The former Gunners striker believes confidence is building in north London, with the trip to Manchester City being made with optimism restored
Arsenal no longer make trips to the likes of Manchester City filled with “dread”, says Alan Smith, saying Mikel Arteta has rebuilt confidence and removed the fear of getting “embarrassed”.
The Gunners’ record on the road against fellow members of the Premier League’s ‘big six’ makes for uncomfortable reading. Away form has been an issue for some time, but the north London outfit have found the going particularly tough in fixtures that matter most.
Arteta is starting to turn that tide, with Liverpool and City among the scalps he has claimed in league and cup competition, and Smith sees cause for optimism in what could be a “funny season” for the Gunners.
“I think Arsenal fans will be looking forward to this one [against City on Saturday]. More so than a year ago when going to the places of the big boys would have filled them with a bit of dread as to whether they were going to get turned over, embarrassed even,” former Arsenal striker Smith told Sky Sports.
“Nowadays, win lose or draw, Arsenal fans are fairly confident they’ll go up there prepared, organised, and they’ll give City a good game.
“Arteta has come a long way in a short space of time. As a coach, individually, and also in charge of that Arsenal team that is pushing in the right direction.
“It’s that attention to detail first of all and the demand for high standards week in, week out, and day in, day out on the training ground [which Arteta has in common with Pep Guardiola]. That’s the mark of a good coach, always pushing his team.
“It’s getting those players to buy into that project. It’s not so easy these days, you’ve got independent footballers that can go one way or the other if they don’t feel the manager is the right man and they don’t get a sense he’s doing the right thing.
“Everyone at Arsenal wants to be a part of Arteta’s way forward and if they’re buying into it, that’s a great asset, a great strength to have.
“It would be a statement to go up there and get a win. Obviously they lost at Liverpool and nobody was all that surprised by that, least of all Arteta. There’s still a gap there, a sizeable one.
“The early results suggest it might be a funny season without the fans, we’ve already seen some strange results and we might get some more. I’m not suggesting we’ll get a shock with Leicester winning the title but Arsenal should improve quite significantly on that eighth-place finish last season. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.
“Quite rightly they’re aiming for a top-four finish to get them back in the big time, back into Champions League football where they were for a couple of decades or more. That’s the challenge.
“They’ve obviously won a trophy with the FA Cup last season, which was wonderful, but to get into that top four that would really make a statement in Arteta’s first full season.”