Come on, you thought I’d go more than 2 days without giving my full endorsement to the most exciting unknown in the world of football? Don’t be ridiculous. Today, I’m going to refresh the argument for why Arsenal need to put all their chips on the pristine black hair of Mikael Arteta.
As you’ll remember, it was my firm belief that we should have pulled the trigger on the Spaniard 18 months ago. The timing was perfect. Fan expectation was low, the club had a chunk of change to spend, and the set up seemed fairly solid. Instead, we opted for common flawed wisdom and hired in Unai Emery and 9 of his coaches.
The stability of experience did nothing to move the club forward. Hiring in a ‘winning’ manager actually took us back a level. We’re now in the midst of the worst start in 38 years, and we’re struggling to exit out of our Europa League group. Hiring in experience has been an absolute disaster.
There are once again calls to move for the trusted hands approach of experience. I didn’t buy it last time, I don’t buy it again. The only manager that’d be a sure fire bet to progress us into the top 4 would be Pochettino, but regardless of the noise around him, I don’t expect him to entertain the Arsenal job with the PSG call likely to arrive in 6 months time.
Anyone else is a 50/50 gamble, so why not gamble on the next level of football, versus taking a chance on a manager with limitations we’ve all seen.
Here are the reasons I think hiring in Arteta makes sense.
Really simple one here, but communication is essential to this role. English is the language of the club, the kids coming through have mostly been raised in London, we need someone that understands what is going on at the club. Arteta speaks 4 languages fluently. He speaks the noise of players having been a very good one himself. He has alpha male qualities we lacked in Unai Emery. He was a captain at two of his clubs, so the players will look to him.
I have been told that there were concerns about his demeanour from when he was at Arsenal. He held others to very high standards and could come across as abrasive. However, I am willing to pass on that firstly because holding players to a higher standard on an off the pitch is something we need, secondly, we’ve read in the press over and over that the City players love him.
It doesn’t take much googling to find out that Arteta is a players coach. He’s an obsessive and there are plenty of high endorsements of his work in the media from players like Delph and Fernandinho. The biggest credit to his name goes to the transformation of Raheem Sterling into one of the best players in the world. This is Guardiola.
“Mikel Arteta is working many, many hours and days after training specifically about the last action on the pitch – that control in the last moment to make the right movement in the final three or four metres.
“Raheem has wanted to stay there on the training pitch, to improve, to practise, to shoot at the goalkeepers.
This is is Arteta explaining in a new book exactly what he was looking for from the player.
“He’d picked up a few bad habits along the way,”
“He’d played on the inside a lot or out on the left wing. When you move to the right wing, the direction and angle of possession coming to you is very different. When the ball reached him he really had his gaze fixed on it – rather than half-touch instinctive control and the vision of what’s around him.”
“If he’s found a space about three metres off his defender but he’s half-turned towards the goal then his sprint takes him much more quickly to a space where he can shoot and that’s going to cause the rival much more damage. It’s also a tactic, dropping off a little, so that your defender gets drawn into a position he mightn’t want to be in. It leaves space behind him and Raheem can attack that space. If it’s close to, or in the penalty area, they also have to hesitate before putting in a challenge.”
The man was born to coach, he retired early to learn his trade, he went for mentorship under the greatest coach in the world and now he sits next to him in the dugout. According to reports, he also runs some of the training session there, he’s no cone boy.
Elite work ethic
You’ve all seen the Pep documentary. You’ve read the books. Pep is a workaholic, he has more energy than anyone in football, a total obsessive. This is what he had to say on Arteta a few days ago.
“He was an incredible player, normally with a holding midfielder they have a vision of all the pitch,” Guardiola said.
“The holding midfielder is an incredible lesson during your career as a player to learn what happens. You don’t need to go to [coaching] school, he was so clever in that.
“More than that he is an incredible human being, work ethic, he works a lot. I said after a few months we were together that this guy would be a manager sooner or later. He is already a manager, he works like a manager.
“That is why we’re satisfied to have him here.”
That is high praise, the part about him being a great human is lost on me, but I do love that his work ethic is being called out by a man that had to quit Barcelona because his wife thought it would kill him. I want someone at Arsenal with that level of obsession, because that usually means attention to detail, that means curiosity and it hopefully means innovation.
Manchester City IP
Manchester City are now one of the best clubs in the world. I know Arsenal are a long way from that, but the things Pep has done there have transformed the place. The way he thinks about the game is different to everyone else, that’s why he’s consistently delivered world-class teams across 3 leagues (money helps, but look at Jose now). Pep Guardiola is different because he has a philosophy that has evolved over the course of time. That way of thinking is a process, Arteta has now been in the process contributing ideas, designing how they’ll be implemented, and watching the master make the magic happen.
Manchester City won the league last year making the least tackles in the league. That is future football. Their off the ball movement is debilitating. Their on the ball approach is so good some sad sacks say it’s boring. That is the sort of football that could be taken, developed upon and unleashed at Arsenal. It’s a longterm punt at having a team built for competing in the Champions League in 3 years. It’s not a stop-gap where the pinnacle of the football is 4th place and a last 16 spot in the Champions League. It is not taking a hit on the Arsenal brand and doubling down on bland pragmatic football. It is not selling your soul to Kia or Jorge. This is the sort of punt that we should be taking, because unless it’s Poch, who else has the keys to a more exciting future this January?
Let’s get one thing straight, no manager is going to come in and sort out the leadership function of Arsenal. Raul and Edu have to address that, but they’re not going to do that by installing an outsider with poor taste motives. They’re also not going to achieve anything by bringing in someone with a giant stick, good short term solution, not for the longterm.
They need someone to come in and connect with the players and the fans. That person needs to understand the club, how it operates, who the staff are and how the league works. There’s no better person for that than Arteta. He can only look after the playing side of things, he can’t do anything about the mess around it, but make no mistake, he’ll come in, connect with people like Per and Freddie and he’ll take a sweep to bus drivers that fight and do teamtalks, he’ll move on Dave Priestly, and he’ll make sure the people at the club are offering value and there on merit.
Galvanise the fans
There are no doubt going to be doubters, but I think the communcation of a clear and articulate vision of how he wants to play the game and what he’s going to do to achieve it would be a huge step in the right direction. To remind you, he already outlined this to the Arsenal magazine years ago.
“My philosophy will be clear,” he said. “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. I’m 100 per cent convinced of those things, and I think I could do it.”
“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 up front, 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. Is there something they don’t like to do? If so, we’re going to make them do plenty of it.
“Then the most important thing for the manager is that, the Friday before the game, you imagine what’s going to happen on the Saturday.
“And if what happens on Saturday is not what I had planned, then it’s not been good enough from me.”
Imagine how vivid his vision would be now? He’s had 3 years in a winning machine to hone his beliefs about the game. I am positive he’d come to Arsenal with an exciting view of how the game is played and that would settle the fans.
We are back at ground zero. We are where Chelsea were this summer when they hired Frank Lampard, coming off the back of a bland season with a transfer ban. Our ban is self-imposed because we spent next summers money this year.
This is the perfect time for the club to set a new agenda built around a 3-5 year plan that’ll have us competing at the very top again. We could build our future around young players, we could refocus transfer efforts on players like Matteo and Martinelli, we could promise the fans ups and downs, but at the very worst… we’ll be playing football you’d want to wake up for.
We need a future we can believe in, we need to be excited about football again, the person who could give that to us is Mikael Arteta.
Who’s with me?
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