LONDON (AFP) – Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal are finally healing their strained relationship with the club’s frustrated fans.
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 Saturday’s 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.”