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Mikel Arteta says he was “shocked” by the split between fans and the team upon his return to Emirates Stadium, with it his belief that Arsenal has been “badly damaged”. The Gunners turned to their former captain to steady the ship after deciding to sack Unai Emery in November 2019.

Emery was relieved of his duties after overseeing a seven-match winless run, having been hired to replace legendary manager Arsene Wenger 18 months earlier.

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Arteta’s only previous coaching experience had come at Manchester City, where he spent three years as Pep Guardiola’s assistant, but he has since proven his credentials by transforming Arsenal back into a formidable force.

Arsenal finished their last Premier League campaign in impressive fashion under the 38-year-old, and he also masterminded a thrilling run to FA Cup glory, which ended with a 2-1 final victory over Chelsea at Wembley. Arteta has been attempting to build on that platform at the beginning of the 2020-21 season, with mixed results, and has warned that the “puzzle” he is piecing together at the Emirates will take time to complete.

“You cannot build something new [quickly] when something has been damaged and hurt badly, that you can see a big split between even our own fans and the team,” he told the Gunners’ official website. “When you were in that stadium 10 months ago, I was shocked.  “You have to rebuild that [bond]. In order to do that you have to build some foundations, and afterward start a process. You have to prioritize that process at the start, and where you are going to get to. 

“To do that you need some pieces that have to fill in there, and you have to start to create a puzzle and try to manage it because there will be bad moments and you don’t want to break it.  “All the time you have to be very alert because it takes very little to break what you are building.” The Gunners are scheduled to return to Premier League action away at Leeds United on Sunday.

Arteta saw his side comfortably beaten at home by Aston Villa before the international break, but will be expected to get back to winning ways at Elland Road. Arsenal will turn their attention to a Europa League meeting with Molde four days later before preparations for a tough trip to Wolves at the end of the month get underway.


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