Welcome back to a place where you are so loved. When you arrived here on a pay cut from Everton we were without a holding mid and you were an attacking mid. Wenger asked you to man the holding position. You accepted whole heartedly because you see football from a team perspective. That your new role would enhance the team’s performance was your encouragement. It was never about your self. Now that you are back to manage the team, you will be a living sermon to all. Any of the players, whoever that player might be, who is not quickened by a philosophy on two legs and that breathes is a living dead and should not be part of the family. Excellence is uncompromising. In your presser you called it ruthlessness.
What you lacked in athleticism was more than compensated for by your mastery of space and that meant impeccable timing. To know space is to know time. You settled in your role like you were born with it, which I guess you were. Wenger, at the first opportunity made you his captain seeing that on the field and out of it the players held you in great esteem. The younger players, almost to the last of them, testified on how you were so attentive to their development and how you had helped them grow their game. Injuries did not allow us to enjoy you fully and as your playing days drew to a close many had seen your deep desire to share your ideas in football for the betterment of individual and team play.
Amongst the numerous eyes that saw that special quality in you were Wenger’s, Gaurdiola’s and Pochetino’s. In my little world, I strongly was feeling you were Wenger’s favourite prince, the Crown Prince. Timing was the only issue at stake but not anymore.
I know you have been consumed with your work with Pep at City yet with a space always there for Arsenal. You had schooled yourself in your ideas all your playing years, felt ready to begin your formal coaching career when you retired but to leave no stone unturned, you decided to learn at the foot of another master for a further three years. Newcastle came calling. Lyon came calling. Your responses were in the negative. For some reasons well beyond analysis Arsenal has been your love, your dream and your focus. You knew exactly where we are, knew that the time was at hand. Obviously, you have not lost your sense of timing.
We believe we are in the wild but are hanging our hopes on your vision to lead us back home. That means we must be ready to trudge faithfully behind you over the unforgiving terrain, give you time and support. My prayer is that the Arsenal faithfuls make a song of support for you and your team as we journey home. We need to water, prune and weed around the seed of you being planted until the club has become once again the oak that gives its shade to us all.
I don’t want to talk about the team to you. You know it better. Having loved it long and hard you have all its secrets. However, this being an open letter, I would touch on a few points which maybe would help some of us appreciate better the structure of the challenge you face.
We have good players many of whom have lost their centre of gravity. Your job is to lift them up and put them back on their two feet. You have to get them to once again believe in themselves and as importantly to believe in one another, in the team and in the project. Sadly you might discover a few have been broken beyond repair and a few who have become incapable of learning a new language. You will take them all in your stride sieving and sifting. There will be deaths and pains as well as births and joy.
In your first press conference you talked about engineering a right culture. It gladdened my heart because it was clear your vision went beyond the bounds of the team on the field. Your heart encompasses the whole of the club. It indicates that it is the club that you love and that your job apart from being your life is but a vehicle for expressing that love. Of course you won’t be at all the desks but you can make yourself the point of inspiration, the point of a new growth. You are determined to conquer not with bullets but with dedication and excellence. We need our Arsenal back but we need to remind ourselves that you haven’t come with a magic wand. It’s going to be hard work, long work which would only succeed if backed with patience from all quarters.
For a few who are asking “Mikel who?”: it is Mikel Arteta Amatriain.