We now appear to be on the cusp of the Mikel Arteta era. Though the appointment of the Spaniard has not been confirmed, rumour is gathering pace aplenty. Of course, it may all be a smokescreen for a ‘bigger’ name, however unlikely that is increasingly looking. Odds with major bookies have gone from 20/1 last week to 1/4 this.
So, Arteta. An ex club captain and not a name many would’ve had as first choice when Arsene Wenger’s departure was announced on April 20th. The Manchester City assistant was highly thought of and considered a very professional player when he was with the Gunners, and the inability to maintain his services upon retirement was seen as a disappointment at the time.
Now though, despite him going away, learning what can be suspected as ‘copious amounts’ and therefore being linked with the manager’s job, supporters are suddenly treating such a move with trepidation.
While some Twitter accounts stating their intent to protest are ridiculous and should be ignored in the most part (see below), having reservation over Arteta is probably fair.
There are multiple reasons. Firstly and mostly importantly, he’s a complete rookie. While ‘experience’ is often overplayed – Alan Pardew has Premier League pedigree in comparison to Darren Moore for example – hiring someone for their first role would be a huge risk by Ivan Gazidis and the board. At a time when the club desperately need to try and unite the fanbase, Arteta would surely be viewed as a divisive choice.
Arteta being the manager also has an impact on a number of the players. Many were teammates of his just a few years ago. Eight of the 14 players who featured for Arsenal in his last game are still part of the first team squad, while he himself is of course one of the other six. His already-developed relationships with these players would change completely.
For those who didn’t play alongside the 36 year old, they will be told things in the dressing room, but will have to form their own opinions of him on the training field. Did Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang join the club to play for a rookie next season? You’d urge on the side of guessing not. Arteta also has none of his ‘own staff’ that we know of, so the mass-cull of experience that’s just occurred at Colney is a big first job for him to take on.
Having touched briefly on those ‘protest’ tweets, it feels right only to say that the fanbase also needs to be considered. A slow start for Arteta could see him destroyed by Christmas. We’re a different club and it’s a different world to 1996, when Wenger started, and people will not be slow to vocalise their displeasure.
The reasons above are all legitimate and if you’re feeling one of them, I think that’s only right.
However, there is a flip side. Arteta would represent an extremely exciting change of pace – a move many have called for – for the best part of half a decade. Unlike the manager of 22 years, Arteta is a complete wildcard; a total unknown. There are snippets from interviews about what he’d expect from his players, his style and his philosophy, but ultimately we’re talking here someone who has never picked a teamsheet or signed a player.
He certainly wouldn’t be my first choice for right now, despite my own personal belief that he is a very astute man, a grafter and – having worked so closely with Pep Guardiola – most probably a meticulous detailer. I like that he’s never gone into punditry, or made a tough decision such as the pay-cut he took to join Arsenal, or in turn leaving us to learn under Pep.
The experience thing is what puts me off the most. I worry that a wet-behind-the-ears gaffer mollycoddles players that were friends and ex-teammates of his. Lord knows Mesut Ozil needs a post-contract rocket up him and a manager to stamp his authority down. Can Arteta do that? Will he have the confidence? The know-how?
Personally I’d be more happy if we were Arteta’s second or third job, but I suppose timing and fate have a funny way of playing out.
Either way, the Spaniard would represent a brave new dawn, and it’s one that all Arsenal fans need to get behind. Starting out with negative thoughts about him, or failing to give him a chance, would be a really poor way to tackle his appointment, even if he wasn’t who you’d have picked. If it is him, and we move into the Arteta era, then best of luck to him. He’s going to need it.