Arsenal need a managerial change. They need it fast. Arsenal have started the season under Emery woefully, claiming 17 points from a possible 36 – their worst start to a league season in 37 years. Unai Emery seems to have lost the fans, and a large part of the dressing room too and despite their recent vote of confidence, the Arsenal board are almost certainly thinking about replacements. In this article, I look at a younger option who could be available, Manchester City Assistant Coach Mikel Arteta.
An Arsenal man
Arteta joined Arsenal from Everton in 2011 for a reported £10 million. He would go on to make 110 appearances for the Gunners, becoming club captain for his final two years of his Arsenal and football career. Arteta featured sparsely for Arsenal in his stint as captain but was a recognised and greatly respected leader throughout the squad.
Arsene Wenger described him as a “great leader” in 2016 following his departure and Per Mertesacker, Arteta’s vice-captain, recently stated that he’d love to work with Arteta again in an interview with FourFourTwo. ‘I was his vice-captain at Arsenal and he trusted me’, he said, ‘I was by his side during team meetings and we had a great bond. I’d love to work with him again, a top guy.’
Mikel Arteta is a man who already has experience leading Arsenal into battle, who worked for years under Wenger, arguably the club’s greatest ever manager. He’s a man who truly knows what it means to wear the badge, and fight for it, something that perhaps some of the players could do with a lesson in, in recent times.
Playing football the ‘Arsenal way’ and the philosophies Wenger spent his Arsenal career infusing into the club, seem to have been lost in translation a little since Emery took his place on the touchline. There’s no person better equipped to restore those values than a former Arsenal captain who spent years playing under the man who taught them.
A great coach
Following his retirement from playing, Arteta went straight into coaching. He and Pep Guardiola had met at Barcelona many years back when Arteta was just starting his career in the academy, whereas Guardiola was enjoying his final years as a player. Guardiola immediately called for Arteta upon getting the Man City job, and the two linked up once again, Guardiola naming Arteta as his First Assistant.
Man City have enjoyed fantastic levels of success in the years since Guardiola was named Manager, and he can not speak highly enough of the impact of his Assistant Coach. “He’s helped me a lot” said Guardiola, in a press conference, “from day one, so not just the last two seasons, from day one. He has an incredible work ethic, and he has a special talent to analyse what happens, and to find the solutions.” Guardiola tipped Arteta as his replacement, should he leave in the foreseeable future.
Man City have some of the most exciting and talented attacking players on the planet. Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, among others, have grown massively as players in recent years and both players have excelled in the last three seasons, crediting Arteta for playing large parts in their developments. ‘People always ask me about training under Pep, but the things I’ve learnt from Mikel Arteta!’ Sane told the authors of ‘Cuaderno de Manchester’, a book about Guardiola’s City career. ‘We get on brilliantly, he’s a lovely guy and a great coach. And he’s always right.’
Arteta is the coach also to have worked closest with Sterling, according to The Athletic. Arteta guided Sterling when he was moved to the right of the pitch, in particular teaching him to be more instinctive when looking for options.
With the success of Sterling and Sane, many Arsenal fans would be left drooling at the mouth imagining the impact Arteta could have on such players as Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka.
The man for the job
Arsenal currently find themselves in a precarious predicament. Unai Emery is failing and his team is slipping away from the top 4. Arsenal simply need a change, and Mikel Arteta is the man to get them winning again. He spoke to the Arsenal magazine in 2014 and described the key components that make up his managerial philosophy.
‘I will have everyone 120 percent committed, that’s the first thing.’ He went on to say, ‘Then I want the football to be expressive, entertaining.’ Finally, he concluded, ‘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 percent convinced of those things, and I think I could do it.’ Commitment, expression, and domination are exactly what Arsenal lack right now, with almost every team seeming to be able to outplay them this season, despite the clear talent in the squad.
With Arteta at the helm, we may see the return of explosive, attacking football at Arsenal, and maybe that is exactly what Arsenal need to be back in contention for the top 4 places. Arteta could provide fresh hope for this club, it’s up to Kroenke and the board to make that happen before it’s too late.