MICAH RICHARDS: Nobody’s laughing at Arsenal now, and Mikel Arteta proves...

Sportsmail columnist Micah Richards talked about Arsenal and boss Mikel Arteta in his last column

I have a picture of Arsenal in my head. It comes from February 2003 and a game they played against Manchester City on Maine Road.

Although I grew up in Leeds, Arsenal were my team as a kid so I wouldn’t miss a chance to see them live. On that particular Saturday 17 years ago, I had played for the City Academy in the morning and then went to the old stadium.

The reason the memory is so vivid is because of the football I saw that day. It was one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen, an exhibition that impressed me. Arsene Wenger’s team took the lead 4-0 within 19 minutes and won 5-1.

My view of football at the time was simple: Manchester United had the best players and the greatest success; Liverpool were a club with heart and soul, but Arsenal played the greatest football. Arsenal had style, everyone wanted to be like Arsenal.

However, around this time last year, Arsenal had become a mockery. The team was drifting, it was all too much for Unai Emery and maybe it was compounded by the reaction and hysteria that surfaced on Arsenal Fan TV.

Many other club supporters would rub their hands after each bad result so they could sign up and watch the screams and screams as some Arsenal fans started turning on their own players. Remember, it has been almost 12 months since parts of the Emirates Stadium booed their captain Granit Xhaka.

I thought it was a long way back for Arsenal but it turned out to be anything but. Nobody is laughing at Arsenal right now and that’s what the loan belongs to Mikel Arteta. The start to his career as a manager has been excellent – and not just because he has won two trophies.

Mikel Arteta turns out to be a brilliant no-nonsense boss after Arsenal's flying start

Mikel Arteta turns out to be a brilliant no-nonsense boss after Arsenal's flying start

Mikel Arteta turns out to be a brilliant no-nonsense boss after Arsenal’s flying start

Arsenal are a different force this season and no one will take it lightly anymore

Arsenal are a different force this season and no one will take it lightly anymore

Arsenal are a different force this season and no one will take it lightly anymore

Losing Arteta was a major blow to City. I got a glimpse of his way of working last year when I was on the training ground doing ambassadorial work. Arteta attended this particular session and I was impressed with the way he dictated what he wanted from the players – and how they reacted.

Each of them listened carefully. I don’t know if it was because the group was experienced or because they had so much respect for Mikel, but the parts of the session that I saw were so, so good. People always told me positive things about him.

He took everything great from Pep Guardiola and then took matters into his own hands. He introduced discipline and made it clear that there will be no mess – just look at how he handled subjects like Mesut Ozil and Matteo Guendouzi.

Arteta has made an excellent start to his management career with two trophies

Arteta has made an excellent start to his management career with two trophies

Arteta has made an excellent start to his management career with two trophies

He taught his Arsenal team discipline - as the handling of Mesut Ozil shows

He taught his Arsenal team discipline - as the handling of Mesut Ozil shows

He taught his Arsenal team discipline – as the handling of Mesut Ozil shows

Ozil isn’t playing for Arsenal because he’s not pushing the way Arteta wants. If it had anything to do with skill, Ozil would be there. If a player has a flair and is ready to work, there is always room for them.

What I love about the way Arteta handled Ozil is that he didn’t let a bit of hostility creep into the sports pages.

We don’t know if they’re involved in a feud or if there was an argument because the manager is so clinically involved. That’s a real skill. It’s easy for crack news to leave the training ground, but Arteta handled it so expertly.

Arteta doesn’t represent disorder and it is no coincidence that Guendouzi was loaned to Hertha Berlin after not kicking a ball since a game in Brighton in June.

Mateo Guendouzi was also frozen in June when Arteta refused to stand up for his bad attitude

Mateo Guendouzi was also frozen in June when Arteta refused to stand up for his bad attitude

Mateo Guendouzi was also frozen in June when Arteta refused to stand up for his bad attitude

The Arsenal boss has not allowed any potential hostility towards Ozil to sneak into the sports pages

The Arsenal boss has not allowed any potential hostility towards Ozil to sneak into the sports pages

The Arsenal boss has not allowed any potential hostility towards Ozil to sneak into the sports pages

Guendouzi was involved in a spit with Neal Maupay and reportedly asked Brighton’s players how much they make. Whatever happened, Arteta didn’t stand up for it and sent it on its way. It is a firm and decisive act that shows who is responsible. Arteta has nothing soft.

