If you have not already watched the training video on Arsenal.com, go and do it! To see and hear MA at work is a joy. Let there be no doubt about it, the sleeves are up; the mission has started.
Here are my first impressions of MA at Arsenal:
- Mikel presents himself very well: his English is clear and his answers are anything but dull or scripted. He demands your attention without being overly affalable. His action-man look and powerful eyes draw you in; he is the centre of the PR room and, just like in Wenger’s days, our manager is in charge. Very, very impressive.
- What also struck me is his intelligence: there is nuance to his answers and he makes you think, which indicates that he knows what he is talking about and all is under control (reminiscent of Arsene).
- Arteta talks a lot about his vision for football, the basics that everyone has to adhere to and what he expects of players in terms of behaviour and conduct. You would expect every new manager to say such things, but Arteta is straightaway adding gravitas to it. This shows that he learned the job from big masters Wenger and Guardiola: they also work with strong vision and values and boy did the players know it.
- There is a strong focus on energy and pride by Arteta, and with that he has hit the nail on the (obvious) head. To witness a near-dead Ashburton Groove will have been a shocking experience for him. We need new, warm and pulsing blood in our club and you get the feeling from his interviews and the training session that he will focus hard on this. This will not be easy and he cannot do this on his own: we as supporters have to stand up and be counted too!
- MA has indicated that all players start with a clean slate: the past – bad or good – does not count. This is a simple but very important announcement: it indicates a fresh start and the weights or privileges of the past have simply evaporated. Arteta wants to play in a certain way, with a system of football to which players will have to be moulded to some extent. So the qualities of the players and their ability to adjust and follow tactical instructions is what he will focus on. Therefore, he is genuine in his statement that everyone will start anew with him.
- Mikel first success was convincing Freddie to stay and work with him: opting for inclusiveness was a smart move. Freddie has done a fabulous job for us in quite difficult circumstances and has proven to be a real club man. We need those of people at our club and Arteta clearly understood this too. Rather than seeing him as a competitor or somebody who would potentially undermine his dominance at the club, Arteta has made himself and his coaching team stronger by asking Freddie to stay.
- MA has recognised straightaway that the club has some very promising youth players and that the future should be bright. There are three ways of making a club successful: spending tons of money (more than opponents), building a club bottom up from a strong core of youth players (who then become regular powerhouses in the team), or a mixture of both. Option one is not for us and for option two or three we need a strong focus on youth. I think we are going to get this with Mikel in charge.
- The final, big and most important impression Mikel has given me is that he is ready, really ready to be a nr.1 at Arsenal. You just sense it when you hear him speak and see him at work. Welcome to the Home of Football, Mikel.
To predict Arteta’s first line-up is not easy but I reckon it will be similar to the Everton starting-11 with a few tweaks. Chambers is suspended, so Big Sok should return but other than that I expect the same defence and midfield, with the exception of ESR starting again. The four attackers could well be Ozil for Martinelli (injured) and Willock for ESR (in front of Xha/Tor), with Pepe and Laca starting ahead of Auba and Nelson, but I am guessing quite a bit here. I am hoping for a compact midfield, good protection of our defence once more, better first touches and passes and therefore better opportunities of which at least two we will take. COYGs!
Wishing all my friends at Bergkampesque a Merry Mikel Christmas
And a Happy and Healthy 2020!