Arsenal legend Robert Pires is encouraged by the work currently being overseen by Mikel Arteta at Emirates Stadium, with the club considered to have got “their DNA” back, while the iconic Frenchman has also been discussing his time spent playing under Arsene Wenger.
The 1998 World Cup winner formed part of a star-studded Gunners squad between 2000 and 2006 that claimed two Premier League titles – included the fabled ‘Invincibles’ campaign - a couple of FA Cup triumphs and reached a Champions League final.
He has continued to keep a close eye on developments at a club that has rather lost its way in recent times, with a lengthy rebuilding process having finally brought hopes of top-four finishes back onto the agenda for the class of 2021-22.
How is Arteta getting on at Arsenal?
The Gunners turned to a former club captain for coaching inspiration in December 2019, with Arteta – who had been cutting his teeth alongside Pep Guardiola at Manchester City – given the time he required in order to get Arsenal back on track.
Pires told GOAL of Arteta, who has delivered FA Cup and Community Shield wins across his tenure: “Of course I still follow Arsenal, I watch all the games and I am in contact with the sporting director Edu and Mikel and many other former players.
“I think he is doing a great job. Arsenal have found their DNA based on a fast and attacking game. He asks a lot of his players and is very demanding starting from the training sessions.”
What was life like under Wenger?
Arteta still has some way to go before he can claim to enjoy a standing alongside his former boss Wenger, with Pires talking up the impact that a fellow Frenchman had on his career.
He said, having snubbed interest from Italy and Spain to join Arsenal from Marseille: “Wenger had a strong influence on me, thanks to him and Arsenal I reached very high levels. I always felt his 100 per cent confidence and this is extremely important for a player.
“It was him who convinced me to sign for Arsenal. Real Madrid and Juventus were also interested in me. I had to make a choice that wasn't exactly easy. He knew that he was going to lose [Marc] Overmars and that the only one who could replace him was me. So I signed for Arsenal and stayed for six years."
Did Wenger ever get angry?
For the most part, a man credited with changing the face of English football after introducing continental coaching methods to the Premier League in 1996 was a picture of calm on the touchline.
He rarely lost his cool, particularly with his players, but Pires did incur his wrath at one stage.
Having combined with Thierry Henry to take a disastrous penalty against Manchester City in 2005, with Pires making a mess of what was supposed to be a sideways pass rather than a shot, Wenger made it clear that he was less than impressed with the actions of two star forwards.
“He was very upset after we missed that penalty with Titi!” Pires said.
“But in the end he reacted well because we won the game 1-0 and I was the one who scored, which saved me!”
Any other arguments with Wenger?
While Pires was able to stay in Wenger’s good books, he has taken issue with more recent comments from his former manager.
A man that is now FIFA’s chief of global football development has suggested that World Cup finals should be held every two years, with the sporting calendar being tweaked to pull in even greater audiences, but that proposal has not garnered much support.
Pires said of the plans: “I am not in favour of a World Cup every two years. I think this is the first time that I do not agree with Arsene Wenger. The calendars are already overloaded and we would risk seeing a much less spectacular World Cup than usual.”