ON THIS DAY IN 2020: The Gunners boss now leads a drastically changed Arsenal side from the one he inherited from Unai Emery in late 2019, with almost an entirely different starting eleven

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Mikel Arteta to miss New Year’s Day clash after testing positive for coronavirus

New Year’s Day is a special day in Mikel Arteta’s story with Arsenal, as January 1 2020 marked his first ever victory as a Premier League manager.

The Spaniard had been appointed eleven days prior and already taken charge of games against Bournemouth and Chelsea before his first set of three points followed.

A draw and a loss in his first two games ensured the pressure was well and truly on the rookie boss when Manchester United rolled into town, but a stellar first-half display ensured Arsenal finally stopped the rut and provided Arteta some momentum to work with.

Fast forward two years and Arsenal go into 2022 in far higher spirits, sitting fourth in the table on the back of a four-game winning streak above the likes of United and fierce rivals TottenhamHotspur, though both sides boast at least one game in hand over the Gunners.

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Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta celebrates with Sokratis on New Year’s Day 2020 after his first win as manager

When analysing the reasons behind why Arsenal’s first fixture of 2022 will look so different, regardless of result, to their first of 2020, the answer is glaringly obvious.

In that time period, Arteta has been so handsomely backed by the club’s owners that very few players who started at the Emirates that night against United two years are still part of his first-team plans.

Between the sticks was Bernd Leno, who after starting the current campaign so poorly has since been ousted and demoted to number two duty, deputising for summer signing Aaron Ramsdale.

The England shot-stopper has quickly emerged as a fan favourite, leaving Leno out in the cold and likely to look for the Emirates exit as soon as this month.

Of the four who defenders that made up Arsenal’s backline on the night, just two remain; though even they are on the cusp of a move elsewhere.

Central defensive pair David Luiz and Sokratis, who scored one of the two goals against United, have both since moved on to pastures new, while full-backs Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Sead Kolasinac are both expected to leave sooner rather than later.

Maitland-Niles is wanted by Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma and a deal could be struck as soon as this month, while Kolasinac is unlikely to see his contract renewed come the end of the season if a potential switch to Watford falls through in the coming weeks.

Arteta deployed a defensive midfield pairing of Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira and while the former is the only one still standing in terms of regular first-team football, Torreira has not been so lucky.

Granit Xhaka is one of two players who featured against United two years ago who remain first-team regulars

Failing to adjust to life in England after being brought in by Emery, Torreira now finds himself on loan back in Serie A with Fiorentina where it is likely he will remain on a permanent basis.

In front of that pairing was arguably one of the most controversial trio in Arsenal’s modern history in the form of Nicolas Pepe, Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Costing a combined total of £176m, Ozil has since left in the most acrimonious of circumstances while Aubameyang has been stripped of the club captaincy and exiled after a series of disciplinary breaches.

Pepe, though by all accounts nowhere near as harmful to the general atmosphere and perception of the Arsenal dressing room as the aforementioned duo, has simply failed to show he has what it takes to play Premier League football week in week out.

Nicolas Pepe celebrates scoring the 1st Arsenal goal against Manchester United, one of his best performances for the club

His goal on this night against United is one of very few highlights in an Arsenal shirt.

Leading the line was Frenchman Alexandre Lacazette, who is currently in the midst of one of his best spells of form in his four-year Arsenal career.

Featuring regularly as Aubameyang’s exile continues, Lacazette offers a perfect springboard for Arsenal’s young attacking stars to play off of.

The idea of an Arsenal line-up without the likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard to name just three now feels like an alien concept.

Arsenal’s current side contains a number of different faces from the one that registered Arteta’s first win

In reality, it is a testament to Arteta’s ability to get the best out of young players who have been carefully nurtured into the first team fold, none more so than Gabriel Martinelli who is ensuring the majority of Gunners fans aren’t phased by Aubameyang’s absence.

The sky-high morale that could be felt from the Emirates terraces on New Year’s Day two years ago is somewhat closer to returning than it was this time last year, but the players responsible look drastically different this time around.

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