As Mikel Arteta gave his first press conference as Arsenal manager you couldn’t help but feel your heart fill with pride as the real affection he holds for Arsenal came pouring out.
Although he has zero first-team managerial experience, Arsenal are ready to take a gamble on Mikel Arteta, realising what a huge task lies ahead and how a more senior ‘big-name’ manager would rather come in, spend money and win things than take time to help a lost club find its way again.
Schooled under Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola, I couldn’t help but think of what that might mean when it comes to his playing style.
Can you imagine the possibilities that brings?
“First of all the person, it is an incredible pleasure to work alongside someone like him,” Arteta told Arsenal Player about Guardiola not long after he was unveiled at Arsenal.
“The way he makes the staff feel, the players feel, and everyone around the club, is unique – I think it is his biggest power. And then his vision. His vision, his desire to work, his desire to transmit the messages in a unique way, and when he wanted to implement, he had a dream that he wanted to do what we were taught at Barcelona 20 years ago, he wanted to do it in the Premier League.
“He asked me to help that dream become a reality in the Premier League and everyone said it couldn’t be done, it was impossible with those players, they are small, and the physicality, but we did it, we did it. I am so proud I helped him a little bit to reach that dream.”
So what sort of football will Mikel Arteta’s team play?
“My philosophy will be clear,” Arteta said in 2014, when asked to outline his managerial vision. They were comments he echoed at his press conference on Friday.
“I will have everyone 120 per cent committed, that is 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 and 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.”
Arteta has already been hailed by Guardiola, Wenger and a host of others and he’s yet to take charge of a senior game. Credited with transforming players due to his attention to detail, his in-game awareness already paid dividends when City beat Arsenal in Emery’s first game in charge.
That game was Arteta’s first as Guardiola’s number two and it was his spot that handed City the winner when he advised Mendy to pull the ball back in the Arsenal box. Arteta had noticed a huge hole Arsenal were leaving into which Mendy duly delivered the ball and David Silva scored.
“Do you remember from Sunday’s game, after the second goal, Pep’s hug with Mikel?” Marti Perarnau, Guardiola’s biographer said on a podcast after the game.
“That was because Mikel said to Mendy, ‘Don’t make a high cross when you get to the end line, make a cut-back along the floor,’ and after that Bernardo scored the goal.
“He [also] talked with Mendy and Sterling to try to make a double pass before the last cut-back.”
It is surprising that City were willing to let Arteta leave mid-season but perhaps it is an indication of the esteem in which he’s held.
They see him as a future City manager and denying him this chance at Arsenal, after he already had it taken from him last summer, might be a move that puts that option at risk.
But it is certainly a move that’s got Arsenal fans excited, even more so if it’s annoying City who’ve done that to us for years.