The Case for Arteta
By Liam Keohane
Back in May 2018, Mikel Arteta was comfortably the favourite to become Head Coach of Arsenal Football Club - the club he’d left as captain two years prior. Since he’d departed, the club had gone downhill and some believed he was the man to stop this rot and bring Arsenal back to its former glory.
There were other names being mentioned- Max Allegri was coming off the back of a domestic double at Juventus, Patrick Vieira had gained valuable experience for Man City’s sister club New York FC and some called for Diego Simeone to bring a rigid defensive structure to Arsenal’s play. However, Arteta seemed to be the man for the Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis and his team.
However, out of nowhere, Unai Emery emerged as the new manager after an interview where he impressed the Arsenal board with his plan with Arsenal, by using a spine of Aaron Ramsey and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang as his two key players. Arteta returned to Manchester City as the assistant to one of the most decorated football managers in the last 15 years, Pep Guardiola, and we all know what happened next with Unai Emery at the helm.
Fast forward 18 months and we are currently looking for a new head coach. Freddie Ljungberg is in interim charge despite his only past experience being assistant manager at Wolfsburg - taking them to a relegation play-off despite their clear quality above many a team in the Bundesliga. His record of 1 win, 2 draws and 1 loss at the time of writing is rather underwhelming.
The three things the board are said to be looking for in our search for a new coach are the ability to speak English, knowledge of the club and a clear philosophy to implement. Three things Emery clearly lacked.
Arteta fills these three areas. A man who has been a British resident for the past decade due to spells at Rangers, Everton, Arsenal and now Manchester City, so is clearly fluent in the dialect. A man who’s captained our side to FA Cup successes and would revitalise us with his youthful energy and tricks of the trade he’s been learning off, arguably the greatest manager of all time, for the past 4 years. A man who inevitably has a clear vision of the sort of style he wants to implement, having worked under visionary managers in Wenger and Guardiola.
However, some may argue what Arsenal need now is stability from an experienced manager, such as an Ancelotti or an Allegri. A man who can stop the downfall which is currently showing no signs of stopping and lead us into a period of glory. 9th place in the league, level on points with a Newcastle side managed by Steve Bruce, scraping through the Europa League because of our strong start and having a team and system that lacks any sort of cohesion or organisation. Whoever gets the job, it’s a difficult one.
Those may argue that an experienced head could sort out these problems, although I’d be inclined to disagree. I believe we have nothing to lose in making a riskier appointment. A year away from a European competition may be the one step back we need in order to take 3 steps forward. If you look at Leicester this season, it is clear to see the wonders 1 week rests between games is doing for them. As a result, I believe the best thing to do is to write this season off and bring in Arteta now.
Give him the rest of the season to get the squad playing the way he wants them to play. He can assess the squad, sell players who aren’t part of his plans and identify the player profiles he feels he needs for his project. At the beginning of the 2020/21 season, we should be in a place where we can compete for Champions League places.
We have seen the effects these inexperienced legend appointments can have - Lampard at Chelsea, Zidane at Madrid and Solskjaer in spells as Man United boss. Arteta would bring the knowhow he learnt from Guardiola, will avoid the ‘Good Ebening’-esque issues that Emery faced due to errors in translation and would unite a divided fanbase. He will understand the inside of this club and can work with the Academy manager and former teammate Per Mertesacker to help continue the transition of this talented crop of youngsters to the first team.
Overall, our club needs to move in a direction and Arteta seems like the perfect candidate to accommodate this. Whoever is employed, we as fans need to back the team to try and finish as high as we can this season.