📸: express.co.uk

When Mikel Arteta made the above statement "Trust the process", it became a line of mockery of Arsenal fans by opposition fans who believed that the Spaniard was too inexperienced to lead Arsenal through this face of a new project.

Arsenal's rocky start to this season did not help matters as the Gunners lost their first three games, not just that, they failed to score a single shot and conceded nine. This was a team that had spent over £130 million over the summer transfer. A deeper hurt, it was Arsenal's worst start to a Premier League campaign in 67 years. At this point in time it is worthy of note that Arsenal were missing a number of first team regulars due to Covid-19 related issues and injuries, which meant summer arrivals had to quickly fit in.

A lot of things were said about Arsenal and how incompetent Arteta was. The ironic thing, however was that we didn't see the #ArtetaOut banners or hashtags as with previous managers like Unai Emery and even the legendary Arsene Wenger, who never had such poor starts.

The management on their part continued to reaffirm their support for the project that Arteta is building and I feel that went a long way to calm many nerves, even though most Arsenal supporters are not fans of the Kroenkes.

As part of the rebuilding process, Josh Kroenke, son of the American owner, Stan Kroenke has also become more involved with how things are being run at the club. He visits the training centers and even attends players' unveiling. This to a large extent has also indicated a strong believe of the owners' trust in the project.

About two months later, just before the November international break, Arsenal had gone unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions, wining eight and drawing two. This propelled Arsenal, who were previously languishing in the relegation zone closer to the top four. As a result of this late push, Arsenal finished 2021 as the fourth best team with the highest league points won in 2021 only behind Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.

Six months down the line, Arsenal have positioned themselves as strong favourites for a top four finis. Currently in 6th position, they are two points behind Manchester United with three games in hand and a healthier goal difference. In fact they have scored the 6th highest number of goals in the competition this campaign and kept the third joint most clean sheets (11 - level with Chelsea).

All of these do not in any way portray Arsenal as the team that has returned to its glory days, however, it is an indication of a strong move in the right direction towards returning the club to where it belongs.

Despite being a young manager, Arteta has had to take drastic measures and decisions to re-build what he believes is the dying Arsenal culture. He has had to deal with issues with big name players like Mesut Ozil and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang.

As a young manager, he has also assembled the youngest team in the league, a deliberate action that was even evident in the calibre of signings made during the summer transfer and even prospects that have been like with the club. It shows there is a road map he is working with.

Not just handling big players with issues he has succeeded in cutting the Arsenal wage bill by about 45% with the exits of players like the two aforementioned along with David Luiz, Willian, Calum Chambers; all of whom have been deemed surplus to the project at hand.

Furthermore, he has, along with club director, Edu Gasper ensure that the club only goes for players they need. Like with the departure of Aubameyang, many, myself inclusive, expected that at least a player would have been brought in given the number of departures. They avoided panic buys, knowing that it is arguable that you get the best deals not in the January transfer window; something Arsenal have been culpable of in years past.

Arteta has also been able to restore an identity to the team's style of play. From an objective angle, one would agree that the Arsenal team now play with more purpose and direction compared to the start of the season and in the last two seasons, specifically post Wenger era.

He has made it clear that anyone who is to make his team has to be ready to give 101% all round, in terms of contribution on the field and attitude off the field, which was the main challenge he had with Aubameyang.

The game against Wolves on Thursday as a case study, it's been ages since we saw an Arsenal side play like their lives depended on that game to come back from a goal down to win, against a team that has the best defensive record in the competition, second only to champions Manchester City.

Another thing that has seemed to work for them this period has been the support of the fans. Like I mentioned earlier, despite the horrible start to the season, we did not see (most) fans calling for his sack as we have seen with other managers. This may not be unconnected to the positive, though gradual progress witnessed with the team. Their rousing voices throughout the game felt like the extra push Arsenal needed and one could see how much that win meant to not just the fans, but also the players.

In all sincerity, no Arsenal fan can confidently say that the team has arrived and are sure to finish in the top four, however, the appreciable progress is commendable and one that gives hope. I really hope they finish with a Champions League spot.