‘Arteta B+ at Arsenal & avoiding one-hit wonder tag’ – Merson encouraged by early work

The Gabon international missed a glorious opportunity to fire his team into the last-16 of the Europa League but ended up sending it wide

Mikel Arteta’s early efforts at Arsenal have earned him a B+ grade from Paul Merson, with the Spaniard able to avoid being labelled a “one-hit wonder” as long-term vision is favoured.

The former Gunners captain was brought back to Emirates Stadium in December as successor to fellow countryman Unai Emery.

He is considered to have offered signs of encouragement, with Arsenal proving hard to beat despite still struggling for consistency when it comes to collecting much-needed victories.

Merson believes steady progress is the right approach for Arteta, with there no need to rip up the squad that he inherited.

Changes are expected in the summer, with decisions likely to have already been taken on who to move out, but the focus at present has to be on getting the best out of those currently in north London.

With Arsenal still in the hunt for Champions League qualification, Merson told Sky Sports of Arteta’s efforts so far: “They're aiming for fourth or fifth now, so that is a good result.

“They are harder to beat, and Arteta is getting players to try and play, like [Mesut] Ozil, [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang is scoring goals.

“They're still open at times, but if you're giving Arteta a grade since he got there, it would be B+. He's doing something right. Show me someone that can run before they can walk!

“It's moving along steadily, and that's the best thing for him.

“If he'd come in and won five games on the trot, people would have thought he is the messiah, and then all of a sudden they'd have hit a bad run, and he'd be described as a one-hit wonder. He's done it the right way, and it has moved along steadily.

“They're in with a big chance of the top five, which if City are banned, means Champions League football.

“Arteta will know what he needs to change next season. It's pointless coming in, going mad at players now, and then all of a sudden needing those players if others get injured.

“The players he'll want to get rid of don't need to know that right now. There will be some personnel changes in the summer.”

Arsenal will be back in Europa League action on Thursday when taking in the second leg of a last-32 encounter with Olympiacos that they currently lead 1-0 on aggregate.