Strong links to Mikel Arteta are dividing opinion with some in the Arsenal fanbase, but for me, he’d be an exciting appointment.
Rumours around the potential appointment of Mikel Arteta as Unai Emery’s permanent replacement at Arsenal are at an all-time high after the media got hold of photos of the club’s hierarchy visiting the Manchester City assistant coach on Sunday night.
There are plenty of doubters, particularly given Freddie Ljungberg’s struggles getting the team going. The two former Arsenal players both have little to no experience managing a senior team on their own. Why would Arteta be any different?
1Ljungberg’s short spell is not a fair indicator
For a start, I think it’s unfair to judge Ljungberg on the current situation.
The 42-year-old is working alone with part-time Per Mertesacker, who has just as little experience coaching as him. Arsenal lost Emery’s coaching team along with the Spaniard and haven’t allowed Freddie to replace them.
The Arsenal hierarchy also took far too long to make the decision in the first place. The team hit rock bottom and had to wait a few more matches before Emery left, further ingraining bad habits and crushing confidence.
Once Ljungberg found his best lineup and got Arsenal going with a win over West Ham, they faced the Premier League champions in their next league game.
If we’re taking that evidence and using it to write off any young coach with little experience of full-time senior management, we’re making a mistake.
2Arteta more successful as an assistant
Having said all that, it’s also clear that Ljungberg and Arteta have had vastly different experiences as assistant coaches.
Ljungberg worked with Andries Jonker at VfL Wolfsburg, winning 42% of their 19 games before the German club sacked them. He then worked under Unai Emery at Arsenal for 20 games and they won eight – 40%.
For all the mitigating circumstances, that doesn’t exactly compare to Arteta working under Pep Guardiola. They’ve won 72% of their 200 matches, two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, two League Cups and two Community Shields.
Guardiola himself says Arteta is ready to manage now. Mauricio Pochettino believes Arteta will be “one of the greatest coaches in football”. Arsene Wenger said he has all the qualities to do the job at Arsenal.
The 37-year-old is more than just a sidekick, he’s been an important part of his new club’s success and he’s made an impression on those at the top of the game.
3Positive player development record
Arteta’s work with individual players on the training ground is part of why City are doing so well. He’s often given the credit for player progression at the club, particularly with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Fabian Delph.
A big problem at Arsenal right now is the inability to capitalise and build on the talent the club already have.
The likes of Nicolas Pepe, Lucas Torreira and Hector Bellerin are still young and have the potential to be huge successes in their respective positions, but only with the right guidance. That’s not to mention all the youth players in similar situations.
Freddie Ljungberg has already shown the capacity to help the youngsters at Arsenal push on. Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka and Tyreece John-Jules are way ahead of where they were when he joined and give him most of the credit for that.
Working together with someone like Arteta, who has more experience of developing first-team players, they could make a great team.
4Experience with the club
Arteta made 150 appearances for Arsenal over five seasons, taking over the captain’s armband and winning a couple of FA Cups. He knows how things work at the club and even worked with some of the players before, like Mesut Özil, Hector Bellerin and Calum Chambers.
The former midfielder is fully aware of the current state of the league, the strengths and weakness of each team. Very little about taking over at Arsenal would be new to him.
That’s a positive from the other side of things too. The fans will be more patient with someone they know, a well-liked ex-player and captain. Excluding certain sensationalist types on social media, you’d expect most of the supporters to give Arteta their backing.
5The ‘unknown’ factor
This one is more of a feeling than something backed up by facts or statistics. There’s just something more exciting about hiring someone who is a bit more of an unknown.
If we hire a Carlo Ancelotti or a Marcelino, we know exactly what we’re getting. They’ve managed a load of clubs over decades of football and settled into a style of play.
That can be a positive, but it doesn’t allow for the potential they could be the ‘next big thing’. Ancelotti might take over and get Arsenal back into the top four but we know he’s not going to transform the team or the club.
Anything could happen with Arteta. He might fail to make any difference at all, or he might take Arsenal back to the top. It’s an appointment to let us dream again.