Alan Smith: Mikel Arteta has removed toxicity from Arsenal

New Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta believes that he can win the fans of the biggest football club in England back onside after a difficult few months, as he aims to recapture the halcyon days of Arsene Wenger.

Mikel Arteta has already “removed the toxicity” at Arsenal, says Alan Smith, with 2020 set up to be a “very exciting year” for the Gunners as another new era is opened.

A loyal fan base in north London has had little to shout about in recent times.

Unai Emery did guide the club to the Europa League final in 2019, but a heavy defeat to Chelsea was suffered there before stumbling out of the blocks in the current campaign.

Arteta has picked up a managerial baton put down by a fellow Spaniard and is being charged with the task of getting Arsenal back on track.

Early encouragement has been offered in that quest, with Smith expecting the Gunners to go from strength to strength under the guidance of the former club captain.

The former Arsenal striker told the Evening Standard: “It is a bit too early for I-told-you-sos. Mikel Arteta has an awful lot of ground to cover and a great deal of coaching to do before anyone can be sure he will lead Arsenal back to the high ground.

“Nevertheless, the new manager’s work so far has glimmered with searing intensity. Arteta has quickly instilled a group purpose and attitude that has already hoisted the team on to another level.

“As a result, 2020 should prove a very exciting year because things will only improve over the coming months after Arteta’s introduction of a structured style that, crucially, has been embraced by the squad.

“Every pro hankers for guidance and direction. It makes them feel secure if a plan is in place. Now you can see that reassurance in everyone’s body language. The players have been rejuvenated by the gaffer’s game plan.

“On a wider level, the upturn in­ ­performance has pacified the doubters and thankfully removed the toxicity that had sadly taken hold at the ­Emirates.

“We should not underestimate how difficult it is to radically change tack in the middle of a season. Trying to alter the habits of some seemingly set in their ways can go horribly wrong in the heat of battle.”

Arteta has been at the helm for three games so far, with a first Premier League win collected last time out against old adversaries Manchester United.

His next challenge is to kick-start a bid for FA Cup glory, with Leeds due at Emirates Stadium for a third round clash on Monday.

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