I suggested in a social media post the other day that I felt Arteta was showing a similar calm, assured ruthlessness as a young manager that Arsenal supporters witnessed in the early tenure of George Graham. I thought I would try and elaborate in this week’s column.
Arteta – like Graham – arrived with a strong affinity for The Arsenal and an understanding of the Arsenal traditions and The Arsenal Way. Both appointments raised eyebrows as both were deemed (by the football world) as relatively young and inexperienced for such a big job. On the flipside, both arrived knowing the club, the task at hand (rousing a sleeping giant) and both with firm ideas of their methods and ideas for the role. That is not to say that the footballing ideologies of the two men were similar but there are many parallels that can be drawn.
George Graham inherited an amazing crop of youngsters, and to a lesser degree Arteta has to – but both also inherited established ‘stars’ and fan favourites who did not fit the profile or the plan of the new boss. In the first summer, within weeks of arriving, Graham ushered Martin Keown, Stewart Robson, Paul Mariner, Tony Woodcock and Tommy Caton out of the door. In that first season, without these stars he has won his first trophy blending youth with the experience he had chosen to retain. However, within two years, most of those who had survived the initial ruthlessness of Graham found they too were surplus to his requirements. Firm fan favourites Viv Anderson and Kenny Sansom (England’s fullbacks) along with the North Bank’s darling, Charlie Nicholas, left the following year; without them the next season – replaced by his own new additions and combined with homegrown talent – Graham brought to an end an 18 year wait for the title.
My impression is that whilst moving on highly paid stars is not as easy for Arteta as it was back in the day, the established stars – some fan favourites – that do not fit into the Spaniard’s style and plans will be either left out in the the cold until they accept their fate or their contacts run out, will have their contacts terminated, or will be sold. Make no mistake: there is a quiet revolution occurring at Arsenal and the affable, charming Spanish Gentleman in charge will be ruthless and cut-throat to ensure his plans can be carried out. Those that fit his work ethic and style I suspect will be as forever indebted to Mikel as Winterburn, Bould, Dixon et al are to George Graham. Those who do not will have to accept their fate, one way of the other.
This will not be completed over one transfer window – for Graham the whole transition took two years; some players who survive and thrive this season under Arteta may not be assured of their place in the following year. Remember when Graham sold Lukic – whom George felt was in the top 3 or 4 keepers in the league – to buy Seaman because he felt he was the best. That will happen under Arteta this window and in the next in my view. Players who have performed well for him, will be sacrificed if he feels he can replace then with a better player or one more suited to his style. He has the same steel that Graham had – and like the canny Scot, I believe he will shock and surprise us with his decisions and be proved correct.
The other similarity I quickly add is that both Graham and Arteta immediately surrounded themselves with men they trusted to support them. Not men who would simply follow orders and say ‘yes’ to them, but trusted colleagues to discuss things with, seek advice from or willingly delegate to. Both Graham (then) and Arteta (now) see the management and coaching of Arsenal as a confederate endeavour with each individual team member trusted in their role, and each role combining to achieve an overall goal.
This is a longer version of a piece I wrote yesterday for Sun Football
Passionate 50+ ST holder who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since. He set up up his own site 1 Nil Down 2 One Up which he has now sold and since the summer of 2013 with a friend he launched a new project to offer new and aspiring Arsenal writers a home. Gunners Town is that platform and Dave writes here too. He is also the author of 2 Arsenal related books.