Jamie Carragher has used his column in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph to admit he was wrong about Mikel Arteta when the Arsenal head coach was first linked with the job.
Look, Jamie Carragher can be a bit of a knob, we know that. But few pundits in the media use their platforms to admit mistakes or that they were wrong in the past so when one does, I think it’s important we highlight it. Especially when they are also saying nice things about our club which doesn’t seem to happen very often.
Besides, what Carragher was thinking back in 2018, before Unai Emery was given the job and we were going to give it to Arteta, isn’t much different to what I felt myself at the time – how could you possibly give the Arsenal job to a man with no experience?
Now he has it, with only a couple of seasons alongside Pep Guardiola under his belt, but following the disaster that was Unai Emery, most of us are happy to have him.
Still, we had our doubts.
Then we saw Arsenal’s attitude and application under him in just a few weeks and it was impossible to deny he had more of an impact than anything you could class as ‘new manager bounce’.
That might not be so obvious to people who don’t watch every minute of every Arsenal game, but to us fans, it couldn’t be clearer.
“I must admit my scepticism when Mikel Arteta was touted for big Premier League jobs over the past few fears,” Carragher says. “It struck me as odd that so many were championing him as a future coach of a club such as Arsenal, given his limited experience. Reading and hearing about this dynamic, inspirational character from Arsene Wenger’s dressing room made me wonder if that said more about the lack of personality at the Emirates during that era than Arteta’s qualities.
“I do not say this to be disrespectful or unnecessarily negative, just to be honest about my perceptions of Arteta as a footballer. I did not know Arteta other than as an opponent, but if you had told me during our battles in Merseyside derbies when Arteta was an Everton player that he would be managing Arsenal at the age of 37, I would have thought you were joking. I just did not see it.”
He then goes on to detail his view of Arteta as a player, one he admits he did not know personally or in any capacity apart from as an opposition player, all of which he says showed few signs of a genius manager inside waiting to burst out.
“In the early days of his reign, it is pleasing to see why so many believed in him,” Carragher then concedes. “I have been impressed by Arteta’s impact. A radical change is needed at Arsenal and the most important feature of Arteta’s first few weeks is that he has identified as much, spoken publicly about it, and backed his words with actions.
“His communication is extremely impressive, as is his demeanour and the sense that he has a clear vision which he will stick to. He is already getting more from his players than Unai Emery was able to during this season, while his ability to engage with supporters through the media is a major distinction from his predecessor.
“What is most encouraging is how the work on the training pitch is so visible on a match day, even after relatively few sessions. Against Leeds United on Monday, his ability to change the game at half-time was especially promising and rewarding.”
It is not all positive from Carragher, who rightly points out that the problems at Arsenal extend far beyond the pitch and have been ongoing for longer than just the period of Emery’s dour reign.
“Arsenal in 2020 remind me of Liverpool before Gerard Houllier took over in 1998 – mentally weak and lacking discipline, with too many senior players stuck in bad habits and absolving themselves from all responsibility for successive regime failures,” he continues.
“For a long time under Wenger they could dazzle you with beautiful football, only for their brittleness predictably to return when it really mattered, especially against the most physically demanding opponents.
“Arteta’s recognition of the need for a cultural change is as important as the tactical knowledge he brings. Arsenal fans must be as encouraged by the forthright language he has used and that determined look in his eye when talking about what needs to be done.
“Nine years after first joining as a player, Arteta may finally bring the combination of silk and steel Arsenal have lacked for too long.”