Arsenal Manager Search: Mikel Arteta the GAMBLE

To say he is the right man for the job is a bit too premature. With so many ups and downs over the last nine months that have left an uninspired team bewildered and struggling for any sort of form. Whoever got the Arsenal managerial position would be up against it. A closer look at Emery, one can clearly see a problem that started in March 2019 when the team just seemed to switch off entirely. Emery became more reluctant to play an attacking side week in and week out, while opponents would get off a record number of shots at Arsenal’s goal. For all of Emery’s failure, some blame has to be laid at the player’s feet. The quality in the side should never have faced problems in dealing with Southampton at home, the draw at Carrow Road, the loss to Brighton and Frankfurt at home. All those are signs of a playing contingent that just won’t buy in anymore.

Few can endeavor to alleviate an angry and impatient fan base with a lot of expectations. Few can endeavor to alleviate a rudderless and disinterested set of players. Mike Arteta is either a very brave man or an overly ambitious man.

Arteta must be referred to as a ”project manager” and not a manager. Surely the writing is on the wall that Arsenal has turned into a modern-day football project, and success has been deferred. With the likes of Rafa Benitez, Massimo Allegri, Mauricio Pochettino all up for grabs. Going for Arteta means the Arsenal board aren’t looking for someone to compete with the rest of the top six for the Premier League title. They simply want a man who will coexist rather than compete.

After retiring many saw him as the perfect apprentice with Everton, Spurs, Arsenal, and Man City all interested in securing his services.

Here is a look at some high-profile managerial endorsements.

Mauricio Pochettino: “Mikel Arteta has the capacity to be one of the greatest coaches in football, for sure.”

Arsené Wenger: “For Arteta, does he have all the qualities to do the job? Yes.”

Pep Guardiola: “I said after a few months together he would be a manager. He is already a manager – he behaves like a manager.”

What do Arsenal executives see in Arteta?

Someone who understands the Arsenal philosophy, someone who went up the leadership ranks at an astronomical rate. He became one of the most successful captains for the team over the past decade. He was a part of some of Arsenal’s worst periods during his time at the club and he will definitely know what was wrong. And being Guardiola’s chief strategist he will know what’s wrong now having been on hand to come up with ways to beat Arsenal. The executives will also be interested in the man’s hypotheses towards how a team (his team) should and would play, as shown below:

In an 2014 interview with arsenal.com Arteta when asked where his football journey would take him after retirement stated clearly that management was the next step. He went on to describe some of what he believed would be his calling cards as a manager. Below are a few quotes from that interview.

“My philosophy will be clear. I will have everyone 120 per cent committed, that’s the first thing. If not, you don’t play for me. When it’s time to work it’s time to work, and when it’s time to have fun then I’m the first one to do it, but that commitment is vital.”

“I want the football to be expressive, entertaining. I cannot have a concept of football where everything is based on the opposition. We have to dictate the game, we have to be the ones taking the initiative, and we have to entertain the people coming to watch us.”

“You can have an idea of a system, but you need to be able to transform it depending on the players you have – how much pace you have upfront, how technical your team is, what types of risk you can take and whether your players are ready to take those risks.”

“It’s important to analyse your players because you can’t always play the same way. There have to be different details and changes in how you approach things, and you have to look at how you can hurt whoever you are playing against.”

“I’d want my players to express themselves – you can give them knowledge and ideas about what you want to do, but afterwards you need to leave room for their own ability and creativity. You have to learn from your players, and if you can do that then you can do something new.”

The chief reason for Unai Emery’s departure was his inability to play an exciting brand of football and Arteta will be charged to bring that back. Based on his experience as a player from his time in Spain to the end of his career has been exposed to an attacking brand of football. It will be interesting to see how much of his experience he can draw on from his playing days to bring back the Arsenal attacking flair.

If and when he is named the manager of the club he will have very short windows to work with just Freddie Ljungberg who has found the going very very tough. There isn’t enough time for anyone to get their imprint stamped on the side as this is the busy December period that sees many sides . With Arsenal seven points from relegation, it will be very interesting to see the team’s response to his orders and coaching. Having worked with Guardiola for three and a half seasons is not a feather in anyone’s cap, there will be many questions asked of his pedigree early on.

The mentality of the players Arteta will inherit is at an all-time low and that will need to be uplifted and defensive discipline reintroduced. The assignment ahead is an enormous one and it will be a project which gets rolling with a free hit in the league and two cups up for grabs.

If Guardiola’s recent statement is to be believed Arteta has been putting in the work at the level a manager does. But all of this has come as a number two. Arteta the best number assistant coach in the world? Probably. Raheem Sterling’s meteoritic rise has been credited to work that he and Arteta put in after training sessions. In the week leading to the City game, Gabriel Jesus also spoke fondly of Arteta’s personal touch on his game recently. One of Arteta’s mandates will definitely be to improve the quality of some of the Arsenal’s stars and assist the youth players to reach the ensuing level.

Arsenal’s project manager will surely be confirmed in the coming days, and if he is to be unveiled before the weekend his first six fixtures would be:

Everton (A)
Bournemouth (A)
Chelsea (H)
Manchester United (H)
Leeds United (H)
Crystal Palace (A)

Philani Mukwakwami

FOUNDER

Sports are a hobby horse of mine, what happens in-between the lines is just as thrilling as what happens outside of them.