This is a tough time of year having lost my son but Arsenal under 'Gooner' Arteta have been a source of strength for me | The Sun

CHRISTMAS and New Year is a particularly difficult time for me, having lost my son on the 1st of January 2019.

Boxing Day’s match against West Ham will in fact be the first visit to the Emirates over the busy Christmas and New Year schedule since.

My last match with my lad was just before Christmas 2018 and the incredible 4-2 defeat of the old rivals, Spurs.

Of course, I had no idea of the significance of that memorable afternoon.

Arsenal, and the club’s community have been a constant pillar of strength and support to me, and Mikel Arteta has (unknowingly) been a huge part of that.

I admired him as a player and his transition from attacking midfielder to holding midfielder was something I predicted in an article as soon as I knew Alex Song was leaving the club.


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Throughout his career Arteta has been a cerebral player and his reading of the game, and passing range, made the move to the holding role seamless.

The headlines from the 2013/14 season, which culminated in Arsenal’s first trophy in nine years, will forever belong to Arsene Wenger and Aaron Ramsey, but for me Arteta was the glue and the engine room in the team.

Our greatest manager ever knew that the likeable, determined Spaniard would become a formidable coach and said as much when enforced injury breaks the following year, saw him begin his coaching badges.

Perhaps, learning initially from Wenger and then obviously Pep Guardiola, it was easy to predict that Arteta would be a success as a coach or manager, but it does not always pan out as we expect.

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However, Arteta had my backing from day one, and the first fabulous win coming on the first anniversary of my son’s passing, against Man United, seemed fateful.

I recall sitting at home, with tears in my eyes at the final whistle, in part because I missed my son, and equally feeling the Arteta and the team had performed for us.

There have been times since the incredible FA Cup win in 2020, certainly in the 20/21 campaign when I felt Arteta was stubborn and intransigent, but at no time did I doubt that he was the right man to take Arsenal back where we as supporters wanted our club to be.

Yes, there have been mistakes in the transfer market but as the team became more his own, able to play the way he had envisaged, the pattern and progress became so evident.

The parallels to George Graham’s early tenure, which saw the enforced departure of senior fan favourites are obvious and now on the third anniversary the team that leads the Premier League is his team.

A squad assembled primarily full of players he wanted, of the age profile he decided upon, able to play football in the style, with and without the ball that he has determined.

Of course, losing his main man, Gabriel Jesus, is a curve ball but I am confident Arteta will find a way to maintain the momentum his team have built before the enforced World Cup break.

Not only because I would contend, he has evolved and is far more flexible as a coach, but because everyone of the first team squad believes in him, and crucially KSE and the Arsenal Board do as well.

If the Spaniard feels he needs reinforcements, the hierarchy will find the funds.

In short, I love the fact that Mikel is at my club, and I trust him to continue to take Arsenal in the right direction.

He has made promising players top players and he has made inconsistent performers consistent.

He has made Arsenal as good without the ball, as with the ball and built a defence that operate as a collective unit, and he has turned Arsenal’s renowned soft underbelly into a firm six pack!

Lastly, I consider our manager to be an Arsenal Man. No matter what happened previously in his playing career, he took a pay cut to become one and despite a sojourn In Manchester, Arteta was always a Gooner at heart.

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Happy third anniversary Mikel. I am loving the journey you are taking me on, and you have made supporting my team a source of lightness in an often-dark existence. Thank you!

Twitter @goonerdave66

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