However, what I think is important is the fact that this is just a start. Arsenal are in a good moment, but let’s face it – they haven’t lifted a side that was stuck at the bottom of the table and brought them to unprecedented heights.

This is Arsenal, and Arteta entered a club where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a £ 72m winger in Nicolas Pepe, had one of the world’s greatest strikers. He signed Willian and he has a brilliant talent in Eddie Nketiah.

If you add that they just signed Thomas Partey – what an incredible deal that could prove the Ghanaian was superb for Atletico Madrid – Arteta has a ton of quality to choose from. Arsenal should really look at the top four.

Arteta has inherited one of the world's best strikers, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Arteta has inherited one of the world's best strikers, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Arteta has inherited one of the world’s best strikers, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Thomas Partey could prove to be an incredible business following his move from Atletico Madrid

Thomas Partey could prove to be an incredible business following his move from Atletico Madrid

Thomas Partey could prove to be an incredible business following his move from Atletico Madrid

Arsenal’s defense still bothers me (is Gabriel the right standard?) But it’s obvious they are headed in the right direction.

You are far from the peaks Wenger brought, but the picture is improving.

Above all, nobody laughs at her anymore.

MICAH’S MAN OF THE WEEK

The international break was good for Kai Havertz, who scored for Germany against Switzerland. Timo Werner scored in this game too and the game could have a positive impact on Chelsea.

Havertz looked completely out of hand in his first few games in England, but after his hat-trick in the Carabao Cup, I got the impression that things were gradually changing for him.

He’s under scrutiny for the size of his £ 89m transfer fee, but I can see Havertz is taking big strides in the coming weeks.

Kai Havertz can take big steps in the coming weeks after getting out of hand for Chelsea

Kai Havertz can take big steps in the coming weeks after getting out of hand for Chelsea

Kai Havertz can take big steps in the coming weeks after getting out of hand for Chelsea

WHY TRENT HAS TO PLAY EVERY GAME

Would Brazil ever have left him out when Dani Alves was at the height of his game?

I ask about the last games in England. We now have Trent Alexander-Arnold, the best in the world, but for some reason he’s not playing as much as he should. I’m not taking anything away from Reece James, who was excellent against Denmark, but I can’t figure out what’s going to happen to Trent.

Alves was so good that he was there for Brazil the whole time. Why is that not the case with Trento with England? I’m confused after these games because the system Gareth Southgate wants to work with doesn’t seem to suit anyone.

It's strange that Trent Alexander-Arnold, the best right-back in the world, doesn't play regularly for England

It's strange that Trent Alexander-Arnold, the best right-back in the world, doesn't play regularly for England

It’s strange that Trent Alexander-Arnold, the best right-back in the world, doesn’t play regularly for England

The system Gareth Southgate has opted for lately doesn't seem to fit anyone in their roster

The system Gareth Southgate has opted for lately doesn't seem to fit anyone in their roster

The system Gareth Southgate has opted for lately doesn’t seem to fit anyone in their roster

How is it that Harry Maguire played on the left side of a three man defense when he never played that role for Manchester United? Why was Joe Gomez, the best football center-back, in the stands? What had Jack Grealish done wrong to run out of minutes after the game in Wales?

It feels like it’s a rule for some players on the roster and a rule for others. Take Jordan Pickford – his form was bad, but he plays all the time. Marcus Rashford isn’t at his best, but he’s starting no matter what.

Imagine how Danny Ings felt when he didn’t get a fair crack at launch. I don’t envy Gareth Southgate being an international manager at a difficult time.

I have the greatest respect for him, but from my point of view the balance of the team is not there at the moment. Will that balance ever be there if he doesn’t choose his best players?

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