It finally happened, Mikel Arteta has returned home to manage The Arsenal. I’m over-joyed, you should be too.
The Spaniard turned up in a sharp suit, he looked the part and delivered an electric press conference. The sentiment amongst a fractured fanbase was unanimous in its positivity. We’re all excited to have a coach in place that speaks our language, literally, footballistically, and spiritually.
First and foremost, Arteta is here to fix the culture of a club that’s been going off the rails for the best part of 10 years. He said he felt low after coming here last week to give us a spanking at The Emirates. He’ll have seen that the team was flat on the pitch and he’ll have felt the toxicity in the stands. He has to change both those issues, but clearly, he recognises that the two are intertwined… not in a chicken and egg situation, in a great-football-means-great-vibes with the fans kind of way.
We have to try to engage everybody, I have to try and convince the players about what I want to do, how I want to do it, they have to start accepting a different process, a different way of thinking, and I want to get all the staff and everybody at the club with the same mindset.
We have to build a culture that has to sustain the rest. If you don’t have the right culture, in the difficult moments, the tree is going to shake, so my job is to convince everybody that this is how we are going to live, and if you are going to be part of this organisation it has to be in these terms and in this way.
And after that, we can talk about other things. Obviously now we need an immediate impact, we need to start winning games, we need to start to raise the level of confidence of the players, and finally we need the fans.
A culture is a set of desirable behaviours or actions you expect from a group. The trouble we’ve had over the last decade is there has been very little direction. A culture has to be in service of something. If there’s no vision or philosophy to believe in, it’s very difficult to expect players to behave in accordance to whatever views of culture we have in our own heads as fans.
A lot of us have pondered aloud ‘what is the Arsenal way?’ I think Arteta is about to bring some colour to that. He wants fast, free-flowing, attacking football. He wants players to be accountable, he wants to create a ruthless culture built around high performance. That was never clear under the last regime, or the one before that.
What I’ve learned mostly is that you have to be ruthless and you have to be consistent and you have to fit every day the culture of the club to create a winning mentality.
To sustain it is even harder, so every day is important, every act is important, every organisation is important. His work-rate is incredible, how inspirational he is to people is incredible.
But for me, the secret is that the people, the players and the staff, have to believe what they’re trying to deliver. You have to be able to transmit it, and people will buy into that.
The above is so important. Don’t just live your culture on warm summer days, or when you fancy it. Every day is important, every moment is an opportunity to prove yourself. This is what high performance is all about. One broken spoke at the highest level takes the machine off the road. He has a lot of broken spokes to mend, both amongst the playing staff and the backroom team.
I thought he handled most of the questions really well. He saluted Arsene Wenger and his impact on his own career. He celebrated the history, style and values of Arsenal, likening us to Barcelona. He held his hands up to the lack of experience accusation. He doesn’t have it, it’s a weakness, but one that he wants to address with passion, great ideas, and energy.
What I love, love, love is how much he wanted this job. He mentioned that he always yearned to return, he sees us as his club. He has Arsenal DNA.
When Arsenal knocks on any door, it’s difficult to say no. When it knocks on my door, this is my house and it makes it very difficult.
It was a very difficult decision, it’s true, but also I felt that the club needed someone to appoint. I saw that and they transmitted that.
They were so convinced that they wanted to go with me, that I had to take the challenge.
Love it. He is grateful for the opportunity. He respects the shirt. He desperately wants to make us great again. You bring in Jose, he’s bigger than Arsenal and he’d let you know. You bring in Allegri, he’s above the job. You flunk out with Nuno or Martinez, the ceiling is low, you’re going nowhere. Arteta is the future of football. Listen to him talk about the game here.
“Football is about habit & angles. It’s much more simple for a player if you can process the image of where your team-mate will be before receiving the ball.If I am in the kitchen and I know the glasses are always in this cupboard, I get my glass of water more quickly.”
He’s talking about cognition in football. Players learning patterns and movements so complex systems become second nature. Owning territories, seeking out playing signals, sensing danger. He’s painting complex ideas with simple words, can you now see why Emery had such a rough time?
He’s only been with us ten minutes and he’s asking where the drones are at so he can see training sessions from more angles. He’s an innovator, a deep thinker, and an absolute obsessive. The Athletic had a piece about him living on his own and people worrying about him because he’d have loads of games on TV with Beautiful Mind like tactical diagrams all over the place.
Now, cute stories in the media mean fuck all. Being young isn’t a skill. He still has a huge job on his hands. A great press conference isn’t going to win him points, it’s just a good start.
Reality is this: He is going to have a very rough 3 months. We’re going to lose games. He’ll fall out with players. There will be Youtubers shrieking about how they’re abandoning the vision just so they can be the first. As fans, we can’t cave, we have to show faith. There is an idea here. We are on the path to better. By the end of the season, I have no doubt we’ll be seeing a sharper identity. If we have a great summer, we will be competing for top 4 next season. From there, who knows where we could go.
We just need to keep the faith, accept the job is a big one, and believe in a new manager that is burning every drop of blood he has to make this work. I’m also hoping that Edu, who has taken ownership of this decision if his .com interview with Raul is anything to go by, is in lockstep about what the plan is. We need him to build an elite staff around Arteta, from what I gather, there are lots of moves in the pipeline, but some clubs are being tough about releasing staff. Steve Round is the assistant, he knows Mikel from his Everton days. We also have an exBarca goalkeeping coach. Most importantly, we have to address some of the player problems. If Xhaka is off in January, who is the dynamic midfielder we have lined up to replace him? If we’re losing big names in the summer, do we have a robust list of players we want to backfill? Who are the kids he’ll bring in?
I sound like a full-kit-coach-wanker saying this, but I believe great coaches make statements early on by bringing an unexpected kid through the ranks (Wenger > Anelka), making an average player great (Conte > Moses), or by killing a senior player (Mourinho > Mata). I pondered if Xhaka could be the average player, but I think he lacks physicality and pace. AMN could be an opportunity? ESR looked very good the other night, maybe he’s the kid? Could the senior player ready for the axe be one of our star strikers? Could Arteta revive Mesut Ozil?
So many questions. Reality is, this time, we have a world-class coach built for the Premier League. If Arteta can’t extract greatness, as he appears to have done with some big names at City, then the player isn’t going to work for Arsenal.
I am nervous about this hire. As they say in politics, it’s easy to be in opposition. I’ve been in opposition for 18 months, not really expecting Arsenal to make an incredibly bold and ambitious move. Now they have, I have to shut the fuck up and back this until the end. I’m confident though. Settling for a has-been would have been regressive. I don’t want a super-agent bitch at our club. There was no way we could have waited until the end of the season. Arteta is a very smart risk, he’s our moon-shot, the upsides to this are electric.
So in the words of Josh Kroenke, be excited, this is the next chapter we’ve been waiting for, it’s going to outrageous amounts of fun, I can’t wait to share the good times with you. He’s in the stands today, his first game in the dugout will be Bournemouth, his first home game, against Chelsea, which I will be at!
See you in the comments. x