal fan base as to whether Arteta is the right man to take the club forward.
As he enters his second year in charge of the Gunners, Sportsmail looks back at his highs and lows in what has been an action packed 24 months for the 39-year-old.
Mikel Arteta took charge of Arsenal for the first time in a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth in 2019
November 8, 2020: Arsenal 0-3 Aston Villa – Premier League
It was a game that Arteta himself described as the worst loss of his managerial career at the time. His team were second to everything and Villa took full advantage with Jack Grealish pulling the strings.
An own goal by Saka and a brace from Ollie Watkins saw Arsenal get thrashed at the Emirates Stadium.
To his credit, Arteta didn’t make excuses and blamed himself for the loss. Speaking after the game he said: ‘They wanted it more than us. I’m struggling to find the reason, but obviously there was something there. If you can’t defend your box, it’s a really complicated way to win matches.
‘We haven’t been scoring a lot of goals and today we looked open in transition, and if you don’t put chances away you have no chance to win. I take full responsibility.’
Ollie Watkins’ brace saw Aston Villa thrash Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in November 2020
December 13, 2020: Arsenal 0-1 Burnley – Premier League
Prior to this game, Burnley had not beaten Arsenal in the top-flight since 1974 – that’s a 15-game winless run for the Clarets.
Arsenal dominated much of this game and should have scored on many occasions but some poor finishing meant the scored remained 0-0.
Granit Xhaka was sent off in the 56th minute for violent conduct and they were made to pay for it when captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang headed it into his own net from a Burnley corner in the 73rd minute.
A lack of end product and ill discipline condemned Arsenal to a fourth-straight league defeat for the first time in 66 years and to top it all off, they got jeered off the pitch by their own supporters.
Aubameyang’s second-half own goal saw Burnley get a rare win against Arsenal late in 2020
April 29, 2021: Villarreal 2-1 Arsenal – Europa League semi-final, first leg
While it may not look like a heavy defeat, the implications of this result was one that set Arsenal back further.
When the draw was made, Arsenal were expected to book their place in the final. But they got off to the worst start possible as Manu Trigueros’ strike gave the Spanish side the lead after just five minutes.
Things went from bad to worse for Arteta’s men when veteran defender Raul Albiol doubled Villarreal’s lead with a header from a corner following some woeful defending by the north London side.
Nicolas Pepe’s penalty in the second half gave the Gunners some hope but it proved to be just a consolation.
The return leg ended in a stalemate 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium – meaning Arsenal bowed out 2-1 on aggregate. Former manager Unai Emery got his revenge as Arsenal failed to qualify for European football for the first time in 25 years.
The loss to Villarreal condemned Arsenal to no European football for the first time in 25 years
July 18, 2020: Arsenal 2-0 Manchester City – FA Cup semi-final
It’s fair to say that this was an Arteta masterstroke. To this day, this is one of Arsenal’s standout performances since he took the helm. The Gunners came into the game as massive underdogs and rightly so. It was the master vs the apprentice in the semi-final of the FA Cup.
Manchester City looked set to lose out on the Premier League title to eventual winners Liverpool and therefore had something riding on this game.
The plan was clear – soak up the pressure and hit them on the counter. That’s exactly what Arsenal did and with success. They restricted Pep Guardiola’s men to long-range efforts and were clinical going forward as Aubameyang grabbed both goals.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s (centre) brace guided Arsenal to a 2-0 win over Manchester City
August 1, 2020: Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea – FA Cup final
If the semi-final was one of the highlights of Arteta’s time at the club, then this game is probably his best. Yet again, Arsenal came into this final as the massive underdogs following a woeful domestic campaign which saw them finish eighth in the league.
Chelsea took the lead after just five minutes through Christian Pulisic. But the Gunners’ heads didn’t drop and they drew level through an Aubameyang penalty 28 minutes in.
The Gabon international worked his Wembley magic once again when he lifted the ball over a helpless Willy Caballero to win his team a record-breaking 14th FA Cup.
It was their last chance to salvage something from the 2019-20 campaign and they took it with both hands. A trophy for Arteta eight months after taking the job? Not too bad.
Aubameyang scored a brace again as Arsenal beat Chelsea in the final of the 2019-20 FA Cup
September 26, 2021: Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham
After losing their opening three games of the season, tensions were high at the Emirates Stadium. Those losses were followed up by wins against Norwich and Burnley but the north London derby was the next big test.
It was the game that Arteta decided to take the handbrakes off. Arsenal came out of the blocks quickly and by the 34th minute they were 3-0 up thanks to goals from Emile Smith Rowe, Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka.
It’s arguably the best football they’ve played in the two years Arteta has been in charge. The speed at which they moved the ball combined with the chemistry between Hale End duo Smith Rowe and Saka was too hot for Tottenham to handle.
Arsenal blew Tottenham apart in just 34 minutes on route to winning 3-1 earlier this season