The reports that Mikel Arteta is now firmly in line to be named as the new Arsenal manager has provided the latest big piece of news to divide the Gunners' fanbase and draw widespread commentary from pundits.
The long-running debate over whether Arsene Wenger should remain in charge dominated the agenda of many Arsenal fans over the last few years of his 22-year reign as manager in north London.
Mikel Arteta now favourite to become Arsenal manager. Chief exec Ivan Gazidis wants new manager to:— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) May 15, 2018
1. Keep playing progressive football.
2. Embody & reflect the values of the club.
3. Take keen interest in developing young players.
Arteta ticks all those boxes.
Now, it appears that the debate over his most probable successor’s credentials to take on the job to replace his former manager is set to spark similar waves of deliberation and dispute among those around the club.
Arteta appears to have emerged as the frontrunner for the Emirates hot seat ahead of the more experienced candidates also rumoured to be in the running for the job. The likes of Juventus’ Max Allegri, former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique and Carlo Ancelotti were among the more stellar names touted as potential successors to Wenger.
It is Arteta, however, who has now prevailed in recent days as the seemingly chosen candidate, despite his lack of any managerial experience. The former Arsenal captain has been part of Pep Guardiola’s coaching staff at Manchester City since retiring from his playing career at the Emirates in 2016.
Two years on, the former midfielder looks set to take the top job at his previous home, and his lack of managerial credentials has lead many to question the wisdom in appointing such a young coach, who is essentially a rookie when it comes to management, at a club of Arsenal’s stature.
However, there are a number of reasons to believe that Arteta could be the ideal man to succeed Arsene Wenger at the Emirates and take the club forward.
Arsene Wenger was a central figure behind Arsenal’s move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium in 2006. Having won three league titles during his first eight years at the famous old ground, it was decided that Arsenal needed to be re-modernised, and the Emirates was the perfect arena for that to take place.
Years of transfer budget restrictions, selling big players and successive campaigns without silverware followed. In the meantime, Wenger always kept the club in and around the top of the English game during that transitional phase.
Silverware has since been brought to the Emirates, with three FA Cup successes in four seasons between 2014 and 2017 bringing an end to the drought. Despite constant protests over underachievement, Wenger’s masterplan was complete.
The club is now well placed to move forward with Wenger’s legacy being equally composed of record-breaking triumphs and laying the foundations for a successful future. The club has been re-modernised, and a modern manager is now needed to lead it to new success.
The structural system of management at the club has been revised over the last year in preparation for Wenger’s departure. The appointments of Raul Sanllehi as head of football relations and Sven Mislintat as head of recruitment point to a less heavily burdened set of responsibilities for the next manager.
Few could be expected to take on the level of accountability which Wenger relished. Arsenal now seek not a manager of the club, but a bright, intelligent and modern coach to bring fresh ideas, impetus and inspiration to a squad which is full of potential.
Should Arteta be appointed in this role, his job will not be to balance the finances, recruit new players and staff, organise the pre-season arrangements and negotiate contracts as Wenger once did. If those responsibilities were to be Arteta’s as they had been Wenger’s, he would not be the man for the job.
The prospect which awaits the Spaniard is a very different, condensed job. Arteta’s sole focus would be the team. Coaching the players, man management, tactical approaches and training ground leadership would be the former captain’s main tasks, and he is made for them.
Arsenal do not require a change in approach, but a development and modernisation of the footballing philosophy which Wenger has ingrained in the club over 22 years. Wenger and Ivan Gazidis were both keen to assert upon the Frenchman’s departure from the club that the culture, values and philosophies which Arsenal have prided themselves on must be maintained by the next manager.
In an interview with the Arsenal magazine before his retirement in 2016, Arteta shed some insight into how he would develop as a coach: “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.
For 22 years, for 1,235 games, for 49, 49 undefeated, for 7 FA Cups, for 3 @PremierLeague titles, for two Doubles, for winning the league at Old Trafford and White Hart Lane, for Wengerball, for the Invincibles, for your total love and devotion, we want to say... #MerciArsène❤️ pic.twitter.com/xkRXjLAid2— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) May 13, 2018
“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.
“I will have everyone 120 per cent committed. That’s the first thing. If not, you do not play for me.”
Since that interview, Arteta has spent two years working under the leadership of Pep Guardiola, as part of the Manchester City coaching setup which have guided their team to becoming the first Premier League side to win the title with 100 points.
Arteta’s philosophy and experience of the game lies in a perfect middle ground between the ‘old Arsenal’ and the new interpretations and approaches to the game, based essentially on the same principles and values.
Arteta captained Arsenal under Arsene Wenger. He understands the club, it’s values and what it means to represent Arsenal. He also has first hand experience of the demands of the modern game and what it takes to conquer it, without compromising on principles.
The Spaniard seems to embody all of the qualities required to lead the new era at Arsenal. He possesses the motivational abilities to squeeze the potential out of the current squad and push them on from their underachievement in the previous campaign.
Most importantly, he has the characteristics needed to represent Arsenal Football Club: intelligence, quality and class.