Mikel Arteta: The dawn of a new era

Following the announcement that Unai Emery was to leave the club nearly three weeks ago now. It has caused many names to be thrown into the hat as a potential successor to the Spaniard. 

Names such as former Juventus manager Max Allegri, Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira and the recently made available Mauricio Pochettino. Despite links one name became dominant in the headlines and that was former captain Mikel Arteta. Arteta retired at the end of the 2015/16 campaign and went on to become number two to fellow Spaniard Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, achieving a huge amount of success in the 3-year period he has been at the Etihad Stadium.

The consensus is that Arsenal fans have already turned their nose up at the idea that the ex-Barcelona academy product could take over as number one in North London very shortly. Mikel Arteta in fact has all the attributes to take over Arsène Wenger’s legacy at Arsenal and form his own for a long time to come and here is the reason for that.

Does Mikel Arteta fit the bill?

The criteria what the club have been looking for is no secret, a young manager with values with what the club represents. Arteta is just 37 years of age. Going back to 2015, Mikel Arteta undertook an interview with Arsenal.com in which he was asked:

“Imagine that you take over Mikel Arteta FC tomorrow: what will the ideas behind it be? “

With which he replied: “My philosophy will be clear. I will have everyone 120 per cent committed, that’s the first thing. If not, you don’t play for me. When it’s time to work it’s time to work, and when it’s time to have fun then I’m the first one to do it, but that commitment is vital. Then I want the football to be expressive, entertaining. I cannot have a concept of football where everything is based on the opposition. 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.

The quotes make interesting reading as it shows that he clearly would have an idea of how he would want the team to play and that is ‘expressive, expansive football’. On top of this, Arteta spoke about which coaches have influenced him, no surprises that he said Wenger and Guardiola. It was more about the reasoning why Arteta spoke out about both managers. He said: “Arsène has a philosophy that he’s never going to change because he really believes in it. That is the most important thing, because if you don’t really believe in something then you’ll just change it after one bad result and drive your players crazy. Another is Pep Guardiola, who I’ve known since I was 15. The way he sees football is always to look ahead, then further ahead, always improving.”

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Mikel Arteta gave nothing but praise for both, as you would expect. The former skipper also went on to talk about Guardiola and why he appreciates the style he implements in his sides. He said: “I look to see managers do something different and add something to the game, not just going out there to be tight and be compact. You can win like this, but I don’t know if your players will really enjoy working that way. I’d want my players to express themselves.”

What makes Mikel Arteta qualified to take such a huge job?

The biggest question raised over Arteta has been his experience, he has never taken on a managerial role at any club. Pep Guardiola spoke in a interview a few years back about Arteta moving to a managerial role,  he said: “I’m not the right guy to talk about that because my opinion of Mikel is overwhelming.

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“He deserves the best, hopefully. We are so comfortable, not just me, working with him. One of the reasons we had success this season is because Mikel is here.”

If Pep Guardiola thinks Arteta is good enough, then we all should, it is as simple as that.

Finally touching on the former Everton mans credentials as a coach, Arteta is fascinated by the lack of wide wing play and Guardiola has shown from his time at Barcelona and Bayern Munich that he loves using an ‘inside forward’ (Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben, David Villa and Thierry Henry). Pep has also failed with out and out wingers in the past (Kingsley Coman and Franck Ribéry). Put this into comparison with Manchester City two years back in Sterling and Sane’s breakthrough season.

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Manchester City attack positioning 2017/18 season via WhoScored.com

When Arteta came in he was able to do one to one sessions with certain individuals in the Manchester City squad as they were signed. Leroy Sané, Raheem Sterling, Benjamin Mendy, Danilo and Kyle Walker have all benefited from this hugely. This was backed up by Pep when he said: “Mikel Arteta is working many, many hours and days after training specifically about the last action on the pitch with Sterling.”

The work he has done has clearly paid off by looking at the outrageous numbers achieved especially by Young Player of the Year at the time Leroy Sané and teammate Sterling. The 37-year-old’s work has been fantastic with Man City and there is no evidence to say that would be any different should he return to the Emirates.

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Given his past successes it leads me to believe one of the biggest beneficiary will be £72m record signing Nicolas Pépé. The slow start to life at the Emirates has hit the Ivorians confidence hard but the wide man has still shown glimpses of what Arsenal paid for in the summer. Mikel Arteta could finally see the Gunners get their bang for their buck.

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