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PETER CROUCH: The poison has gone and the aura is back at Arsenal thanks to Mikel Arteta

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PETER CROUCH: The poison has gone and the aura is back at Arsenal thanks to the influence of boss Mikel ArtetaArsenal are experiencing an impressive turnaround in form since NovemberThe main reason of their improvement is down to new manager Mikel ArtetaThe Spaniard has been inspirational and imbued some spirit within the team

On the final day of November, this column was devoted to Arsenal's troubles. 

It was in the middle of their bleak mid-winter and I wrote how their aura had disappeared and the club that used to be known for setting standards had allowed those standards to slip.

I have watched Arsenal consistently since that day, so the final act of last Sunday's 4-0 win over Newcastle struck a chord. 

The reaction of Arsenal's players to Alexandre Lacazette's goal against Newcastle said a lot

The way Arsenal's players went to engulf Alexandre Lacazette after he had scored his first goal in nine matches was significant.

At long last, there looked to be some spirit. I am not getting carried away and saying they are back — they remain some distance from where they used to be — but I saw flashes of character, togetherness and camaraderie in the way Lacazette was swamped.

For that, I have to give full credit to Mikel Arteta. You think about the situation the new manager walked into last December. The atmosphere was poisonous, there was the infamous falling-out between Granit Xhaka and the crowd and Arsenal looked much more like individuals than a team.

The way all of the team went to embrace the Frenchman suggests that team spirit is growing

Such a combination of circumstances would have tested the most experienced manager, so Arteta looked like he was on a hiding to nothing when he walked into that mess. The vast majority had misgivings about the characters in the squad he had inherited. Few expected them to knuckle down.

Credit, then, where it is due. You can say to me: 'Oh, it was only Newcastle!' but I have been in enough dressing rooms to understand when something is genuine and the way six or seven players ran to be with Lacazette was not just for the cameras.

It reminded me, in some ways, of the day I scored my first goal for Liverpool in December 2005 after a ridiculous drought. If Lacazette had been struggling with his confidence, the way his team-mates reacted to him provided the perfect boost. Things like that only happen if dressing-room unity is good.

For Arsenal to follow up with a 1-0 win at Olympiacos on Thursday — and for Lacazette to score the goal — shows how significant his effort against Newcastle could have been for relaunching the season.

Lacazette was on target again to help the Gunners beat Olympiacos in the Europa League

Let me stress, I am not saying Arsenal are racing back to the lofty perch they used to occupy. I'm not making snap judgments about their long-term prospects, but I do think it is important to highlight the improvement and progress under Arteta.

They had shown next to nothing for so long under Unai Emery that you wondered where the drift was going to end. They had stopped fighting — stopped believing —and for them to be in the bottom half of the table was a travesty.

There is another big test tomorrow against Everton, who are also emerging from troubles, and it will be fascinating to see if Arsenal can maintain the impetus the past week has given them. Another big win and who's to say where they will end up this season?

Fourth place looks to be the hot-potato position that nobody wants to hold. If Arsenal discover some consistency, the Champions League spot I said was beyond them might yet come into range. Should that happen, the inspiration will have come from one man: Mikel Arteta.

New boss Mikel Arteta can take much of the credit for the club's rise and rebirth this season

SIMEONE ANTICS MAY BACKFIRE 

Full marks to Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool's players for not reacting to Diego Simeone's antics during Tuesday's clash in the Wanda Metropolitano.

Had I been playing in that game, I would have found it very difficult not to say something to Simeone, who was like a conductor with the frenzied way he whipped up Atletico Madrid's fans and encouraged his players to indulge in the dark arts, such as demanding yellow cards.

I noticed Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson made a point of saying they were struck by how much Atletico celebrated at the final whistle when there are 90 minutes to go. If Liverpool win by two or three goals — which they are capable of doing — Atletico will have inspired them.

In his enthusiastic touchline remonstrations, Diego Simeone may have inspired Liverpool

 

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