Mikel Arteta, the beauty of the unexpected

As we’re in the middle of one of Arsenal’s key periods in modern history, lots of names have been thrown into the mix as to who will be in the Emirates’s dugout come august. Löw, Nagelsmann, Tuchel, Tedesco, Jardim, Rodgers, Ancelotti, Enrique, Henry, Vieira, Fonseca, Arteta and Allegri have all been linked to the managerial vacancy in North London at some point. However, the various media outlets seem to have shifted their focus towards one man, former Arsenal captain and current Manchester City assistant coach Mikel Arteta.

The news have been welcomed with some disappointment from the Arsenal fanbase, hoping that Max Allegri wouldn’t commit his future to Arsenal. The biggest critic is that it’d be Arteta’s very first managerial job, at 36. These reactions won’t stop Ivan Gazidis from appointing the Spaniard as Wenger’s successor, which is why it’s important to take a look at what’s to expect from Arteta, from the tactics to the ambition from the club.

Why Arteta ?

CEO Ivan Gazidis has claimed since last april that Arsenal needed to be bold in their move to replace Arsène, it is now clear that he’s setting up a structure with a different repartition of responsabilities, Sanllehi, Mislintat and the new coach will now share what was Wenger’s sole sort of burden. The research has always been towards a coach rather than a manager, much more like other modern clubs. Having a coach whose main focus is on the pitch while others work off the pitch allows the club to go for younger coaches.

Although it’s a very important choice that the Gunners can’t mess up, it has always been in the club’s DNA to take risks in their managerial choices, Graham came from Millwall, Wenger from Nagoya Grampus, both with huge success. There’s no guarantee of success nor failure but such a bold move shows a high risk/high reward approach that is refreshing from the club.

Mikel Arteta, Wenger and Guardiola’s pupil:

Something that was never in doubt during his playing career was the fact that Mikel Arteta was destined to become a coach, being part of the few players capable of being as smart on the pitch as off the pitch. Arteta retired in 2016 after spells at PSG, Rangers, Everton and Arsenal, captaining the club after Van Persie’s departure. From then on, there were talks about him joining the staff until Pep asked him to join his team at Man City, as he was looking for someone who knew the Premier League inside out. Guardiola also gave him a lot of credit for helping players like Sterling and Delph becoming amongst the best in their positions in England.

After working under Wenger for 5 years and under Pep for another 2 years, it’s obvious that his philosophy will be exactly what Arsenal are looking for, entertaining and offensive football whereas more defensive-minded coaches like Simeone or Allegri would have required more adaptation, with the risk that the squad doesn’t suit such a mindset after 22 years of Wengerball.

The tactician

Arteta has already spoken about his future as a manager, his ideas and how we wants his future teams to play, which is similar to what Wenger and Guardiola, or younger coaches like Tuchel try to achieve, dominate through possession, always taking the initiative. For years, Arsenal have played with the right intentions, or with a gameplan but they more often than not failed to apply that gameplan under any sort of pressure. Since a few years ago, Arsenal have lost a bot of their identity, it’s not a surprise that we haven’t scored a single goal from a counter-attack this season. Football and tactics are evolving quickly, Wenger has failed to adapt and his approach which was once visionary became obsolete.

Arsenal are in need of an astute tactician, which is what Arteta is, inspired by Guardiola, Wenger and Pochettino. Doubts over his ability are legitimate but this is the opportunity to snatch one of the most promising coaches in Europe and build a long-term project with a club that suits the coach and a coach that suits the club.

There’s a beautiful symbolism to it, Arteta took a pay cut to join Arsenal in 2011 and turned out to be a key element leading to the end of the trophy drought, he’s now coming back to Arsenal to replace the greatest coach of the club’s history and try to replicate the first phase of his story, the young coach who very few believed in, who became a legend with good football trophy.

Bienvenido a casa, Mikel.



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