Mikel Arteta hailed the attitude of his Arsenal players as “spot on” after they fought back to salvage a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth on his managerial debut.
Arteta, who was appointed as the permanent successor to Unai Emery last week, received a swift reminder of the sizeable job facing him in north London following Dan Gosling’s first-half opener.
But Gunners captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang prevented the visitors suffering a sixth Premier League defeat of a dismal season with a deserved 63rd-minute leveller.
Former Manchester City assistant coach Arteta admits he feared what would happen should his new side fall behind at the Vitality Stadium and was pleasantly surprised by their positive response.
✅ First game as our head coach— Arsenal (@Arsenal) December 26, 2019
“I’m very pleased with some of the things I’ve seen in terms of attitude, character, the passion we showed, and the fight and the spirit the team showed,” said Arteta.
“(It was) spot on, probably better than I expected over 90 minutes.
“A lot of things that happened in the game we prepared, I think they understood them and they tried to take them on board and we liked the final product at the end.
“I was worried what would have happened if we conceded a goal, and we did, and I was very pleased with the character they showed, how they came in at half-time, their faces, their reactions, how much they wanted it.
“Because normally when they are in this process and you concede a goal, belief goes down and a lot of things that have happened in the past can come back.
“And it didn’t happen, it happened completely the opposite side and that’s a real positive to take on board.”
Arsenal, with Arteta constantly prowling his technical area and passing on instructions, dominated possession on the rain-soaked south coast, without carving out many clear chances.
Both sides scored with their first attempts on target.
Gosling poked home Jack Stacey’s 35th-minute cross after Buyako Saka conceded possession, before Aubameyang swept in his 14th goal of the campaign following Reiss Nelson’s tame deflected shot.
Aside from a win at West Ham under interim manager Freddie Ljungberg, the Gunners had endured a miserable 10 top-flight fixtures since beating the Cherries at the Emirates Stadium in October, taking only eight points from the last 30 on offer ahead of kick-off.
Arteta is tasked with arresting that wretched run of form, which left the 13-time English champions languishing in the bottom half of the table at Christmas for the first time since 1983.
The Spaniard felt a maiden win, which Alexandre Lacazette and substitute Joe Willock each had opportunities to snatch, would have provided a timely confidence boost, although he acknowledges he has taken on a long-term project.
“It would have been great because it would have given us a better lift in terms of the energy and the confidence of the team,” said the former Gunners midfielder.
“But we have to analyse overall the performance and I think there are positives to take and obviously a lot of room for improvement in other areas. It will be a process.”
Asked about the experience of being the main man in the dugout having stepped out of Pep Guardiola’s shadow, he added: “I’m quite used to it.
“I’m always suggesting things during the game and I have really good people around me to give good advice. I felt comfortable – and wet.”
Injury-ravaged Bournemouth were once again without a host of first-team players.
Cherries boss Eddie Howe admitted Arsenal were an unknown quantity following their change of management and was content to see his 16th-placed side secure a point.
“I thought the players gave everything to win the match,” said Howe.
“It was one of those games that ultimately could have gone either way at the end – they had chances, we had chances. But I think we’ll take the point and then try and build on it.
“We didn’t quite know what to expect, we assumed that the philosophy would change and it did. It was quite visible to see Arsenal playing a slightly different way. The system was different but we couldn’t plan for that, we had no idea really what they were going to do.
“We had to plan for us and make sure we were better than we were against Burnley (a 1-0 loss on Saturday) and learnt from that experience, and I thought we did. That’s why I’m very pleased with my players.”
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