ARTETA : A PROPHET NOT REVERED IN HIS COUNTRY, OR?……
We are virtually living from moment to moment in expectation of an announcement from the Arsenal FC on the appointment of a new team manager. The dark clouds of division are already gathering amongst the fan base and maybe in the club’s hierarchy as well on whom or whom not to be appointed. If we are to go by the stories making the rounds the front runner Massimino Allegri has opted to remain at Juventus. That has left a lot of signs pointing in the direction of Mikel Arteta. The controversy is whether he has the credentials to prove a success.
Without doubt there is a lot going for him but his lack of managerial experience weighs heavily in the opposite direction.
Before we begin our discourse on his suitability or otherwise we need to appreciate that the management structure in the club has changed from what it was when Wenger was at the helm of affairs. The club now has a two-tier system for team management such that a manager is now only a little more than a head-coach. In most of Europe where this two-tier system exists managers are termed head-coaches. The suitability of Arteta, therefore, has to be considered in the light of him as a head-coach.
There are some remarkable similarities between Arteta and Pep Guardiola. Pep is a La Masia product. Arteta is also. Pep was a holding midfielder for Barcelona. Arteta was for Arsenal. Pep had a slight frame and lacked athleticism. So was Arteta. Pep compensated for these lacks with technique, intelligence, timing, positioning, tidiness, excellent reading of the game and creativity. So was Arteta. Pep became captain of Barcelona. Arteta became captain of Arsenal. Both were the metronomes of their teams. Pep became manager of Barcelona B team at 35 years. Arteta became assistant manager of Manchester City at 34yrs. Pep became manager of Barcelona first team at 36 years. At 36 years Arteta became manager of …???. Remarkable!
What does it take to be a good coach? Of great importance is that the coach must be gifted in the less technical areas of management that includes self discipline, hard work, and man management. Arteta’s reputation indicates he has these in abundance. He was very much respected and loved as an Arsenal captain. On the more technical side, a theoretical knowledge of tactical systems does not alone make one a good tactician. That can be crammed into the head easily by anybody. It is the degree of the insightfulness that determines the potency of the knowledge. Arteta’s reading of the game is exceptional, be it offensively or defensively. He also understands players and understands how to improve them. Many players have testified to how in his playing days, he helped them improve their game. What more as a coach, where the latest of such tributes to hit the media came from the Brazilian international Fernandinho of Manchester City.
Wenger trusted him a lot and it was easy to see that his opinions were welcomed. If Wenger is consulted, and it stands to reason that he would be, I expect him to endorse Arteta’s candidature. On Guardiola’s part, he is thrilled working with and having his altar ego Arteta as his assistant. He has said he wouldn’t stand on the way of his career. He called him a good friend. They obviously understand each other. What greater recommendation can he again give.
Arteta’s poor score, however, is in the area of actual coaching experience. But even here there has been a lot of informal as well as formal tutelage. Important as a starting point is that Arteta is a very serious minded person with an impeccable record on and off the field. All through his playing career he had exhibited his passion for coaching and so had kept that faculty open to learning. In his injury riddled final two years as a player he operated informally more as a coach under Wenger’s structure and that was when stories started coming out that he could be retained at Arsenal in a coaching capacity. Again in this past two seasons he has understudied and contributed to the man who is regarded as one of the best managers in world football. These expousures added to his innate coaching qualities have placed him on a height where his readiness for the plum job cannot be ignored. Lest it’s forgotten any manager carries the authority of the club and how he is respected depends on himself not on his age. If Emmanuel Macron can head France at 39 I do not see why Arteta with these CVs cannot head the coaching crew at 36.
A further argument on Arteta’s side is that he knows the Arsenal system. We dare not engage a manager who is far removed from Wenger’s philosophy because our current squad have been assembled on the bases of that philosophy. If we wish for a big departure from our style then there must be a huge overhaul in personnel which would require big, big money. That, we all know, is out of the question.
I am not trying to say that Arteta is the best in the market or should be the one to be appointed. But if it happens to be him, we should give him all our support. Who knows, we might be up for another “Arteta who?”.
With Wenger now gone, space has been created for unity amongst the fans, not for a new division that would see us out of the frying pan into the fire.