Mikel Arteta says Arsenal remain “very far” short of the standards he wants to reach but believes his side have made clear progress in recent months, backed up by the win at Leicester last weekend.
Arsenal visit Burnley at lunchtime on Saturday in search of a third successive win in all competitions. Their attacking play, in particular, has improved significantly since Christmas: they have scored 22 goals in their past 12 top-flight games, having managed 12 in their first 14 fixtures. But they remain 10th and Arteta knows a much higher level of performance will be required to challenge closer to the top.
“Very far – very, very far,” he said when asked how close Arsenal were to being a team in his image. “There’s a still a lot to improve, a lot of quality to add. Much more efficient in decision making; much quicker to open situations up when advantages are there; many situations to feel when advantages [can be] obtained. More control of games; more defensive actions in the opponent’s half; fewer giveaways in our own half; more clean sheets. More goals to score, more creativity. A lot to do.”
Arteta did, however, observe that the commanding 3-1 victory against a Leicester side that had won at the Emirates Stadium during Arsenal’s bleak autumn run was evidence that pennies are dropping. “When you look at the previous game we played against [Leicester] a few months ago, and you look at the team right now, I think it’s always a good way of seeing the progression and I’ve seen that,” he said.
His opposite number on Saturday, Sean Dyche, has spent eight and a half years at Burnley. Arteta, speculatively linked with Barcelona by Spanish media this week, praised Dyche’s longevity and said he could envisage staying at a club for a similar time.
“Of course I can,” he said. “If you are happy where you are and, most importantly, if they are happy with the job you are doing I think it’s a really strong relationship. I think what he’s done is remarkable.”
Arsenal’s financial struggles during the pandemic have hit home with the announcement of a £47.8m loss after tax for the 2019-20 financial year. It is a major increase on the previous year’s loss of £27.1m and is largely attributable to the shutdown that saw matches suspended between mid-March and mid-June of 2020.
A club statement said £35m of its pre-tax losses were a direct result of Covid-19 and warned that the impact of the pandemic was ongoing.